The commercial and critical success of Max Payne 3 would lead one to believe the Rockstar is on a continuous winning streak, with 3 million copies sold within the first week of release and glowing reviews coming from all sides. Unfortunately, the realities of the gaming industry often run in conflict with public perception. Case in point, we are just learning that Rockstar Vancouver, the lead developer behind Max Payne 3, are closing down their offices. With a successful current-generation game under their belts, this seems like the least likely move that Rockstar would have made. However, as we haves seen before, one blockbuster does not a profitable studio make.
The move to close Rockstar Vancouver is part of a planned restructuring of Rockstar’s Canadian division, which has been responsible for sporadic hits over the years but not the lasting success that the brand is known for. When most people think of Rockstar, they think of the popular Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption, classic games that have rocketed the company into the A-list of game developers. Before Max Payne 3, Rockstar Vancouver had only two moderately-successful games to their credit, the excellent Bully and Bully: Scholarship Edition. Prior to being acqurired by Rockstar, the team operated under the name Barking Dog Studios and developed mainly PC shooters such as Homeworld: Cataclysm and Global Operations, as well as select maps for the popular first-person shooter Counter-Strike.
Max Payne 3 is undoubtedly the biggest and best title that Rockstar Vancouver has produced, but it might have proven to be too little, too late for the studio. The Canadian operations will now be spearheaded by Rockstar Toronto, which has remained a small scale but prolific studio in the Rockstar family. The Warriors, an excellent action game released in 2005, was the last title in which Rockstar Toronto played a lead role in creating. Since then, they have largely supported other Rockstar studios as well as other publishers in games such as the first two Max Payne titles, Manhunt, and Grand Theft Auto IV. Whether or not they will play a bigger role in light of the Vancouver closures is unknown at this time.
Rockstar Vancouver was comprised of a 35-man team, and Rockstar is currently making efforts to relocate them to the Rockstar Toronto offices. Having acquired a larger office space in the Toronto suburb of Oakville, and creating 50 new positions as the office ramps up their efforts, there is a silver lining for those displaced by the closure. The fact that a studio has closed down is never good news, but with Max Payne 3 as their swan song, one cannot deny that Rockstar Vancouver went out in fine style.