Arkane Studios

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Arkane Studios SASU
IndustryVideo games
Founded1 October 1999; 21 years ago (1999-10-01)
FounderRaphaël Colantonio
Key people
Romuald Capron (studio director and COO)
Number of employees
150[1] (2020)
ParentZeniMax Media (2010–present)
DivisionsArkane Studios Austin

Arkane Studios SASU is a French video game developer based in Lyon. It was founded in 1999, and released its first game, Arx Fatalis, in 2002. Arkane Studios opened a second studio, Arkane Studios Austin, in Austin, Texas, in July 2006.[2] The studio is most known for creating the Dishonored series.



Raphaël Colantonio had been part of the French offices of Electronic Arts (EA) during the 1990s, as part of the quality assurance and localisation team for some of Origin Systems' titles including System Shock. In the late 1990s, Colantonio noted there had been a change in EA as with the release of the PlayStation, the company had shown more interest in sports titles and eschewing non-sports titles from companies like Origin. Colantonio left the company, and after a brief time at Infogrames, was able to co-found Arkane with financial help from his uncle, with their first goal to make a second sequel to Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss.[3] Colantino was among the eleven founders, of which six were developers, when the company was established on 1 October 1999 in Lyon, France, with an investment of 1,150,000 French francs.[4][5]


While Colantonio had support from Paul Neurath, one of the original developers of Ultima Underworld, EA, who owned the rights, would not allow Arkane to make a sequel with their intellectual property unless he accepted some of their provisions. Colantonio refused to accept this and instead had Arkane set out on a game in the spirit of Ultima Underworld, Arx Fatalis.[3] Colantonio had difficulty in getting a publisher; with finances nearly exhausted, they had signed one small publisher who had gone bankrupt within the month, but later secured JoWooD Productions for publication, eventually releasing in 2002. While the game was well received, it was considered a commercial failure.[3]

Arkane Studios first logo (1999–2020)

Arx Fatalis's critical praise gave Arkane the opportunity for them to work with Valve to develop a new title on their Source engine, and Colantonio opted to make a sequel, Arx Fatalis 2. However, the poor sales of the first game made it difficult to find a publisher; They were approached by Ubisoft and asked to apply the Arx Fatalis game engine to their Might and Magic. This became Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, released in October 2006. It refined the first-person melee combat of Arx Fatalis with a lesser emphasis on role-playing elements.[3] During this time, Colantonio moved from France to Austin, Texas leaving the main studio in the hands of his colleagues while he set up Arkane Austin in June 2006.[3] Over the next several years, most of the development work was done out of the Lyon studio where production costs were cheaper due to beneficial economic conditions, while the Austin studio was used for establishing relationships with other studios as to generate work-for-hire projects to augment Arkane's own projects.[6]

Between 2006 and 2007, the company was working in conjunction with Valve to develop a spinoff game in the Half-Life series called Ravenholm, expanding on work that Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios had done previously.[7] While Arkane and Valve had worked together to produce about nine to ten levels for a playable alpha build, the project was cancelled, believed to be due to lateness and cost of the project to date.[8][9] On completion of Dark Messiah, Arkane started development of a new first-person shooter title, The Crossing using the Source engine. Colantonio described The Crossing as "crossplayer", having principally single-player gameplay but influenced by online multiplayer elements. The title had a budget of around $15 million, which made it difficult to find a publisher that did not include strict rules and requirements in the contract.[10] While Colantonio had finally found one offer that was satisfactory to him, the studio was approached by EA to help work on LMNO, a game it was developing with Steven Spielberg; as EA's offer was more valuable and more stable, Colantonio decided to cancel The Crossing to focus the studio on LMNO.[3] However, about two years after this, EA opted to cancel LMNO as well, forcing Arkane to take up assisting roles for a few years.[3] This including developing the multiplayer component of Activision's Call of Duty: World at War,[11] and helping with "design, animation, and art" for 2K Marin's BioShock 2.[12]

While trying to grow the Austin studio, Colantonio met with Harvey Smith, a game developer that he had met earlier in his career and kept in contact with. Colantonio and Smith recognised they had several similar talents and initially felt that the two of them working in the same studio would be too troublesome, but they then considered if they were working on the same game together how their talents would mesh well. They quickly devised a "ninja pitch" that would tie into the basis of Dishonored, and worked out how they would share responsibilities at the studio. Smith formally came on board Arkane in 2008.[3]


Entering into 2010 with no game of their own, and their contract work having started to run down, the studio was preparing to let go of its staff to conserve costs. They were approached by Bethesda Softworks, who had an idea of a stealth-based game set in feudal Japan which they wanted to name Dishonored, and felt Arkane's talents were ideal for the job and wanted to contract them for the title.[1] According to Colantonio, Bethesda's vice-president of development Todd Vaughn had seen Arkane's work in Arx Fatalis and its sequel, and while Bethesda had been interested in these, they did not react fast enough before Arkane had taken another route.[3] Vaughn told Arkane that they were interested in publishing a first-person immersive game, and Arkane was the only option they had. Colantonio recognised Bethesda was the best fit for Arkane, considering the similarities between Arx Fatalis and The Elder Scrolls games.[3] Arkane worked under contract for a few months but soon were fully acquired by ZeniMax Media, Bethesda's parent, by August 2010, as part of ZeniMax's larger growth after recently acquiring id Software.[13] With financial backing and a parent company that appreciated good game design, Arkane had the time and creative freedom to revamp Bethesda's original concept for Dishonored based on the pitch that Colantonio and Smith had earlier developed, and moved the setting from Japan to one inspired by London while retaining the Dishonored name and stealth aspects.[1] Dishonored was released in 2012.

Smith moved to France to lead the Lyon studio in the sequel Dishonored 2 which was released in November 2016,[14] while Colantonio stayed at the Austin studio to lead the development of Prey, a spiritual sequel of both System Shock and Arx Fatalis, that was released in 2017. Prey shared its name only with the intellectual property that ZeniMax had acquired from Human Head Studios and their 2005 Prey and cancelled Prey 2 games.[15][16]

In June 2017, about two months following Prey's release, Colantonio announced he was stepping down as president of Arkane. He said in a statement: "It is time for me to step out to spend some time with my son and reflect on what is important to me and my future."[17] Smith took over management of the Austin studio, while Colantonio stayed with the Lyon studio to help transition it to new management.[17]

Arkane assisted other ZeniMax studios as they finished off support for Dishonored 2 and Prey; these included supporting Bethesda Game Studios for Fallout 76,[18] and MachineGames in level design for Wolfenstein: Youngblood and Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot.[19] During Bethesda's E3 2019 press conference, Arkane Lyon unveiled its next game, Deathloop, a science-fiction based first-person shooter with the player-character stuck in a time loop.[20]

On September 21, 2020, Microsoft announced that it had agreed to acquire ZeniMax for US$7.5 billion, with the deal to close by the second half of 2021.[21]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher Notes
2002 Arx Fatalis Windows, Xbox JoWooD Productions N/A
2006 Dark Messiah of Might and Magic Windows, Xbox 360 Ubisoft
2009 KarmaStar iOS Majesco Entertainment
2012 Dishonored PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One Bethesda Softworks
2016 Dishonored 2 PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
2017 Prey
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
2019 Wolfenstein: Youngblood Co-developed with MachineGames
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot PlayStation 4, Windows
2021 Deathloop PlayStation 5, Windows N/A

Cancelled games[edit]

Year cancelled Title Platform(s) Publisher
2007 Return to Ravenholm N/A Valve
2009 The Crossing Windows, Xbox 360 N/A
2010 LMNO Windows Electronic Arts


  1. ^ a b c The Untold History of Arkane: Dishonored / Prey / Ravenholm / LMNO / The Crossing. Noclip. 26 May 2020. Event occurs at 51:00. Retrieved 26 May 2020 – via YouTube.
  2. ^ "Arkane Studios Opens Austin Office". Austin Chapter. International Game Developers Association. 7 July 2006. Archived from the original on 23 March 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pitts, Russ (27 June 2012). "The Mirror Men of Arkane". Polygon. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  4. ^ Jonric (22 September 2000). "Arx Interview". IGN. Archived from the original on 2 December 2000.
  5. ^ "Corporate". Arkane Studios. Archived from the original on 31 August 2000.
  6. ^ The Untold History of Arkane: Dishonored / Prey / Ravenholm / LMNO / The Crossing. Noclip. 26 May 2020. Event occurs at 44:00. Retrieved 26 May 2020 – via YouTube.
  7. ^ ""Return To Ravenholm" – A Cancelled 2007 Half-Life Project By Valve Software And Arkane Studios, Developers of Dark Messiah, Dishonored And The Crossing/". Lambda Generation. 12 January 2012. Archived from the original on 16 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  8. ^ The Untold History of Arkane: Dishonored / Prey / Ravenholm / LMNO / The Crossing. Noclip. 26 May 2020. Event occurs at 33:00. Retrieved 26 May 2020 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Marc Laidlaw On The Cancelled Half-Life Spin-offs: Return To Ravenholm And "Episode Four"". Lambda Generation. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  10. ^ Hester, Blake (30 January 2018). "The story of The Crossing, Arkane's lost game". Polygon. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Arkane named as fourth BioShock 2 developer". Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  12. ^ "BioShock 2 zaps fourth dev house". GameSpot. 10 July 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  13. ^ Matas, Jeff (12 August 2010). "Zenimax Acquires Arkane Studios". Shacknews. GameFly Media. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  14. ^ Henson, Ben (19 December 2015). "Why Dishonored Is One Of The Best Games Of 2012". Game Informer. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  15. ^ Barrett, Ben (17 March 2017). "Prey's origins in Arx Fatalis and the legend of the Turret Lord with lead designer Ricardo Bare". PCGamesN. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  16. ^ Bailey, Kat (13 April 2017). "Calling Bethesda's Prey a Metroidvania is a Tiny Bit Misleading". USgamer.
  17. ^ a b Caldwell, Brendan (27 June 2017). "Prey's creative director and founder of Arkane Studios, Raphael Colantonio, steps down". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  18. ^ "The Making of Fallout 76 – Noclip Documentary". YouTube. Noclip. 12 June 2018. Archived from the original on 17 June 2018. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  19. ^ Greer, Sam (11 June 2019). "Wolfenstein: Youngblood: "When it comes to level design, Arkane has shown us the way"". Eurogamer. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  20. ^ Wald, Heather (13 June 2019). "Deathloop: Everything we know so far about Arkane Lyon's new game". GamesRadar.
  21. ^ Bass, Dina; Schreier, Jason (21 September 2020). "Microsoft to Buy Bethesda for $7.5 Billion to Boost Xbox". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 21 September 2020.

External links[edit]