United Front Games Shutters Suddenly; Locals Rally with “Hiring Happy Hour”

A troubling trend has remained on track in Vancouver, where we’ve seen a handful of longstanding names in town forced to shut their doors.

Last month mobile heavyweight Roadhouse Interactive closed after a history of success and an entanglement with large intellectual properties. Now there are a few more high-profile west coast departures.

Founded in 2007, Vancouver studio United Front Games burst onto the scene with the infinitely creative and quirky ModNation Racers for PS3, and Playstation Vita. But didn’t become industry renown until they began developing a new game in the True Crime series—an open-world Grand Theft Auto type game, on the higher side of the gritty scale than its competition.

Shortly prior to launch, the True Crime sequel was cancelled, and it seemed close to over for the Yaletown group. But smart lawyers, and keen developers, kept the rights to the game they had built up until that point, and announced that they would be releasing the game under their own IP, Sleeping Dogs.

Sleeping Dogs was a giant success, and spawned hours of fun. The game even received a HD remake for current generation consoles.

After the failed Little Big Planet Karting game, UFG came back into the limelight when they released their masterful Definitive Edition of Square Enix and Crystal Dynamic’s reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. They even had their hands in the development of the Halo: Master Chief Collection (which had a rough launch, but eventually came around).

Later, they would work with Disney Interactive to develop the Marvel Battlegrounds add-on for Disney Infinity 3.0. Which was jam-packed with extreme moments, and endless entertainment.

The end began with the failed development of Triad Wars—UFG’s online spin-off of Sleeping Dogs—which fizzled before it ever left beta. It was then that we thought UFG was going to be no more. Alas, they came out of the shadows to announce Smash + Grab, and online pvp game set in during a post-normal society riot.

It seems (from the outside) that United Front Games received little-to-no warning of their closure, as the team was still in full-swing with their press tours of Smash + Grab. As recently as twenty-one hours ago (at the time of writing this) the Smash + Grab social media channels were still lit with promotion.

The closure comes on the heels of the Free Weekend for Smash + Grab, and some are speculating that the success (or lack thereof) was warning enough to pull the plug on the game. Being that this would be UFG’s second large-scale cancellation in the last two years, taking the hit and staying alive would most likely not be in play.

UFG was home to a wealth of amazing talent, and we hope them all the best while trying to land on their feet. Local studios like East Side Games, A Thinking Ape, and Kabam will be hosting a hiring happy hour this week to ensure as many of those whom lost their job can find new employment. Because even though there have been a few major closures in our neighborhood recently, the hiring blitz taking place in tech and game development is still extremely strong. Everyone is looking.

In addition to United Front Games closing up shop, DeNA has also announced that it has dissolved their North American branch DeNA Global Inc. The end of their efforts in the west will not affect the development of their Super Mario Run mobile game, as that’s being handled by DeNA Tokyo, one of the last remaining (and still crazy successful) pieces of the DeNA family.

The Tokyo studio is working closely with Nintendo to product one of the most high-anticipated mobile games ever. Super Mario Run is still on track to release this holiday season.

Killing the Global studio will reportedly cost the company upwards of $30 million dollars, and the filing uncovered from the Tokyo Stock Exchange states a history of profit losses.

Both of these closures are hard to hear about, but the quality of employees now looking for work won’t be unemployed for long. There’s a lot of great people, ready to find new families.

The Hiring Happy Hour is on Thursday, October 20, at 5pm at Blackbird Interactive (577 Great Northern Way). The hiring fair is for United Front Games’ laid-off staff only.

In addition you can attend Techfest by Techvibes in Vancouver next week—Canada’s premier hiring fair. This Techfest, Hyper Hippo and East Side Games (among many others!) are hiring. Using the promo code “Community100” will save you 50% off your ticket.