Pandemic Studios, begun in 1998 as an offshoot of Activision by Josh Resnick and Andrew Goldman to develop sequels to Dark Reign and Battlezone, has been shuttered by current owner EA. The studio will remain open until the launch of their upcoming title The Saboteur, and then will be disbanded, with key players being absorbed by EA LA.
Let’s be frank: “Key players” means a skeleton crew who can support The Saboteur after launch, and until the DLC and patches hit. Expect two, possibly three DLC packs for The Saboteur and probably two patches. If The Saboteur does well (read: it becomes EA’s Assassin’s Creed), there will be a sequel, and core Sab team members will work on it along with a new support staff from EALA. If The Saboteur does not do well, it will have been Pandemic’s eulogy piece.
As a site that has been intimately involved with Pandemic Studios, this hits home kind of hard today; and it makes us realize that it was the people we worked with, and not the company behind them, that really made Pandemic a great studio. Sitting in the queue of articles on the whiteboard here in the Icrontic offices is a draft entitled “Corporate Culture at Pandemic Studios”, a story that will now never get written.
It was a story about the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm of every single person we met while visiting Pandemic. From Resnick and Goldman down to the receptionist, every employee we met was a fun person, a gamer, a guy or girl we would hang out with. They were livin’ the life, doing what they loved, and it showed, from the 16th floor conference room to the 17th floor beer fridge. Programmers had Mega Man toys in their cubes, designers had NES games on their walls, and there was a wall filled with drawings from little gamers. There was even a “Make a Wish” wall, where a kid’s dying wish was to design a video game. Who helped him make it? Pandemic Studios. He came out for the day and everybody stopped what they were doing to make this kid’s game.
EA ended all that because Pandemic hasn’t met financial targets with their IPs. In typical fluffy PR speak, the internal memo rang out:
Pandemic is a powerful brand and the team has delivered some highly innovative and fun titles. However to improve our cost structure, ensure quality and build schedule integrity for this studio, EA has elected to close the Westwood facility and consolidate a core IP team on the EALA campus in Playa Vista. This move has resulted in a reduction in the work force at Pandemic and Josh, Andrew and Greg will leave the company. The Pandemic team in Playa Vista will report to Sean Decker.
Here, let us translate that into human for you: Pandemic, yeah great, you made some games before we bought you. We’re not happy with what you’ve done so far, so we’re going to gut the people we feel we can make money off of, and send the rest of you home with a pink slip.
We’re still looking forward to The Saboteur. We know enough about the game to know that EA was smart to let Pandemic develop this game their way. The success of it will, however, be very bittersweet.