It was a sad day for one and all when Bizarre Creations closed its doors for good last month. The "Geometry Wars" and "Project Gotham Racing" developer had been struggling with its more recent releases, but no one really wanted to see it go. Activision, the studio's former owner, tried to sell Bizarre off and expressed sincere regret at not being able to do say when it issued the closure recommendation. Cheer up though. From the ashes of Bizarre comes Hogrocket, with a core team made up of key members from the now-closed studio.
Hogrocket Studios was founded by former Bizarre-ers Peter Collier, Ben Ward and Stephen Cakebread. The focus of the so-called "micro-studio" will be on developing games for the iPhone and iPad, as well as PC and Mac computers. The team, based in North-West England, is working on their first game now, but there is of course no information to be shared about that yet.
Hogrocket's three founders bring a serious amount of experience along with them. Collier served as lead level designer on "The Club" and "James Bond: Blood Stone 007," and he also worked on "Project Gotham Racing 3" and, prior to Bizarre, "Driv3r." Ward makes up for a lack of experience as a developer as Bizarre's former community manager, a role which he will presumably continue to serve in for Hogrocket. And Cakebread, he's the guy who created "Geometry Wars." No big deal.
In an update on his personal website, Collier spends some time writing about why the studio's focus is primarily on Apple's mobile platforms. "Say what you like about developing for Apple iOS devices (discoverability etc) but now there is the opportunity to make smaller games for low development costs and make a living. This state of play simply hasn’t existed in the industry for decades. So joining the indie ranks with Hogrocket is something that, as a creative, I feel an incredibly liberating prospect."
Expect this sort of thing to become more common. AAA games cost of lot of time, money and manpower to create, and they typically end up being embraced by a niche audience. An admittedly sizable one, sure, but the appeal is still limited.
Mobile games, on the other hand, are generally marked by a short development time and low price. The success of games like "Angry Birds" proves that people will turn out in huge numbers to embrace these more accessible releases. It is entirely possible, probable even, that the future of the gaming industry will see AAA development funded in large part by a studio's robust performance in the mobile space.
Also, for the record: the studio's "Hogrocket" name is fantastic.