Sidhe is best known recently for developing Shatter, a fast-paced brick-buster game that debuted on PlayStation Network in 2009. Praised for its crystalline presentation and entrancing soundtrack, Shatter updated the familiar mechanics of games like Arkanoid, and elevated the understated -- but certainly not small -- developer that's been at work in Wellington, New Zealand, since 1997.
As a self-published downloadable game, Shatter appears to be an anomaly when placed next to another of Sidhe's recent projects: Blood Drive, published by Activision in 2010. The automotive action game, which saw players running down zombies for sport (it's as good a reason as any), failed to find an appreciative audience, despite having a mixture of popular go-to game elements. But how do the makers of one of 2009's most praised puzzle games deliver a 41 on Metacritic just one year later?
Today, Sidhe is in the process of shaking off the remnants of that game, one of the many work for hire, licensed tasks it has undertaken for most of its life. Speed Racer, Jackass: The Game and Madagascar Kartz all came from the same workhorse. "What we are trying to do, given where retail in general is going, is continue to move towards being independent," said Mario Wynands, co-founder and managing director of Sidhe. "That is, run the studio on the basis of royalties and download revenue alone, as opposed to being somewhat reliant on third-party publishers. We are, I guess, reacting to the market, in line with the strategy we've had in place for a number of years now, which is ultimately weaning ourselves off work for hire."
As a result, Sidhe has ramped down and elected not to renew or transition contracts with vendors following the completion of Blood Drive for Activision. Wynands also confirmed to Joystiq that several full-time staff members have been let go since then -- "probably five or six people." (This is after the studio hired more in March 2010, bringing the staff count close to 120.)