Arkane Studios

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Arkane Studios SASU
IndustryVideo games
Founded1 October 1999; 20 years ago (1999-10-01)
FounderRaphaël Colantonio
Key people
Romuald Capron (studio director and COO)
Number of employees
113[1] (2018)
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]



Raphaël Colantonio (pictured in 2017) was one of eleven founders of Arkane Studios in 1999.

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 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]

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]

Between 2006 and 2007, the company was working in conjunction with Valve to develop a game in the Half-Life series called Return to Ravenholm.[6] The project has since been cancelled and its existence has been confirmed by then-Valve employee Marc Laidlaw.[7] 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.[8] 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,[9] and helping with "design, animation, and art" for 2K Marin's BioShock 2.[10]

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 set the basis for Dishonored, and worked out how they would share responsibilities at the studio. Smith formally came on board Arkane in 2008.[3]


In August 2010, the company was acquired by ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks.[11] 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] With Arkane's announcement of Dishonored, 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]

The studio most recently worked on Dishonored 2, a first-person stealth-action game with role-playing elements that was released in November 2016, and received critical acclaim.[12] They also developed Prey, released in May 2017.

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."[13] Smith took over management of the Austin studio, while Colantonio will stay with the Lyon studio to help transition it to new management.[13]

In June 2019, at E3 2019 during the Bethesda's press conference, Arkane announced a new game titled Deathloop.[14]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Genre(s) Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
2002 Arx Fatalis Action role-playing Microsoft Windows, Xbox Arkane Studios, DreamCatcher Interactive, JoWooD Productions N/A
2006 Dark Messiah of Might and Magic Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 Ubisoft
2008 Call of Duty: World at War First-person shooter Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360 Activision Additional work
2009 KarmaStar Strategy iOS Majesco Entertainment N/A
2010 BioShock 2 First-person shooter Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One 2K Games Additional work
2012 Dishonored Action-adventure, stealth Bethesda Softworks N/A
2016 Dishonored 2 Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
2017 Prey First-person shooter, survival horror
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider Action-adventure, stealth
2019 Wolfenstein: Youngblood First-person shooter Co-developed with MachineGames
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
TBA Deathloop Action-adventure TBA N/A

Cancelled games[edit]

Year cancelled Title Genre(s) Platform(s) Publisher(s)
2007 Return to Ravenholm First-person shooter N/A Valve
2009 The Crossing Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
2010 LMNO First-person shooter, action role-playing Microsoft Windows Electronic Arts


  1. ^
  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. ^ ""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.
  7. ^ "Marc Laidlaw On The Cancelled Half-Life Spin-offs: Return To Ravenholm And "Episode Four"". Lambda Generation. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  8. ^ Hester, Blake (30 January 2018). "The story of The Crossing, Arkane's lost game". Polygon. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Arkane named as fourth BioShock 2 developer". Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  10. ^ "BioShock 2 zaps fourth dev house". GameSpot. 10 July 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  11. ^ Matas, Jeff (12 August 2010). "Zenimax Acquires Arkane Studios". Shacknews. GameFly Media. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  12. ^ Henson, Ben (19 December 2015). "Why Dishonored Is One Of The Best Games Of 2012". Game Informer. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Wald, Heather (13 June 2019). "Deathloop: Everything we know so far about Arkane Lyon's new game". GamesRadar+.

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