games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Saddest Game Company Closures – Konami, LucasArts, More

February 5, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about video game companies, specifically ones that don’t exist anymore. This is just a personal list of game companies I was sad to see go, not a list of all time tragedies or anything like that. If I was going to do a list like that, I’d probably mention THQ or Telltale, but that’s just me. Let’s begin:

#8: Psygnosis

Psygnosis seems to be a two-sided company, one side I was in love with, one side I had no clue about. The side I loved was that of its PS1-era output: Destruction Derby, Wipeout, Alundra, Colony Wars, G-Police and Rollcage (which they published). These were all generally great games that really helped make the PS1 a groundbreaking system. The flip side of the coin was their PC output which was….less than stellar. A friend of mine said that Silverload was one of the worst adventure games he’s ever played. Their fall from grace seemed to happen when they became SCE Studio Liverpool when they just seemed to crank out F1 and Wipeout games until their closure.

#7: LucasArts

I honestly don’t have a ton of history with Lucas Arts outside of a few specific games: Grim Fandango, Sam & Max and Full Throttle are about it for me. They certainly did publish a whole lot of Star Wars crap to varying degrees of success. My favorite Star Wars games would probably be KOTOR, Jedi Academy, X-Wing vs TIE Fighter and Rogue Squadron. Their big fall seemed to happen around 2005 or so when they just couldn’t get it together to make good games and came out with stuff like The Force Unleashed or Kinect Star Wars. Good one, LucasArts!

#6: Konami

Technically, Konami is still a company that exists but pumping out casino games doesn’t count. It’s astounding that a company that held Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid, Contra, Silent Hill, and Suikoden just completely got out of the market. They crap out a yearly PES game every year but that’s about it and one isn’t even scheduled for this year yet. It’s hard to pinpoint when they got out of games, they were still making some decent Xbox 360/PS3 stuff but their hearts just didn’t seem in it. So for this, I’d say the PS2 era is when they really jumped ship, aside from their Metal Gear output, of course.

#5: Pandemic

Hey, remember when EA was able to make *good* Star Wars Battlefront games for the PS2/Xbox? Pandemic was why. Pandemic was responsible for Star Wars: Battlefront 1 and 2, Destroy All Humans! (back when the series meant something), Mercenaries and finally The Saboteur. They weren’t the greatest developers in the world but I liked most of their games. Their fortune directly changed in 2007 when EA acquired them and then shut them down in 2009, like they have so many other companies. Why bother buying a company if you shut them down after 2 years?

#4: Smilebit

I had a friend ask why I put Smilebit on this list and the reason is simple: I liked them. They made some really offbeat and memorable games like Jet Set/Grind Radio, Typing of the Dead, Panzer Dragoon Orta and Jet Set Radio Future. They didn’t last too long as a company honestly, only around 4 years but their games are still artistically impressive to this day. I think their fall was not from their output, per se, but some of the financial struggles Sega was going through around 2003-2004 when Sammy acquired them. I would still love to see another Jet Grind Radio future on today’s consoles.

#3: Working Designs

Working Designs is the reason why I say “companies” and not developers for this column. They didn’t actually develop anything, they just brought out JRPGs from Japan, localized them and gave them (usually) cool collectors editions when you bought them. Lunar, Vay, Growlanser, and Elemental Gearbolt to name a few. I remember pre-ordering Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete and getting the Ghaleon puppet that came with it, which was a nice bonus. I still would kill to have the Elemental Gearbolt special edition, which a friend of mine Dave Z. has, which is my holy grail for game stuff. Working Designs fall was a slow one, the market kind of got out from under them and Sony was never particularly happy with them porting “old” looking games to the PS1 and PS2. There are a lot of indie companies now that kind of evoke the Working Designs feel but none are as special as WD originally was.

#2: Clover

Clover is odd because they essentially still exist, just as PlatinumGames. As that company, Platinum has been responsible for some of the best games of this generation, specifically Nier: Automata and Bayonetta 2. As Clover though they were responsible for one great game and one truly seminal work. The great game was Viewtiful Joe, a 2D side-scrolling beat’em up where you had special powers like slow-motion and speeding up time. The character of Joe was also solid. The groundbreaking game was Okami, which to me is still the best non-Zelda Zelda game around, even beating out some of the actual Zelda games like Twilight Princess. Okami is such a good game I have bought it on multiple consoles and will likely buy it on more, once they release them with the new generation cycle in a few years. Clover didn’t shutdown from financial pressure, it was closed when the main people there left to get out from under Capcom and become independent. That was probably a good move on their part, all things considered.

#1: Starbreeze Studios

Starbreeze was actually the big reason for this column. I read that EuroGamer article last week about how the studio has suffered. While Starbreeze technically does still exist as a company, they are “done” when it comes to actually putting out games. They were responsible for three of my favorite FPS games: Syndicate, The Darkness 1 and Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Riddick especially is a game that is infinitely playable and is the best first person stealth game around. The article talks about the company just losing their identity and being embroiled with another studio. Why they got into bed with the Payday 2 guys is beyond me, that series sucked, and playing the game felt really wrong. Starbreeze’s downfall is easy to see in the article, but seems to really have come out after Syndicate came out and bombed. While the people who played the game liked it, 14 or 15 people doesn’t make it a success.

For comments, list your favorite defunct video game company and why.

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Top 8 Worst Franchises in Gaming

article topics :

The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison