Top 10 Game Companies That Don't Exist Anymore
VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci
WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
Some of these video game companies were brought back in name, but they aren't what they once were. For this list, we'll be looking at publishers and developers that, for one reason or another, were closed down. Our countdown includes Hudson Soft, Acclaim Entertainment, Neversoft Entertainment, Pandemic Studios, Midway Games and more!
Script written by Johnny Reynolds
Top 10 Game Companies That Don’t Exist Anymore
Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Game Companies That Don’t Exist Anymore.
For this list, we’ll be looking at publishers and developers that, for one reason or another, were closed down. Even if the brand name was revived at a later date, if the company was made defunct, it was considered for this list.
Which closure broke your heart the most? Let us know in the comments below.
#10: Sierra Entertainment
For trailblazing in the graphic adventure genre, Sierra Entertainment’s praises can’t be sung loudly enough. Founded in 1979, Sierra developed and published hit franchises like “King’s Quest,” “Leisure Suit Larry,” and “Quest For Glory.” Unfortunately, the company was purchased by CUC International in 1996, the subject of a massive accounting scandal two years later. While Sierra continued its incredible work, such as publishing Valve’s groundbreaking “Half-life,” the damage had been done. Many of Sierra’s development studios were shut down in the late 90s. After several purchases and name changes, Activision acquired Sierra in 2008 only to shut it down later that year. However, Activision revived the brand in 2014 for re-releases and collaborations with indie developers. But it isn’t the same company it once was.
#9: Black Isle Studios
Founded in 1996, Black Isle Studios hit the ground running straight out of the gate. The studio would become known as an RPG powerhouse, developing the original two “Fallout” games as well as publishing BioWare’s “Baldur’s Gate” series. Sadly, the studio wasn’t long for this world. In 2003, Black Isle’s parent company, Interplay, closed the studio due to various financial issues and canceled highly anticipated games like Black Isle’s version of “Fallout 3.” Interplay would revive the studio in 2012 to work on a new project, but nothing came of it. With most staff having migrated to studios like Obsidian, the revived studio, which released a 4K remaster of “Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance” in 2021, was Black Isle in name only.
#8: Hudson Soft
Hudson Soft showed extreme promise as a developer, having internally created franchises like “Bomberman,” “Bonk,” and “Bloody Roar.” But the company had its hands in several other pies. Outside of its own creations, Hudson Soft worked with Nintendo to create the massively popular “Mario Party” series. It also held gaming competitions in Japan beginning in the mid 80s and helped create the TurboGrafx-16 console. But even a company this influential isn’t safe from financial losses. Throughout the mid 2000s, many high-ranking employees would leave. And in 2011, Hudson Soft became a subsidiary of Konami, which had become the company’s largest shareholder in 2001. By 2012, Hudson Soft agreed to a merger with Konami, officially ceasing to exist.
#7: Clover Studio
Although the studio would only last three years, those three years were packed with some fantastic games. Clover was founded under Capcom in 2004 to develop new IP, though its first project would be porting “Viewtiful Joe” to the PS2 before working on a sequel and two spin-offs. Clover then released “Okami,” a gorgeous, water-colored action adventure title that failed to live up to Capcom’s sales expectations. In fact, none of Clover’s games, including its last, the beat ‘em up “God Hand,” were high sellers. Despite good reviews, Clover’s low sales and some creative stiflement from Capcom led to the studio’s demise. But the silver lining came when some of its creative leaders founded the now-legendary PlatinumGames.
#6: Acclaim Entertainment
If you played a licensed game in the 90s, there’s a good to fair chance it was published by Acclaim. Founded in 1987, Acclaim published games based on “The Simpsons,” “RoboCop,” “Alien,” “Batman,” and “South Park” just to name a few. Though it also found success with console ports like “Mortal Kombat” and “Crazy Taxi” as well as original published titles like “Turok” and “Burnout.” Acclaim was a huge name, but that didn’t save it from financial woes. Following a year of poor sales and a slew of questionable marketing decisions, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004 and began selling off its IPs in 2005.
#5: Pandemic Studios
Pandemic was formed in 1998 under Activision and began by making a couple of sequels to Activision games. But it wasn’t long before the studio made a name for itself. Pandemic became a haven for bombastic action games such as “Star Wars: Battlefront,” “Mercenaries,” and “Destroy All Humans!” The studio would develop sequels for each of them before EA acquired it in 2008. And right before Pandemic released 2009’s “The Saboteur,” EA closed the studio due to larger financial constraints that saw the developer’s more than 200 employees let go. Many would be scooped up by various other developers like 343 Industries, but it’s a shame this studio isn’t still churning out awesome action games.
#4: Neversoft Entertainment
Although it would become synonymous with wonderful console multiplayer games, Neversoft Entertainment came from humble beginnings. Founded in 1994, the small studio struggled through its first few releases before it caught the eye of Activision. After releasing the insanely popular “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” Neversoft was acquired by Activision in 1999. From there, it released eight more games in the series before moving on to “Guitar Hero,” which had been purchased by Activision in 2006. Neversoft stayed on the franchise until Activision chose a different developer in 2011 while simultaneously laying off 50 Neversoft employees. Activision then had it help out on two “Call of Duty” titles before merging it with developer Infinity Ward in 2014 and closing it that same year.
#3: Visceral Games
What started as EA Redwood Shores in 1998 steadily released Tiger Woods and James Bond games. But the studio hit it big in 2009 when it developed the intensely terrifying “Dead Space.” With that success came the rebrand to Visceral Games and two “Dead Space” sequels. Following EA’s disappointment in the second game’s sales, the team was forced to include faster gameplay and a co-op mode in the third entry. This didn’t help and EA tasked Visceral with completing new games in the “Battlefield” and “Army of Two” franchises. The studio was famously in development of a single-player “Star Wars” game codenamed “Project Ragtag” with “Uncharted’s” Amy Hennig attached to direct. But that project would sadly get canceled following EA’s closure of Visceral in 2017.
#2: Silicon Knights
This Canadian developer began in 1992 with PC strategy games. But the studio’s console efforts were by far its strongest. 1996’s “Blood Omen” began the cult favorite “Legacy Of Kain” series. The studio’s work with the GameCube saw the releases of the spooky and meta “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem” as well as a remake of the original “Metal Gear Solid.” But this is where the positives end. 2008’s “Too Human” released to mediocre reviews and was part of a lawsuit between Silicon Knights and Epic Games that lasted from 2007 to 2012. The court sided with Epic, finding that Silicon Knights had illegally copied code from Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 to use in its own engine. One $9 million payout later, and Silicon filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions.
Killed by Disney and Revived Only as a Licensor of Lucasfilms Properties
A Revival by LCG Entertainment Doesn’t Change the Fact That Most Developers Were Let Go
The Original “Command & Conquer” Developer Was Another EA Casualty
#1: Midway Games
It’s hard to remember the golden age of arcades without immediately thinking of publisher and developer Midway Games. Originally a manufacturing company, Midway broke into the game market in the mid 70s and distributed Taito’s seminal “Space Invaders” in North America. From there, the Midway empire grew with original franchises like “Mortal Kombat” and “Rampage” as well as licensed franchises like “Gauntlet” and “Pac-Man.” Its properties would make it over to consoles. But the mid 2000s saw increasingly heavy losses and debts for the company. By 2009, these losses were so extreme that Midway filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Most of its assets were sold to Warner Bros., which also acquired the Chicago-based studio responsible for “Mortal Kombat,” which would rebrand to NetherRealm Studios.