In this time of doom, gloom, and economic despair, we could all learn something from the late, great Douglas Adams: Don't Panic.
A few days ago, we reported that Free Radical Design had locked its doors, closed up shop, and perhaps succumbed to bankruptcy. Well, the story's only half true, thankfully -- yes, Free Radical closed up shop last Friday, but only because they've gone into what's known as "administration," according to a Nottingham newspaper. Administration is a process that British companies go through when they become insolvent: they bring in a third party that acts on behalf of creditors, trying to find a way to jump start business. In meantime, a skeleton crew of about 20 employees is holding down the fort, according to a source for 1Up. The rest of the staff of about 120 are at home, with pay, for something of an early, albeit troubling, holiday.
The source went on to explain that "[t]here's a number of cool projects in development -- two of which are getting quite a lot of publisher interest already." One of those is undoubtedly Timesplitters 4, and the other is perhaps the third installment of LucasArts' Star Wars Battlefront series.
Unfortunately, Free Radical isn't out of the forest just yet. Although a spokesman for ReSolve, Free Radical's administration company, has said that they are "very confident" that they can find a solution, sources have told Edge that things are looking pretty grim:
[Co-founder Steve Ellis] told staff how very sorry he was and they'd been doing all they could, working flat-out to either find a publisher or a buyer over the past six months, but no offers were made. There have been several visits to the States, but to no avail.
Furthermore, Edge's source completely contradicts 1Up's, saying that most of the staff has been officially laid off, and shouldn't expect compensation, because "there's nothing left to give." Furthermore, he said that about 20 employees were offered jobs at Pumpkin Beach, a break-away studio founded by Ellis. The source also launched some damning criticism at Free Radical management, claiming that they've known about their financial troubles for at least six months, and accusing them of treating the staff incredibly poorly.
Given that most of the information is surfacing from anoymous sources, who may or not have respective axes to grind, I wouldn't take any of this as gospel truth. What's clear, however, is that Free Radical is in trouble. Best of luck to the entire Free Radical team during the holidays and next year.