The Austin Chronicle

Inside Austin's Recent Gaming Shake-ups

Lots of layoffs, but a Nation of Indies rises from the ashes

By James Renovitch, February 8, 2013, Screens

It all started two weeks ago when Vigil Games closed. Employees there were already on edge following the December announcement that their publisher, THQ, was declaring bankruptcy. THQ had hoped to sell all of its assets (studios, intellectual property, etc.) to one seller, but the bank had other ideas, opting instead to sell the individual parts at auction in the hopes of getting more bang for their buck. They succeeded (barely), but Vigil remained unpurchased on the auctioning block and promptly closed. The main reason cited for Vigil's nonsalability was that they released Darksiders 2 in August of 2012 and were only just starting a new game, meaning would-be buyers wouldn't see profits for some time.

Before the dust even settled, a new studio opened its doors in town. Crytek, which has offices around the world, opened its first American outpost on Jan. 28 with Vigil co-owner David Adams at the helm. Adams' move seemed wildly convenient, considering Vigil staff couldn't have known the fate of the company until after the auction, and yet Adams had already set up shop elsewhere a mere five days later. But honestly, the gaming biz is a mysterious and beautiful creature that we can only feign to comprehend. Right?

That opening was quickly followed by another shake-up, as Junction Point, creators of Disney's Epic Mickey series, shuttered. The company's most recent release, Epic Mickey 2, did not sell as well as expected, leading the folks at Disney to "address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities." Rough translation: "You're fired." Gaming legend and Junction Point studio head Warren Spector said he had no idea what was next for him, but, so help us, if we see him at Crytek, we're gonna know that something nefarious is afoot.

As all this was taking place, local indie developers were banding together to help out. Under the banner of Austin's Juegos Rancheros game collective, the small group planned an event titled Nation of Indies to let developers who were recently laid off or just interested in making the move to an independent lifestyle know what that would entail, both the good and the bad. The event – scheduled for this Sunday at the North Door – will cover topics ranging from the tools of the trade to maintaining health coverage. The free event is already full, but organizers encourage people to continue to RSVP so they can gauge the popularity of future events. According to, the event will be recorded, so you can ponder your possible indieness from the safety of your home.

Check out the Screens blog ( for extended takes on the shake-ups so far and other breaking news in the local gaming scene.

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