A personal blog by ex-Midway GUI artist Steven Pick, published last week, tells the full story from an employee’s point of view of the whole Midway demise. Whilst some online sites took it upon themselves to make light of the situation and distance themselves with the misjudged use of pathos and a terrible sense of humour, we here at TheSixthAxis did everything we could think of to help the guys out, including as much coverage of The Wheelman and Necessary Force as we could push onto our pages. Sadly, it wasn’t enough, and whilst as far as we’re aware Steven has found new work, a lot of the guys are still unemployed amidst various tales of mismanagement from Midway.
“Ever since the Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement for Midway as a company,” says Steven in his blog, “we’ve been erring on the side of caution. Anything could happen, right? The company was still operating as normal, but the Chapter 11 thing was like a silent dread-spectre hovering over all of us. The cause of this was through some allegedly shady dealings between Sumner Redstone and a bloke called Mark Thomas. Alarm bells rang; it seemed quite, quite dubious. All of a sudden, the company was sold to him for a paltry $100,000 and then a magical legal process ensued where all deadlines for debts accelerated their deadlines for payment. Midway didn’t have the funds at the time to pay them, and thus Chapter 11 became part of our legal vocabulary.”
There’s discussion on the IGN Wheelman ‘review’ which massively affected the game’s Metacritic score (because of the ‘weight’ IGN reviews have on the aggregator) which meant the team were on something on a rollercoaster ride as bad reviews bounced off wildly varying sales figures. “The Metacritic score dropped like a stone,” said Pick. However, the team pressed on with new title Necessary Force. “Set in the future,” says the blog, “our game would put you in the shoes of a street-toughened cop. You would piece together evidence, make connections, go looking for new suspects and interrogate them. Work had already begun modifying the Wheelman engine – the concept guys began producing beautiful renderings of the cityscape, characters and vehicles, while the designers were busy with documentation and possible scenarios.
Just as the game was close to being pitched the studio got served with a 60 day notice. “A legality in the UK, we had to be informed 60 days in advance of a possible closure,” Steven tells us. “The timing of E3 couldn’t have come any better. I helped produce the Necessary Force booklet, the logo and any other materials which were needed for the presentations. A lot of companies were booked in to see the game, and we had high hopes that some good will come from it. Post E3, we were told there were several interested parties, and the next stage would be meetings and due diligence procedures by those companies to assess the studio.” Sadly, nothing came of Wheelman, despite “a chance with a studio I can’t name” and a last ditch pitch to secure funding on a new title.
“A week after we were told of the failure of the “big pitch”, Tuesday 14th July would be a day I will never forget. As lunch neared, our secretary noted on the security cameras that Matt Booty – the bigwig Midway CEO at the time – was outside the studio “with a bunch of people”. The news filtered through the studio like wildfire accompanied by assorted reactions – mostly of the “oh fuck” variety. Everyone’s Twitter and Facebook entries suddenly took a turn for the worse. We knew it was coming. Michael Caine slid a bit too far to grab that pallet of gold, and the bus was slowly skidding into the scenic Italian ravine. None of us knew it would happen on that specific day, although the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect – it was the day before payday.”
After that, it all goes rapidly downhill, and the rest of the blog needs to be read in its entirety, so I suggest you do now this lunchtime. It’s a sad state of affairs, but we wish Steven and the rest of the hard working guys at Midway Newcastle all the luck in the world.