It seems like only yesterday that Vicarious Visions released one of the year’s best games in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2—a remake that went the extra mile and then some. As of today, however, the studio is done taking the lead on projects. Activision just announced that it’s been folded into Blizzard.
According to GamesIndustry.biz, all members of Vicarious Vision’s 200-ish person team are now Blizzard employees and are, as a result, “fully dedicated to existing Blizzard games and initiatives.” In addition, Vicarious Visions’ studio head Jen Oneal is now Blizzard’s executive vice president of development.
Vicarious Visions (if it gets to keep that name) will remain in Albany, New York. The studio, which Activision acquired in 2005, has contributed to and led development on series like Skylanders, Guitar Hero, Transformers, and Spider-Man. It’s not unfamiliar with running support, however, having also lent Bungie a helping hand on Destiny 2. As of now, Activision has not said what Blizzard games Vicarious Visions will be lending manpower to.
Obviously, this blows. Vicarious Visions wasn’t some small indie working on trailblazing games, but it still had its own unique identity and a reverent attention to detail. And yet, its reward for putting out one of its best games ever was to be transformed into a content farm. That is neither good nor right, but it’s just how things work on the big-budget side of the video game industry these days. The machine demands consolidation to feed the content-hungry hordes, and with big companies snapping up studios left and right, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Studios will continue to get bought, and then, eventually, absorbed and digested. This means homogenized games and a homogenized industry, in service not of better or more unique games, but more money. The bottom line wins again, and we are all poorer for it.