Vivendi Universal buys High Moon Studios

Former Sammy Studios team leaves brief flirtation with independent game development, sells studio, original properties to VU Games.

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After nine months as an independent developer, High Moon Studios has accepted an acquisition offer from Vivendi Universal Games. The global games publisher announced the deal today, saying it will retain the developer's intellectual properties (including the rights to Darkwatch), as well as the studio's staff of more than 100 employees. High Moon CEO and president John Rowe will stay on to manage the studio. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Although VU Games previously had no public connection to High Moon, it has been working with the company on an upcoming, as-yet-unannounced project.

"We have been collaborating on a title based on a major entertainment license, and we have been very impressed with the way that project has progressed," VU Games' executive vice president of worldwide studios, Peter Della Penna, told GameSpot. "That, coupled with High Moon's innovative development style and the excellent critical response to the title Darkwatch, made High Moon a logical choice to join Radical, Swordfish Studios, and Massive as part of VU Games' outstanding development group."

Like those other studios, High Moon Studios will retain its name and identity unique from VU Games.

The company was established in 2002 as Sammy Studios (the American development arm of Japanese pachinko titan Sammy Corp.), and it appeared as if the Carlsbad, California-based studio was going to be another casualty of corporate downsizing after a round of layoffs last January. Two months later, backed by a group of investors, Rowe swept in and purchased the studio from its parent company, renaming it High Moon in the process.

In the nine months since, High Moon has released the vampire-infested Western first-person shooter Darkwatch for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, focused its energies on the development of several unannounced titles for next-generation systems, and was named among the Top 50 Technology Innovators of 2005 by IT Week.

For more on the deal and what led High Moon to join the Vivendi Universal stable, check out GameSpot's Q&A with Rowe.

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