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THQ auction on Jan. 22

Things just seem to be getting worse for videogame publisher THQ. After months of financial losses, potential delistings, and general uncertainty, it was announced today that the company’s studios, assets, titles, and properties will be auctioned off “piecemeal” on January 22nd.

Originally, Clearlake Capital Group was going to buy all the company’s assets for $60 million, but according to Polygon companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. are interested in certain properties. EA has even conducted site visits to THQ’s headquarters. We wish the best for all those affected by the collapse of this well-known company.

[DDInvesting via Polygon]

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Machinima lays off 10% of staff
By: | December 14th, 2012

Machinima, Inc.

According to Joystiq, YouTube giant Machinima has laid off 10% of its staff today. The report first surfaced when former staffers took to Twitter to announce they’d been laid off. Among those let go were Editorial Manager Bill Shibley and Director of Gaming Programming Justin Fassino. One of Fassino’s tweets about the situation read, “Effective immediately I am no longer at Machinima. Would love to send an official email with my contact info but they took my computer.”

Machinima Editor-in-Chief Rob Smith told Joystiq that the layoffs were “growing pains.” This sentiment was echoed in an official statement by the company: “Today Machinima underwent a reorganization to address its global growth, and this process unfortunately resulted in layoffs. Less than 10% of Machinima’s workforce was effected [sic].” Our thoughts are with those who’ve lost their jobs.

[Joystiq]

Game Consoles

Kotaku ran a live Q&A with an anonymous insider from one of those “cold, calculating mega-publishers” today. This is the second time this source has answered questions this year, and it was a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the business side of things. Some of the topics the insider addressed included Kickstarter, day one DLC, why publishers don’t take as many risks on new IPs late in a console cycle, and more.

Their response when asked about what steps they take to get good review scores was particularly telling. “Reviews only have an impact if they’re 90+, and then the impact is huge. We don’t take steps to get good reviews, we take steps to make good games,” the source said. Of course then they ended by saying, “Then we invite [reviewers] to fancy promotional events to warm them up on the game before they play it on their own.” The whole Q&A is definitely worth your time.

[Kotaku]

Cliff Bleszinski

Today, Cliff “Cliffy B” Bleszinski announced that he is leaving Epic Games, the company he c0-founded and worked for twenty years. Best known for the Gears of War series, Bleszinski most recently held the title of Design Director at the studio.

Tim Sweeney, CEO and Technical Director at Epic Games had this to say: ““In 20 wonderful years with Epic, Cliff Bleszinski has grown into a true design luminary, and his contributions to the ‘Unreal’ and ‘Gears’ series have helped shape the game industry into what it is today. ”

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Ray Muzyka & Greg Zeschuk

Today, Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka–the pair of doctors that co-founded BioWare in 1995–announced their retirement from the games industry. In separate blog posts, Muzyka and Zeschuk explained their decisions to leave not only their company but the industry as a whole.

This announcement comes at an inopportune time as BioWare just announced Dragon Age III: Inquisition yesterday. Gamers, already wary of the next game in the Dragon Age series, can’t see the company’s two founders leaving as a good sign.

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Read most headlines regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic Tuesday and you’ll see a lot of attention mongering, with the internet practically shouting at you that the game has gone free-to-play. Before we start running out the door proclaiming from the hilltops, let’s be clear — the MMORPG from BioWare and EA is getting a free-to-play option. This will run side by side with the subscription model already in place.

For a first day buyer and early subscriber like myself, this allays many of the fears and frustrations swirling around the move, one they have been publicly flirting with for several months. It arises new hopes that this pulls SWTOR out of its slump and fans get a MMORPG that is worth the growing pains as well as the money they have already pumped into it.

All speculation and sighing aside, the move itself is quite savvy.

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Max Payne 3

While it’s true that Rockstar has closed its Vancouver studio, they are also expanding into a brand new facility in Oakville, Ontario for the Rockstar Toronto studio.The Vancouver staff is being given the option of transferring to the Toronto facility or to positions in other Rockstar studios.

The new Oakville facility is part of a deal with the Ontario government, though no specifics about how much the deal is worth were given. Jennifer Kolbe, VP of Publishing and Operations also revealed that Rockstar Toronto is planning on expanding even more: “We plan to add more than 50 new positions to our combined Canadian team.”

Radical Entertainment Logo

It seems like the bad news doesn’t stop coming this summer for the games industry. Today Activision announced that Radical Entertainment, best known for the Prototype series, has been shut down.

According to Activision, the layoffs only affect “approximately 89 employees or less than 1.5% of our global workforce.” I’m sure the employees at Radical are comforted with that figure.

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THQ Logo

In a press release today, THQ announced that they reached a deal with Zuffa, LLC that will see “resulting in Zuffa licensing to Electronic Arts Inc. the right to publish videogames based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand.” While the release also mentions an “undisclosed cash payment to THQ,” it failed to mention the bad news. Today, THQ shut down its San Diego studio.

In a statement to Destructoid, THQ confirmed that “the UFC license transition will affect the company’s San Diego studio. THQ is working closely with those relevant staff to either find possible employment within the company, or potentially with EA.” THQ’s San Diego studio was responsible for the UFC Undisputed games and WWE All-Stars. I hope that all those affected by these waves of layoffs sweeping through the industry land on their feet.

[Destructoid]

THQ Logo

As part of THQ’s restructuring plan, the company appointed Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin as its president, effective immediately. Most gamers recognize Naughty Dog as the studio that developed hit series like Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, and Jak & Daxter.

According to THQ’s statement, Rubin will be responsible for “worldwide product development, marketing, and publishing operations, and will report to Brian Farrell, THQ Chairman and CEO.” A second Jason–Jason Kay–also joined THQ as its new Chief Strategy Officer.

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Curt Schilling 38 Studios

Things have gone from bad to worst and then to even worse than that for Rhode Island-based 38 Studios, the game studio owned by former pitcher Curt Schilling. After over a week of negativity surrounding the studio and its outstanding loans to the tune of $75 million, yesterday the studio laid off the entire staff of nearly 400–288 of them based in Rhode Island and another hundred at the Maryland-based subsidiary Big Huge Games.

If that’s not bad enough, it turns out that several employees of the now-staff-less studio were told that they may be stuck with second mortgages from the houses they thought the company sold for them when they relocated to Rhode Island.

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It is chilling to think that ours may be the last generation to consider the term “social” as primarily being outgoing. With the deluge of so called social apps flooding the market, I can only expect, in somewhat hyperbole, that the definition of “social” will soon change. Maybe, it will become something like “the act of sharing your location, pictures, videos, thoughts and activities (in 140 characters or less) leveraging one of these apps”.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the emergence of a new generation of social games. This new generation is legion, climbing out of (the) Facebook  onto PCs and mobile devices independent of any one client. At its worst, this generation bears cookie cutter copies of the villes, Mafia Wars and even StarCraft. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as some developers are pushing the social platform forward through innovation and creativity.

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