Arkane confirms Texas studio

Raphael Colantonio speaks with GameSpot, provides details of new Austin studio; official word to be released shortly.

In news that will be officially announced Friday, Arkane Studios boss and founder Raphael Colantonio (pictured, right) confirmed to GameSpot News that he has opened an Austin, Texas studio "to leverage the strength of both locations: Lyon and Austin."

Arkane is based in Lyon, France.

Saying that he fell in love with Austin some 10 years ago on a trip to EA-owned Origin Systems, Inc. (Colantonio was formerly an Electronic Arts employee), the decision to open a sister studio in Austin has long been on his mind. "I never really recovered" from the trip to Austin, Colantonio told GameSpot today.

Arkane, a 40-person studio best known for the medieval-fantasy role-playing game Arx Fatalis, is in the final stages of development on Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. While Colantonio already has a follow-up project in mind, the focus of the new studio will be to close the loop and deliver that close-to-finished title to publisher Ubisoft.

While stating one of the reasons he picked Austin for Arkane's expansion was due to that city's talent in the area of online gaming, when pressed if he and the team might soon focus on a massively multiplayer online title, all he would say was "we're interested in the online market, and we believe that the online component will be in many next-gen games." Adding to the mystery, Colantonio said, "There are other forms of online gaming we want to explore that haven't been done yet..."

(Longtime Austin-based game designer Warren Spector--now in charge of his own shop, Junction Point Studios--commented on the news, saying, "It's great to have another quality developer in Austin, especially one that makes the kind of games I like to play.")

Colantonio was in Austin finalizing the announcement on the new studio when GameSpot News caught up with him.

GameSpot: Why pick Austin to expand to? And why the US to begin with?

Raphael Colantonio: We picked the US because this is where a big part of our market is--and we have the desire to improve our international sales. Also, we believe in collaboration between the US and Europe in order to make the most compelling games, games that appeal to a majority of gamers.

GS: Why Austin?

RC: For many reasons: its strong developer community, online expertise, most of our favorite games were made here (so there is a rich ground of game design here that really appeals to us), the cost of labor is competitive when compared to other states in North America, and that fact that I fell in love with Austin about 10 years ago while visiting a friend who was working at Origin. I never really recovered.

GS: What are you plans with the new studio?

RC: Mainly to codevelop with the French studio on our future games. There are some complementary talent [in both locations].

GS: Will new studio staff be working on a new title?

RC: We're working on Dark Messiah for now.

GS: How many staffers do you intend to hire?

RC: Arkane Studios in France has about 40 Arkanites. We want to stay as small as possible, that's the way we like to work, so we tend to work with partners and externalize as much as possible. As for the Austin office, we plan on hiring about 15 people during the first year.

GS: What will Austin staffers work on after Dark Messiah ships?

RC: Well, first [they'll get] a good, well-deserved vacation, then we'll move on to the next project.

GS: Do you have any ongoing arrangement to use the Source engine in any upcoming games?

RC: We really like Valve, they've been very supportive to say the least. That's all I can say as of today. Our current focus is to ship Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

GS: Who will be in charge of the studio? Do you have someone picked?

RC: For an initial "incubation" period, I will [be in charge].

GS: Thanks Rafael. Good luck in Austin.

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Discussion

27 comments
mmelo
mmelo

I worked with Raphael in the past and we remain friends to this day. He's a passionate player and designer and as such, Arkane deserve all the success in the world. Go, Raf, go! (and, no, I'm not fishing for a job as I live in Portugal. He should have opened shop here instead LOL)

Horus8305
Horus8305

First off, Ion Storm was in Dallas not Austin (romeros digs), Ion Storm South was in Austin (Warren Spector demanded his own office space in Austin to work for Ion Storm - smart move!). There are two reasons studios start in Austin, 1) The office/startup costs are much lower than in most othere places where you might find tech talent, ie Bay area, LA, etc. Unfortunately, they also think they can pay much lower salaries, when in fact it isnt that much cheaper to live there. 2) There is an industry perception that has mytholigized Austin as this holyland of PC gaming - more specifically, fantasy PC gaming due to Origin. Bottom line is, its a very cool city with very laid back people, good food and music, and lots of stuff to do, and because there are so many studios opening and closing people can find other jobs with out moving and the whole thing perpetuates.

Toadstool1969
Toadstool1969

So he wants to come from France and setup shop in Texas? Didn't Lance Armstrong do the reverse?

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

thats a pretty big move from france to texas

paulwrath
paulwrath

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Better than Oblivion?

Sandman100
Sandman100

Austin is the perfect place it going to be growing by 20%+ over the next couple of years. It has a lot of Tech company there like Dell, Samsung, Apple, IBM, and more. They also have a lot of game development studio there too.

Sandman100
Sandman100

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

amplizine
amplizine

I'm never going to be able to decide on a developer to work for. There are so many companies all over the world!

Sandman100
Sandman100

Austin has a lot of Tech company located there. Like Dell, Samsung, Apple, IBM, and more. They also have a lot of game development studio there also. So it the perfect places.

cyber360
cyber360

Retro Studios(Metriod prime) is also in Austin, There is a lot of studio's.

Fallout_red
Fallout_red

They know their job. Both Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah are Bloody M rated games, they know that fantasy RPG needs them. Great news.

AdrianWerner
AdrianWerner

UpInFlames- Austin is full of videogame talent it always was one of THE places of PC development in US. That's where Origin and ION Storm was located. NCSoft has opened their own offices there, Looking Glass Studios had one of their dev studios there. ANd those are just few of Austin devs. Overall Texas was always booming with quality PC developers

rynmls
rynmls

hoping for a great game...

daqua_99
daqua_99

Make an Aussie one studio ...

ConverseFool
ConverseFool

I know how I just solved my unemployment!

DJGeki
DJGeki

I would like to apply for a job...I live in Austin :) Lucky me. ...sup3rw00t!

holenjd
holenjd

Should have been Dallas.

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

All of the cheaper associated operational costs in Austin didn't prevent John Romero's Ion Storm team from closing shop if I remember correctly though. Might have been a case of bad management, huh?

runstalker
runstalker

Office space/labor rates/subsidy/rent/location are all conducive to software development in Austin right now, hence the influx of devs. Everything in game development has an associated operations cost; it's not just because Austin is a nice area.

blackIceJoe
blackIceJoe

I think Dark Messiah of Might and Magic looks to be a good game and I hope this new studio in Austin Texas will be a good add to there job sites.

UpInFlames
UpInFlames

Recently, BioWare opened a studio in Austin as well. Is there really that much talent in Austin? Anyway, I think Dark Messiah could very well be a big surprise hit this year.

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

Man, I miss Origin. They made some kick arse games back in the day.