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THQ Closes Kaos Studios, Digital Warrington

Developers behind Homefront and Juiced franchises are no longer together, but there is some hope for them.
Author: Ryan Green
Published: June 13, 2011
In another round of game studio layoffs, publisher THQ has decided to close down two of their studios. Both the New York City-based Kaos Studios and UK-based THQ Digital Warrington (formerly Juiced Games) will no longer operate as of today. The exact reasons as to why these studios were closed are unknown at this time.

Digital Warrington has had some troubles leading up to the studio's closure, including reforming under the now defunct name and its acquisition by THQ after publisher Acclaim went under in 2004. Known best for the Juiced racing games, Digital Warrington last released the downloadable title Red Faction: Battlegrounds. Specific sales figures are unknown, due to the nature of digital distribution. However, Battlegrounds was slammed by many critics, averaging a metascore of 49.

Kaos Studios leaves us with one final piece of content with a rather prophetic name. Their "Fire Sale" DLC for Homefront will be released tomorrow through the PlayStation Network Store. While Homefront was their first multiplatform effort, Kaos Studios previously developed the Xbox 360 and PC title Frontlines: Fuel of War. Prior to that, key members of Kaos Studios were members of Trauma Studios, formerly owned by DICE and best known for their work on the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942. Homefront went on to sell rather successfully, but due to unexpectedly low review scores by the gaming press, THQ investors were vocal and unhappy about the game.

In a general press statement, THQ has mentioned that they are still in the process of hiring for their Montreal Studio, as well as ones located in Vancouver and Austin, Texas. Potentially, those laid off in today's closures could interview at these newer, growing offices that are peppered across North America. THQ was unavailable to comment on any specifics at the time of publication.

A Means To An End

While the exact reasons as to why both Kaos Studios and Digital Warrington were closed down are up for debate, there is reason to doubt it was due solely to sales. THQ has gone under some rebranding as of late last year, with a renewed focus on "core" gaming, swanky new offices, and an edgy logo. Danny Bilson, Vice President of Core Games at THQ, made this clear in his press announcement back in October of 2010.

The studio space, aptly named THQ Montreal Studios, was opened where several other companies have resided before. The city of Montreal has laid out many incentives for outside interests to open up digital foundries in the bustling and ever developing city. Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment opened up shop earlier last year, adding to the surprising number of existing studios founded prior. With EA Montreal, Eidos Montreal, and Ubisoft Montreal (and I'm sure I'm forgetting 17 others), the tech scene could not have been more lucky for it.

Hitting Home

It was also there in Montreal where I first experienced Homefront, a game that I would continually cover for the next several months at yet another event, and ultimately review. Homefront ended up having a mixed Metacritic rating of 70, with many outlets noting how familiar it felt to the major competition, Battlefield and Call of Duty.

Having spent so much time with the game, on a personal level, I cannot deny those claims. For all of its ambition, Homefront did not break any walls down or turn many heads. Despite it, the game ended up selling quite well, and that is also considering how it was a new IP on a smaller large-sized publisher.

Having now shut down, Kaos Studios leaves a major void in the developer scene in New York City. With many other studios located elsewhere (seemingly all in Montreal now), Manhattan has one less studio that calls it home, and to the many talented people living there, it is bad news. Matt Harwood, then-Audio Director, was living in New York when he applied to and began work at Kaos Studios.

Matt is potentially one of many that lost their jobs today, both State-side and across the pond. For everyone affected by these closures, we extend our sympathies and best wishes.