At the beginning of February, Sammy Studios announced it had "reduced its sales and marketing staff as part of an effort to put the company's focus squarely on game development." At the time, many industry watchers thought that Japanese pachinko empire and game publisher Sammy Corp., was bleeding its California-based internal studio of staff in preparation for a total closure.
However, today, Sammy Studios announced that it's staying in business and breaking away from its corporate parent. According to a press release, a "private investment group" headed by the developer's president and CEO John Rowe" purchased all shares of the company as well as the rights to original video game properties being developed at the studio."
As part of the deal, Rowe will remain president and CEO of the dev shop, which will henceforth be known as High Moon Studios, Inc., a "wholly independent, privately held game development company." He will lead the same management team that established Sammy Studios in 2003, which includes vice president and design director Chris Ulm, VP and Creative Director Emmanuel Valdez, VP Clinton Keith, CFO Rick Olafsson, creative visual director Farzad Varahramyan, and lead game designer Paul O'Connor.
In a statement, Rowe confirmed that his action was prompted by Sammy Corp's decision to close down Sammy Studios, a move prompted by its merger with Sega. "Sammy's decision to discontinue game development in North America has afforded us the rare opportunity to establish an independent studio built on existing capabilities and resources," said Rowe. "High Moon is our new identity, yet our creative and technical capabilities, our talented development teams and the phenomenal resources at our disposal are unchanged."
The first game to bear the High Moon Studios label will be the almost-finished upcoming vampire Western shooter Darkwatch for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. However, the game will not be published by Sega, as previously announced. "We are currently in discussions with several publishers," a High Moon rep told GameSpot. "However, we can't reveal which ones at this time." The publisher switcheroo means that Darkwatch will also miss its original May 2005 ship date. As for the new release date, "that will be up to the publisher," said the High Moon representative.
Check back tomorrow to read GameSpot's Q&A with John Rowe.