Free Radical Founder Steve Ellis Opens New Studio

December 19th, 2008 | Written by Anthony Perez | Topic: Industry News
haze1As reported earlier today, our own Michael Bunning was able to talk with an employee from Free Radical Design about the studio’s rumored closing. During that interview, the source we spoke with talked about Free Radical founder Steve Ellis’ plans for a new game development studio named Pumpkin Beach. According to our source, Steve Ellis has taken about 20 Free Radical employees with him.

“Pumpkin Beach was set up a few months ago actually. The project was worked on in-house at FRD for a while. Then we were told that because the project was going to be quite different from Free Radical’s previous games, they were setting up a new company, sort of a new label for the game, to avoid the associations with TimeSplitters and Haze. As for the Lucasarts thing, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I know I was working on the Lucasarts game until very recently.”

We did a little research about Pumpkin Beach and found a domain registered through Whois.net for PumpkinBeach.com. The registrant? Steve Ellis.

Registrant:
Steve Ellis
2 Church Lane
Cossall
Nottingham, Notts NG16 2RW
GB

This seems to all but confirm such plans for Pumpkin Beach, and Steve Ellis’ involvement with the new company. Additionally, there have been a few other reports popping up about Pumpkin Beach elsewhere, including the Unofficial Free Radical Design Blog. We are unsure of who authors the site.

Sources explain Dave Doak had left Free Radical Design a month ago. He and Steve Ellis are now looking at creating a new game developer company called Pumpkin Beach. Little is known about their plans for this company but a website, http://www.pumpkinbeach.com/, has been reserved. It is possible TimeSplitters 4 could be sold to this new company. Maybe this new company was created as a rescue for TimeSplitters 4 but the lack of publisher support makes the idea a risky one.

During the meeting roughly 20 staff positions were offered into the new company for people at Free Radical Design. Codemasters and Monumental Games were also at the hotel used to hold the meeting to ask for CVs and applications for anyone who was interested.

The drama around the closing of the Haze and TimeSplitters developer has been a whirlwind of speculation, but it’s not all that surprising. There has been no official statements about Haze’s sales, but it was trounced by the gaming press. We rated Haze a 5.3 following its release in May, and the vast majority of other gaming publications did the same as the game currently holds a rating of 55 out of 100 on review aggregation site Metacritic.com.

Scores aren’t always indicative of sales, as the whopping sales of the atrocious 50 Cent: Bulletproof has proven. But that game had the backing of a celebrity, while Haze was an original IP from a developer who hadn’t yet released a blockbuster hit. And considering the state of today’s global economy, this is just the way things go.

About This Author: Anthony Perez
Founder of SmashPad and former GameSpot freelancer, I love covering the gaming industry when it surprises me. Sometimes gaming gets a bit too stagnant, but when a game wows me like Scribblenauts, then I get excited again. Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tonyp1222

Industry News |

There are 14 Comments
Comment by Cytricks on the December 20th, 2008 at 1:41 am

i am sad to see this happen to FRD i was one who was excited for the release of haze and pissed off when it was not what i expected. I think Sony or someone should come in and see if they can get the studio under their name. Timesplitters would be a cool exclusive to have.

Comment by Doyora on the December 20th, 2008 at 1:47 am

Suddenly making a series exclusive to a console is a great way to alienate a lot of the userbase. I don’t like the sound of that.

Comment by TonyP on the December 20th, 2008 at 2:09 am

But Haze was already a PS3 exclusive, so technically Free Radical was already alienating themselves. They said it was because Haze couldn’t possibly be done on the 360, but having played it, I don’t know how that statement could possibly be true.

Comment by Doyora on the December 20th, 2008 at 2:23 am

Eh, but haze wasn’t (isn’t?) a well established series with an existing fanbase on all consoles. You’re right though. Making haze an exclusive (especialy on the lolps3) was a mistake. Not something that I think they should repeat.

And sony seem to make people say a lot of things :V

Comment by Misery on the December 20th, 2008 at 4:57 am

Its a real pity; I’ve followed the Timesplitters series from the start; it was a great series, plain and simple. Second Sight was a good game to, but suddenly Haze comes out? What happened? Why was the game so bad? XD

All I can hope is that ‘pumkpin Beach’ release TS4. No matter what games they release, I’m sure they’ll always be critisized by the TS fans.

Comment by TheForgotten0ne on the December 21st, 2008 at 3:07 am

I don’t care that much, never been a fan of any of their games. But it’s always a little bit sad when people have to shut down.

I don’t think Sony should take them under their wings, if Haze had been good then I would say Yes to that. But when they showed that they couldn’t make a great game, then it’s hard to see Sony actually helping out.

Comment by JacobS on the December 21st, 2008 at 3:38 am

The PS3 launch would have been a better time frame in which to release Haze. Software stands a better chance of being noticed, so it’s like putting your products near the window. They took all that time and it ended up being mediocre. Not that a development schedule can magically change, so I’m speaking hypothetically. A greater sin is that it didn’t do anything unique. There are enough shooters on the market, and that just means that every new shooter has to stand even taller above the rest. Red Steel might not have been a great game, but it was noticed because it did something unique, and it had the opportunity to receive free press because everybody’s treating these launch games like runway models and examining every facet of them. That at least gets people talking. Mostly, however, it just should have been a good game.

So I can understand that Haze hurt a lot and they’re trying to regroup. TS4 here is more interesting. I don’t know what happens to the IP if Free Radical dissolves. It looks like it’s been largely autonomous, as they’ve gotten different publishers each time. But they may just take time to retool and set off in a different direction. They may figure that they missed TS4’s window of opportunity. Whatever they do, I wish them well.

Comment by TonyP on the December 21st, 2008 at 7:38 am

You may not like Haze all that much, but a hell of a lot of people like the TimeSplitters series which originally debuted on the PS2 (as a launch title, at that) and so there are a lot of gamers that would be interested in seeing a TS 4.

Comment by TheForgotten0ne on the December 22nd, 2008 at 2:09 am

Maybe, but I don’t 1 game is worth to make them pick up the entire studio.

Comment by Kerry on the December 22nd, 2008 at 4:43 am

great he starts new company 180 get screwed.

Comment by lastanimefan on the December 23rd, 2008 at 1:52 am

timesplitters is one of the best series i’ve ever played, hilarious, great gameplay, and a decent map editor to boot. i am defitely looking foward to timesplitters 4, and besides, each of the timesplitters games have sold over a million copies…that should be enough to pick up the studio…temporarily at least

Comment by Komrad on the December 23rd, 2008 at 11:52 am

the plane got us this far… only 20 parachutes… pilot & co pilot have already jumped… to be continued… 2009

Comment by yikyike on the January 17th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Yikes!
The “financial crisis” seems to hit parts of the new economy as well…
Anyhow, i really look forward to see TS4 on the PS3.
Hopefully the developers can make it happen.
My best wishes to them 🙂

Comment by Topu on the June 13th, 2009 at 10:37 pm

It is good for gamers……