THE BUZZ: Matt Southern—the group game director at MotorStorm developer Evolution Studios—feared that his studio might be dead when its latest game was a commercial failure.
That game? MotorStorm Apocalypse. It’s downfall wasn’t due to the game itself being bad, but an unfortunate string of chance events. Apocalypse takes place during a series of horrific natural disasters, where large-scale earthquakes and deadly storms rock cities and landscapes that have now become wastelands.
The premise was an interesting one—except that the game’s release coincided with the devastating tragedies that befell Japan as the result of a massive earthquake off of the country’s coast. Apocalypse‘s release was immediately pushed back, the game had to be re-printed due to an edited cutscene (one where a character says “Whoops, there goes Tokyo” after a model city is smashed up), all marketing for Apocalypse was pulled, and the game’s release was entirely cancelled for Japan. As well, one the game was finally released it North America, it found itself the victim of another bad case of timing—the hacking, and subsequent taking offline, of the PlayStation Network. MotorStorm Apocalypse found itself on store shelves at a point when nobody could make use of any of its online modes. By the time PSN was back up and running, the damage to the game and its mindshare among gamers had been done.
“It’s been quite a tough year for us, especially early on in the year,” Southern told Eurogamer in a recent interview. “We made a game we’re really proud of and for some really heartbreaking reasons things didn’t go so well. In perspective we’ve got nothing to complain about.
“I was worried it might be the end of Evolution,” he continued. “Racing has had a very tough time, even without extraordinary circumstances like the ones we went through.”
(Eurogamer points out that two other racing studios—Black Rock and Bizzare Creations—were both shut down this year when their respective racing games failed to make an impact at retail.)
However, Southern then attributed the survival of his studio to one thing—the backing they received from Sony. He told Eurogamer that is has been an “absolutely joy to have been part of Sony”, and that the company has given a large amount of support to Evolution Studios.
Southern and the rest of the team at Evolution are now hard at work on MotorStorm RC, a project which has helped to lift the spirits of the team after all of the problems Apocalypse faced.
(Hit the link below for the full interview Eurogamer conducted with Matt Southern.)
EGM’s TAKE: This is one of the most unfortunately parts of where game development is today—one failure can now mean the end of an entire studio, ever for those who have been around for years and who have a long track record of successful products. We all want games that are bigger, better, and more impressive, but the budgets required for such projects mean that often, failure simply isn’t an option.
Obviously, the real tragedy was what happened to Japan and its people, but it’s also unfortunate that MotorStorm Apocalypse suffered as a result. I’m really glad to see Sony have faith in the team at Evolution and their work, and that the studio will continue to get the chance to come up with the next big hit.