At first it was a rumor, then it was news, and now it’s a reality. The recently revived Free Radical appears to have closed down today, another loss in Embracer Group’s ongoing campaign of shutdowns and layoffs.
While the original iteration of Free Radical filed for bankruptcy in 2008, it was partially revived as Crytek UK and later Dambuster Studios. However, in 2021, Embracer Group rounded up much of the key staff from the pre-bankruptcy days – including Steve Ellis and David Doak – and re-established Free Radical to work on reviving the TimeSplitters series. Now, before we even see any fruits from their labor, they’ve been shut down again.
As of now, Free Radical’s former webpage shows a very particular 404 message. Rather than a simple “Page not found,” it instead displays “404 Company Not Found 🙁.” Meanwhile, artists Mark Normington and Adam Kiraly have said farewell to the company on Twitter.
The sheer amount of layoffs this year has made it difficult to be enthusiastic about the industry. For me, the loss of Free Radical hits pretty hard. I can still remember the day a friend of mine introduced me to TimeSplitters 2 on GameCube. We marveled at the level of detail and ate up the cooperative campaign. Later, in college, my group of friends would gather around Timesplitters: Future Perfect to cook up the strangest game modes. One particular hit was turning on one-hit kills and setting all the weapons to bricks and bats.
Embracer Group chose to expand rapidly during the Coronavirus pandemic and is now quickly contracting as the industry and the market as a whole seem to be contracting in terms of investment. As a result, Embracer Group has cut more than 900 jobs, with more reportedly forthcoming. This is during a year that has been exhaustingly rife with job losses.