Codemasters hooks Swordfish Studios

Birmingham-based British developer to be integrated into Codies' network; Manchester branch picked up by Monumental Games.

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The Activision-Blizzard merger has sent ripples throughout the gaming industry. On the one hand, a megapublisher has been formed, but on the other, many studios and games were left with uncertain futures.

Swordfish Studios, a UK developer based in Birmingham and Manchester, was one such casualty. Founded in 2002, the company was acquired by VU Games in 2005 for an undisclosed sum. It went on to develop games including Rugby Challenge 2006 and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, which was recently picked up by THQ for publication in 2009. While this ensured a future for the game, Swordfish's own position remained precarious.

Yesterday, the Manchester branch of Swordfish Studios was bought from Activision by Monumental Games. Twenty-six staff have become a part of Monumental's workforce--the company has focused primarily on middleware technology for massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds and wanted to buy in expertise from the Manchester studio to expand its reach. Monumental's CEO, Rik Alexander, explained that "the Swordfish team is one of the very few developers worldwide to have fully solved the hugely complex issues involved in running and managing the XLSP [Xbox Live Server Platform] server environments for online console gaming."

That left the company's first office in limbo, but Codemasters today announced that it has made a deal with Activision to take over Swordfish Studios (Birmingham), to make it a part of the British publisher and developer's network of UK studios. Trevor Williams, who founded Swordfish, will remain in charge and will report to Gavin Cheshire, vice president of Codemasters Studios. No financial details were disclosed, but Codemasters' statement said that the intention is for the Birmingham studio to "create original content using [Codemasters'] proprietary EGO engine."

Swordfish and Codemasters have worked together before, on games such as Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 and Jonah Lomu Rugby.

Codies' managing director, Rod Cousens, gave a talk at this summer's Edinburgh Interactive Festival about the benefits of developing in the UK and hinted at further acquisitions. The company rescued Sega Racing Studio in April and signalled further intent in the driving genre by taking over the F1 licence in May. In a statement today, Cheshire said, "We are committed to growing our studio operations across multiple facilities and increasing the internal capability of Codemasters' creative resource."

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