The Collective, Backbone laying Foundation 9

[UPDATE] Touting their new status as North America's largest indie shop, two game devs merge. We speak with the team.


Indie dev shops Backbone Entertainment and The Collective today signaled to the industry their intent to merge. Citing economies of scale that will make them more competitive and financially streamlined, the two studios will form a new company called Foundation 9 Entertainment. The new studio will employ more than 300 people and will have offices in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Vancouver, Boston, and Newport Beach, California.

Backbone is probably best known for its upcoming PSP game, Death Jr. As part of a Sony keynote address presented at the 2004 Game Developers Conference, that game was used to demonstrate the capabilities of the then-still-in-development handheld from Sony.

The Collective has a large collection of console games, such as Men in Black, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Fallen. Its current project is the upcoming film tie-in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for LucasArts. It is also developing Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure for Atari.

The positions in Foundation 9's executive suite have already been divvied up. Jon Goldman will be its CEO, Andrew Ayre and Douglas Hare will be copresidents, and Gary Priest and Mark Loughridge will act as cochairmen. Meanwhile, Richard Hare takes the chief creative officer reins, Jeff Vavasour will be vice president of Canadian operations, Steven Sardegna has been tapped to be CFO, and Larry Kelly will be the COO.

Framing the backdrop of the merger, Goldman said in a statement, "With the increasing complexity of next-generation platforms, we see great opportunities that can only be addressed by pooling talent and financial resources. We will be able to better invest in technology, processes, and creative opportunities that will make us a key player in the future of game development and beyond."

Shortly after GameSpot posted this story, we were able to speak with Doug Hare and Jon Goldman.

GameSpot: Do the companies have any history of working together? If so, can you briefly outline that history. If not, how did the discussions that led to the merger come to be?

Doug Hare: No, we were introduced to each other by Bob Stevenson of Planet Moon at the E3 Sony party last year, and we immediately hit it off. The relationship developed over many beers and late nights over the course.

GameSpot: This story is being played up as one where "indie shops join hands to intelligently meet the cost-heavy demands of next-gen game development." Is it really a marriage of necessity?

Jon Goldman: Actually, not at all. This seemed to be a plausible angle for the Wall Street Journal, but in fact we were already both profitable and growing. Not only are we better able to serve the needs of our existing publishing partners, but this merger is about forward-looking opportunities. Specifically, we're building a bigger base to invest in more exciting opportunities together. We think our publishing partners will be excited about what we can bring to the table in this regard, too.

GameSpot: Does the current business model preclude hearing offers from other, larger publishers who may find the new company's assets and technology irresistible?

Doug Hare: Although that's not the purpose of this merger, we wouldn't rule out discussing any opportunities that may present themselves.

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