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Artist Recounts Fall Of Wheelman Dev Midway Newcastle

The former senior GUI artist for shuttered studio Midway Newcastle described a rollercoaster of emotions that ultimately led to the studio's closure, from the "erratic" review scores of Wheelman, to a failed pitch that would have saved the studio.
Steve Pick, senior GUI artist for shuttered UK-based studio Midway Newcastle, described in a recent blog post a rollercoaster of emotions that led up to the ultimate closure of his studio in the wake of Midway's bankruptcy. Pick said that Midway's February 2009 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was the first big red flag, but even at that, the studio, which was still working on the Vin Diesel-starring action game Wheelman, "just got on with it." Eventually, through a publishing partnership with Ubisoft, Wheelman shipped, and garnered mixed reviews. Because of the wide spectrum of review scores, Pick speculated whether the more negative reviews could have been influenced by the "Midway" name and reputation. "The company name was unfortunately synonymous with disappointment, cheap and tacky... was it deserved? I'm not sure... it wasn't as if any of us in the studio were skimping on our workloads," Pick said. Newcastle quickly moved onto continuing development of Necessary Force, an original property in which the main character is a cop in an open-world, futuristic setting. The studio showed the game off to prospective publishers, and received very good feedback, Pick said. Despite that, no one picked up the game. But the studio had an opportunity for a crucial, new pitch to an unnamed, "big" studio. "It was another boost to morale, ... even though we lamented Necessary Force not getting picked up immediately," he said, describing more ups and downs. That pitch fell through, as Pick claimed Midway Newcastle "had produced the best pitch" out of three prospective studios, but the studio commissioning the work "didn't want to take the risk", presumably associated with a studio whose parent was in bankruptcy. A week later on July 14, former Chicago-based Midway CEO Matt Booty and insolvency administrators showed up at the studio the day before pay day to tell the workers it was their last day -- and they would not be getting paid. Following an explanation from Booty and a tense exit of workers from the building (locksmiths were changing the locks as they were still there, for instance), it was over. "In that given moment in time, we weren't anything to these people. We were human detritus which needed to be filtered out of a saleable asset," he said of the "suits" from Midway and the insolvency firm. Since that day, Midway was acquired by Warner Bros., which shut down Midway's Chicago corporate office. Former CEO Booty, the longtime Midway employee who was left with the difficult task of turning Midway around, lost his job as well. Pick, a self-described optimist, isn't so angry nowadays. He'll be working with a startup company in August. "It's a crying shame that it ended the way it did - and in the worst possible way too. I think the only way to truly get over it is to consider it the end of one chapter leading to the beginning of a new chapter."

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