Embracer Group is back in the news again, with a new report suggesting Free Radical, the studio behind the classic TimeSplitters, is at risk of closure.
In what has been a frankly horrendous year for game development, at least for those inside the industry, along comes a report that Free Radical Design – the studio behind, among other things, the classic TimeSplitters shooter series – could be at risk of closure.
The story comes from VGC’s reliably well-connected Andy Robinson, who says employees at the Nottingham-based studio have been notified of its potential closure. This is backed up by a number of staff at the studio saying they’re actively looking for work on such sites as LinkedIn and X/Twitter.
If Free Radical does indeed close, it’ll mark the end of a studio that has, in one form or another, survived in a competitive industry for well over 20 years. It was founded in 1999 by former developers at Rare, which is why its debut title, the fast-paced first-person shooter TimeSplitters, had so much in common with GoldenEye 007 – in many respects, it was a spiritual continuation of that pivotal console game.
Free Radical suffered a major wobble in 2008 with its ambitious yet flawed shooter, Haze, published by Ubisoft. Its commercial failure saw Free Radical bought up by Crytek and renamed Crytek UK in 2009; things took a rosier turn just two years ago, when Swedish company Embracer Group snapped up the studio, restored its Free Radical Design name, and brought two of its co-founders back into the fold.
For the past couple of years, Free Radical has been quietly beavering away at a new TimeSplitters – the first of its kind since 2005. VGC’s report now puts the future of that project into serious doubt.
It’s been a rocky year for Embracer Group, with the collapse of a $2bn deal with an unspecified company (thought to be a Saudi-backed firm, Savvy Games) forcing it to hurriedly restructure and cut costs. Among the victims of those cuts are Volition, the storied developer of the Saints Row series, and multiple staff at Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics.
It was reported in June that several unnamed game projects had been cancelled by Embracer; it’s possible that TimeSplitters may be among them.
Here’s hoping that, if Free Radical is to close, those affected will find new jobs quickly.