Codemasters has let several people go from its Cheshire-based studio, formerly known as Evolution Studios, who were best known for developing Driveclub for Sony and the recent racing game OnRush.
OnRush was critically successful (holding a 79% ‘strong’ rating on OpenCritic) but wasn’t successful commercially, appearing in the UK’s physical charts at No.34 on launch week and never reappearing.
The director of both Driveclub and OnRush, Paul ‘Rushy’ Rustchynsky was one of the people let go according to Eurogamer, alongside several other senior figures. Eurogamer report sources stating that the studio had been “decapitated” by the redundancies, and that this could see what remains of the studio now put to work as a support studio for Codemasters’ other titles.
The developers were acquired in 2016 after Sony canned the studio after Driveclub.
You can read more about the story on Eurogamer, but personally it’s a real shame. While not technically a racing game, OnRush won a lot of praise for experimenting with the concepts and tropes inherent to that genre. At times it felt like the racing genre’s response to the massive success afforded to Overwatch and its ilk. To this writer it always feels like this is the gold standard of what we’re chasing in games development: an interesting exploration of the tropes and rules of development to make something interesting. The fact that this risk didn’t play out and has led to trouble at the studio is understandable if the sales were poor, but still disappointing.
OnRush’s post-release content schedule will remain unaffected by the staffing changes.
In a statement a Codemaster’s spokesperson said: "“It is normal course of business for game teams to evolve as projects launch and move into service, and as other new projects start. As such, it isn’t appropriate to comment on day to day movement of staff changes.”
Frankly, I’d contest this. It isn’t normal to lay off the entire upper management of a studio after a project wraps, and this contributes to a culture where employees are right to be concerned about their futures. The games industry, as with any creative industry, can have a lack of stability at times, but passing off major redundancies as business as usual is a bad look, and highlights the need for better protections, or unionisation, for those in the industry.