Midway Shuts Down Rat Bag Studios

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No official statement released yet, but sadly it's true. Midway is shutting down Rat Bag Games after only having bought out the studio four months ago for $7 million. Founded as Emergent Software in 1993, Ratbag Games released the widely acclaimed post apolcalyptic racer called "Powerslide" in 1998. In recent years, it had established a niche for dirt track racing games on the PC and Playstation 2. The closing down of South Australia's largest game developer has to be a serious blow to the local industry and the 70 or so people that the studio employed...
From Kotaku....

"I'm getting word this morning that Midway shut down there recently acquired Australian studio, formerly known as Ratbag Holdings. A person who says they worked at the studio says the axe was dropped today.

He adds that Midway's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Studios made a personal appearance to read a prepared speech to the stunned staff of more than 50 (including one guy who had just moved to Oz from the UK that week for the job.)

Nice Christmas present Midway.

What's strange is that Midway just bought the studio, known for its racing games, for $6 million in stock this August. Weird timing."

Comments

anonymous's picture

  • 1. Mcdrewski - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 1:28:45 PM
    OMFG
  • 2. Concerned Sydney developer - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 1:58:08 PM
    fu**in midway, go suck dicks on a plane!
  • 3. sanctimonious git - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 1:51:15 PM
    My condolenses to those who've just lost their jobs.
  • 4. Anonymous Coward - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 2:02:17 PM
    Midway's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Studios made a personal appearance, WOW , ya that would make things better, sour graps to midway
  • 5. Souri - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 2:13:19 PM
    This is what the same guy said when they purchased Rat Bag,..

    Midway's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Studios Matt Booty said, "We are excited to add this proven studio with solid management and a strong development team to Midway, and establish a firm foothold in Australia, a great location for top entertainment industry talent. We plan to leverage their talent and technology across our internal development studios, which will support our goal of maintaining our leadership in high quality development."

  • 6. Anonymous Coward - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 2:19:53 PM
    Great, another company bites the dust.
    Anyone have any idea why they would buy it and shut it down?
  • 7. CynicalFan - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 3:37:30 PM
    If this turns out to be true, then it doesn't surprise me in the slightest other than I expected it at least a year off - not so soon after they acquired the studio.

    It just goes to show, that even if you become a first-party developer, you aren't safe from the next-gen wave ;).

    Developers better wake up and smell the shit they are shoveling if this is true, as it is only the beginning folks

  • 8. Anonymous Coward - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 4:00:45 PM
    Possibly to do with their acquisation of Pitbull in the UK, Maybe they decided they didn't need to racing-type studios. Bloody incompentant behaviour at Midway though. (Though I'm sure the senior people at Midway won't lose any sleep, or stop spending their big end-of-year bonuses!)
  • 9. Mick1460 - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 3:59:07 PM
    I am pretty sure that Midway are on the way down and they are cutting costs by closing studios. I highly doubt that they would buy it JUST to shut it down and such a thought is ludicrous, as is the thought that this is because of next-gen.

    I have a strong sympathy for all of the developers that are now out of a job - it is always nasty when a local developer shuts down...

  • 10. Anonymous Coward - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 4:14:24 PM
    Midway: the original and the best Bad Santa.

    To the Ratbags - I hope we can absorb you all back into the industry. I'm sorry you're in for a crappy Christmas, but have faith in karma.

  • 11. Anonymous Coward - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 5:14:40 PM
    Midway also closed their San Diego studio.

    So this decision is no reflection upon Ratbag.

  • 12. MarkSA - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 5:17:00 PM
    If this is true, a very sad day indeed! Hmm 50 people just before christmas.
    So tell me Midway, if these people have been sacked, where are they going to get a job in their chosen profession?

    In recent times I have lots a lot of faith in people, this is just confirms it.

    One day we will wake up to logic and see that the pursuit of money and commercialism has ruined humanity. Whatever happened to compassion and respect?

  • 13. Souri - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 5:26:34 PM
    Midway could've at least churned out yet-another of their tired franchises utilising Ratbag. You know, Mortal Dirt Track Kombat Racing, or the like...

    All joking aside, from what I remember at the time of Ratbag's purchase, it seemed like an odd move since Midway wasn't doing too well either back then. And I agree with Mick, Midway are on their way down. There have been Midway studios closing up, and Midway really haven't released anything noteworthy in a long time. The only title that could've brought a big return was Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, but that unfortunately suffered serious delays and problematic development (where their poster-boy developer John Romero got booted as a result).

    But for a S7 million purchase, I guess that's peanuts for a company and all it's infrastructure, titles, and 50 employees / developers. I have to say though, I'm pretty shocked at how quick Midway shut down Ratbag after only having them for 4 months!! I think an alternate news heading for this scenario would be "Midway gives Ratbag S7 million to close down". One wonders if Ratbag could have continued developing their niche of racing titles without Midway's intervention...

  • 14. CynicalFan - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 5:32:35 PM
    This being a result of next-gen being ludicrous, hey!?

    Then why do you think that Midway are having such troubles and closing studios then smart guy?

    No, I suppose it has nothing at all to do with the pressures of developing quality titles for the next-gen platform, such as rising development costs and expectation in gaming quality - which is far more important, as only something like 5(percent) make all the profit for all the titles released in that year.

  • 15. pb - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 5:26:12 PM
    I've heard independent verification that it is true, a lot of job applications went out today...
  • 16. Grover - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 7:52:15 PM
    Blaming Midway for closing down a studio is a bit niave. Rather than jumping on the Midway hate wagon.. it may be possible there were _reasons_ why this happened. eh.
  • 17. Anonymous Coward - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 8:38:05 PM
    Grover, this is totally down to Midway. They didn't even look at the vertical slice Ratbag shipped them last week before they decided. There's no other explanation other than the fact that Midway are a bunch arseholes to screw over all those people with families like that a week out from Christmas. It's more than 50 as well, I hear there's like 80 people there!
  • 18. KTWW Rikstr - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 9:37:32 PM
    Such a damn shame. As a avid Ratbag fan who still plays their dirt racing games i'm saddened by this. The world wide online dirt racing community were hoping that under Midway, Ratbag would bring out a more modern and better online dirt racing game for us all. Guess theres no chance of that now.

    I guess Midway owns all rights to the old dirt games? Any Ratbager programmers out there reading this, send me the tools to unlock Saturday Night Speedway and World of Outlaws 2002 Please. lol.

    Man this game development market is tuff. I just did a google on Midway and found a report about disappointing financial results, (they losing money), and they have had disappointing sales this year, but then at the end a Midway honcho says he's still excited and it looks like they have been buying up all sorts of studios and shutting them down too.

    I have had and still do have so much fun with the dirt track games.

    Bugga!

    :-(

  • 19. KTWW Rikstr - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 9:59:07 PM
    email:

    nzrikstr@walla.com

    :-) .-)

  • 20. - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 12:25:33 AM
    Midway also closed down their san diego studio so not just the local studios hit
  • 21. Anonymous Coward - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 3:04:46 AM
    I find these comments amusing.. and probably have something to do with the shut down:

    July 28 2004
    Midway loses S25.7 million during the first half of 2004; president David Zucker says "The extraordinary annual losses are behind us."
    http://www.gamespot.com/news/6103665.html

    -- sorry to dissappoint mate, but they've only just begun... read on.

    Nov 7 2005
    "Midway posts S30 million third-quarter loss. Revenue rebound a thing of the past as Suffering publisher returns to negative growth; Q4 looks to be more of the same" - http://www.gamespot.com/news/6139323.html

    "During the first half of the console cycle, product quality, average markets, and poor decision making hurt Midway," said Zucker during the conference call.

    ----

    So 2 studios shut?? Is that confirmed?? Hope Pitbull are safe, it would be a shame to lose them too due to "bad decision making". Whoever is making the bad decisions should be looking at their employment there very carefully.

  • 22. unit - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 3:57:14 AM
    They've been aware of their losses for some time so it seems strange that they then go purchase a studio, only to close it down a few months later. A sad end. MY condolences to the crew there.

    I suspect however, this is only the beginning of massive consolidation in Australia and abroad. Much more investment, capital and professionalism is needed in producing the next gen of games.

  • 23. Ex-Ratbagger - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 12:36:12 PM
    Just some clarifications. Ratbag wasn't working a next gen title nor was it a racing game (well, it did have cars in it). And I can say without stretching the truth at all that it was the best looking title we've ever worked on. Midway's loss. Looked a shit load better then Gauntlet did pre-alpha.

    We've been given a day or so to provide Midway with a plan as to how we can save the game/company, but today (Thursday) at 2pm they will tell us their final decision. It's not likley to be anything other than the total shutdown of the compay. And if it was, who'd want to stay?

  • 24. Anonymous Coward - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 5:43:55 PM
    Midway Seattle fired over half a dozen employees after Suffering Ties That Binds shipped.
  • 25. KTWW Rikstr - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 8:09:12 PM
    Ex ratbagger, send me the tools to unlock SNS & Woo2002 plz.

    Thanks in advance,

    Rikstr

  • 26. Another Ex-Ratbagger - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 9:43:33 PM
    2 PM Came and went.. suddenly we were free from the corporate ties that bound us to our desks for many long and adurous nights crunching for a project that was never to be. ... Scavenger was never worked on past E3. Midway shelved it and made us all work on a nice 'I wanna piece of that other guys pie' game. As the other Ex-Ratbagger said, if the project was finshed it would have blown all other competing projected out of the water, feature wise and visually. It was something splendid, even if it was just a me too game.
  • 27. Daemin - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 11:41:10 PM
    Lets hope the employees get good severance packages which they fully deserve, since there's not going to be any work for them until January sometime. Though I think a fair number of companies in Adelaide (not games related) are seeking good C/C++ people, and then there are other studios in Australia and New Zealand, not to mention the UK.
  • 28. Anonymous Coward - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 1:33:27 AM
    Looks likes Midway is still seeking emploment at Ratbag:

    http://www.ratbaggames.com/index_no.html

  • 29. Random Joe - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 5:37:58 AM
    I doubt that page will ever be getting updated again...

    I had wanted to work at Ratbag for years, seems that will never have a chance to be now.

    Goddamn I feel bad for Greg and the people who built this company up with their sweat and hardwork, here's hoping that they can start again.

    Can any ex-Ratbag employee say if there is a chance of something re-emerging here in Adelaide?

  • 30. Ex-Ratbagger - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 11:36:38 AM
    Maybe. Not for a few years though. There are rumours of a small handheld team firing up, but who knows. A lot of the Ratbaggers are heading to Queensland.

    Maybe you'll see Ty the Dirt Track Racer coming out soon :)

  • 31. PIV - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 2:21:33 PM
    That's awful, poor bastards will be out of work again in 6 months. That's quite a fall going from Ratbag to Krome and being forced to turn out another Ty. Mind you Krome really could do with some quality people, that last Ty looked very bad. Visuals looked really dated, like a PS1 game almost. I guess that's why it got picked up by the Activision Value people in the end. You can sell larger numbers when your game is in the bargin bin, but the real question is why the government decided to prop up Krome when it was quite clearly about to collapse.
  • 32. CynicalFan - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 4:44:47 PM
    Because they are the government and they just don't know any better ;).
  • 33. CynicalFan - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 4:46:16 PM
    In other words, they are na?ve and gullible.
  • 34. Anonymous Coward - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 6:29:41 PM
    It could be worse, they could be going to THQ. Yee Oldee churn it out quick and cheap factory (oh sorry, studio). Of course some people like that sorta thing.
  • 35. Future Ratbagger - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 10:50:14 PM
    Could be much worse. As a UK guy I'd accepted a job with them (I had the interview just as Midway took over) and would have been heading out with family/house contents in the new year. Glad I haven't yet resigned my old job!

    I saw the same thing happen when Acclaim took over UK studios years ago, though not quite as fast.

    Shame, Adelaide's a great city, much underrated.

  • 36. Anonymous Coward - Friday, December 16, 2005 - 11:37:48 PM
    Consider Melbourne. Similar to Adelaide in many regards. Very multi-cultural. Has the most developed studios in the country.

    Some of the major ones include (not in any order):
    IR GURUS
    REDTRIBE
    BLUE TONGUE (THQ)
    ATARI
    TANTALUS
    TORUS

  • 37. Ratbagger on holiday... - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - 1:37:43 AM
    What the....?

    So I'm not coming back to a job then?

    Well I guess I'd better worry about the important issues now : What's the severance package like, someone? And wher's mine! :-)

    Bah Humbug! Merry Christmas, Ex-Workmates...Stay in touch!

  • 38. CsRx - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - 9:05:09 AM
    We are in a bad situation here too. two people from romania level designers (husband and wife) which were employed by midway australia. we received the airplane tickets, we have the visas (subclass 457) and we wonder if they are still available. before hearing this bad news we had left our jobs and now we are dessoriented. do you have some advices for us? ex ratbaggers pls... we still want to relocate in Adelaide.
  • 39. Anonymous Coward - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - 2:07:22 PM

    CsRx:
    Please send your email contacts to me and I will see if I can get you onto the ex-ratbag mailing list. That way we can communicate direct.
    my email is karl.burdack@internode.on.net

    So sorry for you guys.

  • 40. CsRx - Sunday, December 18, 2005 - 5:07:29 AM
    HI can you tell us please which is the adress of this ex-ratbag mailing list?
    Also, we received your email Karl.
  • 41. CsRx - Monday, December 19, 2005 - 4:43:56 AM
    Hey,
    These are our work samples... in case if any other game company is interested in employing us.
    Also some people from Activision USA and Funlabs Romania can sent references about us.

    http://designoholics.xhost.ro/port-folio/roxana.html
    http://designoholics.xhost.ro/port-folio/cosmin.html