Vancouver’s Roadhouse Interactive closes shop, over 100 developers out of work

After six long years, Vancouver’s premier mobile studio has closed its doors.

Roadhouse Interactive might not be a well known name when it comes to the global power in the mobile gaming market, but the studios’ impact has been vast. In what can only be described as an IP magnet, Roadhouse has had a lot of success, very quickly, with franchises like Red Bull Sports, Warhammer 40k, and the recently released Iron Maiden.

The amazing resume of Roadhouse Interactive consists of Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast, Warhammer 40k, Carnage Champions, Warhammer 40k Carnage, Snowboarding the Fourth Phase (Red Bull), Bike Unchained (Red Bull), Red Bull Air Race, FRS Ski Cross, Food Battle: The Game, and Trophy Bingo. They even played a large part in developing Family Guy Online.

On September 1st, employees of the west 7th Avenue studio were informed that they were no longer employed, and the doors were locked. Now, a few weeks later, Roadhouse CEO James Hursthouse released a blog post on the company’s website that was devoid of most information.

“After six great years, we are sorry to have to announce that Roadhouse closed its doors on September 1st, 2016. We would like to thank all of our customers, players and especially our staff for their support and dedication over the years. Our games are expected to continue on in very capable hands. We are very proud of what we accomplished and look forward to seeing what this fantastic group of people achieves next,” said Hursthouse.

While it’s a huge shame to see over 100 amazingly talented developers out of work, there are lessons to be learned here.

Aside from the luck of timing — these layoffs come at a time where every single Vancouver studio is desperately seeking more people — it paints an interesting picture in regard to the pockets one keeps.

Developing games with well-known names in the title can be daunting. With the recognition comes positives and negatives. On one hand, you get the easily obtained audience — in the case of Iron Maiden, you immediately peak the interest of any Maiden fan around the world — but that comes with greater expectation.

Alongside the preconceived quality, comes budgets. The growth of the development depth produces larger bills, with bigger teams, longer cycles of creation, and major worldwide advertising. The cost of Iron Maiden was never released officially, but in personal conversation. I was led to believe that the final bill was printed at launch somewhere between the $3 million to $5 million dollar mark.

For a relatively small studio, that’s a bet on their future that the company must have felt they had to take; but ultimately spelled the end.

Many studios before them have had the luck of developing a game, on any system, that holds the prestige of an established franchise; and many of them have failed. On the contrary, developers making products with their own IP have the fortune of inflating at their own pace. Which in retrospect can be to blame for the death of most smaller studios.

You really can’t afford to put out a financial flop when you’re living month to month as an “indie studio.” This is a very real risk when you’re not EA Games, or Bethesda. There’s a recovery period that exists after the launch of a major title. One that can see things grow, and more opportunities arise, or one that can be the end of a fabulous studio.

Roadhouse didn’t deserve to close, but take the company’s efforts, and its demise as a sign. Finding the right balance between the two is the most important job of stake-holders at any creative studio.

Hursthouse stated that their games will live on, and as of right now there is no information available as to whom will be holding on to them or support the live products.