Business of Gaming: Changing of the Guard

By Dog of Thunder, 4 years ago
Welcome back to another business round-up here on TrueAchievements. The Newshounds do not typically cover the gaming industry, choosing instead to focus on the games themselves. As a result, behind the scenes movement, financials, closures, staff movements, all of these things tend to be shuffled aside as the latest trailers and screenshots need a moment to shine on our front page. That is simply how we handle the news here, and will continue to handle the news.

That being said, the process I began over the Summer of every few weeks writing about the most important business stories, will be resuming as we enter the busiest time of year for the gaming industry. The upcoming holiday season is also likely to be the last one of the current generation, with most industry insiders predicting that it is at the upcoming E3 we will see both Microsoft and Sony unveil their latest hardware. Autumn and Winter of 2012 will be a time of endings, not only for the current console cycle but for the current landscape of the gaming industry. A number of high-profile moves over the past few months have all come together to create a large void within the industry. We'll start with the latest, and work our way backwards to the beginning.

Cliff Bleszinski Departs Epic

Announced just yesterday at 4:22 PM, Cliff Bleszinksi, the man behind Jazz Jackrabbit and the Gears of War franchise has left Epic Games. Cliff has been a part of Epic for the past 20 years, in which he has clearly left a mark on the gaming industry. In the past six years alone, Cliff became a gaming household name with his boombastic style of marketing not only the titles in the Gears of War franchise, but also People Can Fly's Bulletstorm and Gears of War: Judgment. "Bigger, Better and more Bad-ass" not only describes each successive Gears of War title, but the influential career of Cliff Bleszinski at Epic.

While Cliff Bleszinski has left Epic to take a break from the gaming industry, he's not the only high-profile name to think now is the time to step aside.

Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk retire from Bioware

Company co-founders, Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk stepped down from Bioware on September 18th, 2 weeks before Cliff Bleszinksi left Epic. The two men started Bioware together nearly 20 years ago, and they made the choice to leave together, on their own terms. Dr. Muzyka and Dr. Zeschuk both, in their respective letters to their fans (which can be read here and here), cited that the passion for gaming just isn't there anymore for them. Both are stepping out of the gaming industry and each stated that it is very likely they will never be back.

Dr. Muzyka and Dr. Zeschuk helped shaped the early years of Bioware and provided us some classic RPGs, including the Baldur's Gate franchise, Jade Empire, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and more recently, both the Mass Effect franchise and Dragon Age franchise. In fact, with Dr. Muzyka's admission that he made the choice to leave Bioware in early April of this year, it seems likely that two very big factors played into his choice to leave. Not only had Mass Effect 3 just shipped, to the howls of a fan base that felt betrayed, but it was the 1-year anniversary of Star Wars: The Old Republic having gone gold.

With two major projects completed and out the door, Dr. Muzyka and Dr. Zeschuk managed to close two major cycles in Bioware's history before they departed to pursue other, non-gaming related endeavors. While we will never know the exact reasons and circumstances that caused them to leave the industry, we can respect them for everything they have done for us during their tenure at Bioware. As someone who fell in love with Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn and wound up meeting a fellow D&D player whom became my wife, I wish both of the doctors the best of luck in their future endeavors.

Now while it may have been awhile, here's some more prominent names that, while they are still within the industry, have made major moves during the past year.

Rod Ferguson leaves Epic Games, joins Irritational Games

The Senior Producer on Gears of War 2 and Executive Producer on TrueAchievement's "Best Shooter of 2011", Gears of War 3 left Epic Games after 8 years this past August. Rod Ferguson is actually, despite his incredible background in gaming, perhaps more well-known as the man behind the Twitter account for Gears of War as GearsViking. The successful use of social media to market his games helped change video game marketing in a time when most companies were struggling to connect with the "core gamer" demographic.

Rod signed on with Irritational just in time to assist the team behind Bioshock: Infinite, a surefire hit that has suffered a number of key losses during the past few months. Oh, did you forget that?

Tim Gerritsen and Nate Wells leave Irrational Games

Announced one day before Rod joined Irrational, was the departure of both Tim Gerritsen, the director of product development, and Nate Wells, the art director for Bioshock: Infinite and one of the men responsible for the art design of the original BioShock (Xbox 360). Both men simply departed the company and, initially, no announcement was made about the change.

Ken Levine, president of Irrational Games, later clarified that Scott Sinclair, the art director for Bioshock would take over for Nate Wells as the art director for Bioshock: Infinite. While Rod Fergusson's role has never been officially clarified, it seems likely that he has stepped in to fill the Tim Gerritsen shaped hole in Irrational Games.

Are you still with me? Good, because there was another high-profile industry figure whom announced earlier this year he'd be leaving the company he helped build: Peter Molyneux.

Peter Molyneux leaves both Lionhead Studios and Microsoft Studios Europe

Way back on March 7th of this year, the outspoken Peter Molyneux announced that once development on Fable: The Journey was complete, he would be departing Lionhead for his new start up company, 22 Cans. Molyneux is pursuing the development of smaller apps focused on the integration of social media and video games. The first of these is titled Curiosity, and it places gamers in a room with a black cube that must be chipped away to reveal the contents inside. Every gamer sees the same black cube and is chipping away at the same cube, with the person that finally breaks it the only one able to see the contents inside. Considering how crazy every Molyneux game sounds while it is being developed, it's good to know that in life, some things never change.

Who's next?

CliffyB, Rod Fergusson, both founders of Bioware, Peter Molyneux, these are not small names in the gaming industry. While Peter Molyneux is focusing away from the console space and Rod Ferfusson exploring a new company with a different direction than Epic, this is still clearly a time of transition. Who will be the rising star of the next generation, as Cliffy B was for the Xbox 360? Who will be the one to break apart an existing genre and bring it into a bold new era as Bioware did with RPGs?

Is Notch, the self-starting mind behind Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, a sign of the next big gaming personality? Will we have more developers like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish -- small, independent developers that rally against the corporate machine?

Who will be the next big innovator, the next big designer, the person with the idea or concept that makes us all sit up and go "Wow"?