Max Payne 3 didn’t bring in the Rockstar Games magic like most of the company’s recent releases. Red Dead Redemption moved 1.5 million copies in its first two weeks on shelves back in 2010. L.A. Noire meanwhile put in an impressive showing in May 2011, but it dragged behind Red Dead by a wide margin, moving just 899,000 copies. Max Payne 3? The tale of a drug addicted ex-cop shooting pretty much everyone in Brazil sold just 440,000 copies in May. That’s what happens when you release on the same day as Diablo III.
This doesn’t mean Max’s adventures are over and done with necessarily, but the specific studio within Rockstar that handled the bulk of the game’s development, Rockstar Vancouver, is being shut down and moved east where it will be folded into Rockstar Toronto.
Rockstar issued a statement on Monday saying that thanks to a partnership with the Ontario, Canada government it will be greatly expanding it its Rockstar Tornoto studio by building a brand new facility. The full 35-person staff from Rockstar Vancouver will be brought over to Toronto.
“We believe a single Canadian team will make for a powerful creative force on future projects,” said Rockstar VP of publishing Jennifer Kolbe, “We plan to add more than 50 new positions to our combined Canadian team, and are pleased to be entering into this strategic partnership with the Ontario government.”
Given the plans to greatly expand the staff, it’s hard not to speculate about what the studio may be producing. Rockstar Vancouver was a strong team of creators with long history in the Rockstar Games machine. Sergei Kuprejanov, the lead designer on Max Payne 3, also played the role of lead mission designer in Vancouver’s other major release, Bully. Kuprejanov got his start well before that though, working on both Grand Theft Auto 2 as a tester and on Grand Theft Auto 1969 as a programmer. Toronto meanwhile has been more of a support studio, doing backup work on games like Max Payne 3 and handling ports. The addition of 50 new staff members and 35 from Vancouver will effectively transform the studio into an entirely new entity.
One possible project for the new studio is a Bully sequel. Rockstar head honcho Dan Houser told Gamasutra in November that work on Bully 2 may kick off after Max Payne 3 wrapped up. “[We] knew that we didn’t want to start doing the Bully sequel instantly… with those guys—even though it is a property that, like Max, we adore and might come back to in the future. So we said, ‘You can do Max, and then we will see what we can do with Bully.’ So it was really waiting for the slot to open up and the group to open up to at least start work on it.”