One of my favourite games so far this year has been ONRUSH. The latest game from the racing experts at Codemasters really brought a different take to the genre by not making it about racing but using all the skills that those games require. ONRUSH is all about car combat, boosting, and coordinating with the rest of your team. It was the first game from a new team at Codemasters which was created from the remnants of Evolution Studios. The former Sony first party studio was shut down after the release of Driveclub, but they were also the creators of the MotorStorm series. When Codemasters acquired most of the talent behind the studio, it seemed like the perfect combination, the publisher’s racing pedigree with a development team who could clearly handle a AAA racing game. While the game turned out great (the game currently has a Metacritic score of 78), it has really struggled in terms of sales. If reports are to believed, the game sold just over 1000 physical copies in its launch week in the UK.
Codemasters response to these disappointing sales figures has been to gut the team responsible for the game. According to reporting over at Eurogamer, the team feel as though they have been “decapitated” with senior staff and key creatives being fired or required to go through new interview processes for a position in the company. A spokesperson for Codemasters 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”. Of course, there is an element of truth to this. When a big game works its way through to release, there is no longer a need for the QA team who were testing the game, translators who make the game accessible for different territories, and even some regular team members. This culling of the key talent seems a very different affair though. One of the people who are now out of a job is Paul “Rushy” Rustchynsky, the director of ONRUSH.
I understand that when there is some sort of failure that heads will roll but, in this case, it seems kind of crazy. If ONRUSH had been a bad game or a critical failure then firing the key creatives would be a completely understandable response, but that isn’t the case here. I believe the game’s failure is out of the hands of the team that created it. The issue appears to either be that it was marketed correctly or that they made a game that there wasn’t really a market for. If the problem is that it wasn’t promoted correctly or well enough then that should fall on the PR company employed or the marketing team within Codemasters. However, if the issue is that there was never a market for the game in the first place then surely that should fall on the producers at Codemasters who gave the game a greenlight in the first place. To fire the director of a game that has achieved critical success and is loved by the people who play it (the game still has a stable online community) seems daft.
My heart goes out to the people who have lost their job or are questioning their job security because of this game. They managed to create a game that was pretty much unique. It looks fabulous, plays brilliantly, and offers something different to all the other racers out there. They should be applauded and revered. To lose their job over someone else’s mistake just plain sucks. I’m sure that a lot of the team will be relocated amongst the other teams at Codemasters, but this is a crew who had already been through a lot, and must have developed quite a camaraderie. I for one really enjoyed the Motorstorm games and I have to say that I prefer Driveclub to the latest Gran Turismo title. To think that these guys will never get to make another game together is something of a travesty. The video game industry can be tough, and this is another case where the buck seems to have been passed to the wrong people.