TimeGate Studios is not having a great year. While the studio has survived for the past decade in an increasingly volatile console game market, working on well-received titles like Section 8, it’s spent the beginning of 2013 embroiled in the ongoing drama surrounding the dismal reception of Aliens: Colonial Marines. While TimeGate will continue to operate, it may well be bowing out of the retail game business for good following the loss on a new publishing deal. The studio’s president confirmed that approximately 25 members of the staff have been laid off in the process of reorganizing the company for an uncertain future.
“Today, we had to make the difficult decision to let go of some great game developers,” TimeGate president Adel Chaveleh told Polygon, “This is never easy, and we’re doing all we can to assist those developers affected. TimeGate is preparing, as is the entire industry, for the transition to next-generation consoles and new business models.”
TimeGate has already had to reorient itself around digital distribution after a retail failure. Section 8 struggled to find an audience as a retail product, with middling reviews and sales, but its downloadable-only sequel Section 8: Prejudice fared much better. But the studio’s work on the major retail release Aliens: Colonial Marines may have damaged the company in ways it may not recover from.
It’s unclear precisely what happened with Aliens. Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford claimed that TimeGate put in significant work on the game’s reviled campaign, but that the game was ultimately the work of his studio. Sega said the same.
Sources familiar with the project’s development tell a different story, though. TimeGate reportedly took over full development of Aliens: Colonial Marines from Gearbox in 2010, struggling to complete the game using a few assets and concepts finished by Gearbox. The Borderlands 2 studio than took back over the game in early 2012, discovering that TimeGate’s work was almost unsalvageable. “Design elements were altered or redone entirely [by Gearbox],” said a source, “It looks like a lot of [TimeGate’s] assets remained intact, with the exception of lower-res textures and faster-performing shaders.”
“[Aliens] feels like it was made in nine months. That’s because it was.”
It’s difficult to not correlate the release of Aliens and the unnamed publishing deal that spurred these layoffs at TimeGate. The studio will be hard pressed to survive without dramatically transforming the way it does business and designs games.