Avalanche Studios

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Not to be confused with Avalanche Software.
Avalanche Studios
Privately held
Industry Video game industry
Interactive entertainment
Founded March 2003
Founder Christofer Sundberg
Linus Blomberg
Headquarters Stockholm, Sweden
New York, US
Key people
Pim Holfve (CEO)[1]
Fredrik Sjöö (COO)[2]
Products Just Cause series
Mad Max
theHunter
Renegade Ops
Number of employees
250
Parent Independent
Subsidiaries Expansive Worlds
Website www.avalanchestudios.se

Avalanche Studios is a video game developer based in Stockholm, Sweden. It was founded in March 2003 by Christofer Sundberg and Linus Blomberg. Avalanche Studios focuses on developing open world projects and bases their projects on the Avalanche Engine. Forming after the collapse of Rock Solid Games, the studio had expanded from six members to two-hundred and fifty staff members and have an office in New York City and a subsidiary called Expansive Worlds. The studios was known for developing the Just Cause franchise, which is a series of open-world action-adventure games published by Eidos Interactive and Square Enix.

History[edit]

Prior to founding[edit]

Avalanche Studios was founded by Christofer Sundberg and Linus Blomberg in 2003. Prior to the establishment of the studio, Sundberg had worked on the publishing aspect of the game industry and had worked on FIFA Soccer for Electronic Arts.[3] Both of them worked at Paradox Interactive, a video game publisher that had published games such as Europa Universalis. Eventually, Sundberg and Blomberg left and founded their own company called Rock Solid Studios during the second quarter of 2001.[4] The company partnered with Conspiracy Entertainment to develop a video game adaptation of Tremors, a movie series from Universal Pictures. Titled Tremors: The Game, the game is a survival horror game set to be released for personal computers, PlayStation 2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube in 2003. During that period, another Stockholm-based video game development studio, Starbreeze Studios, announced that they would acquire Rock Solid. However, the agreement between the two companies was ultimately broken by Starbreeze, and the acquisition was stopped.[5] In addition, Universal decided to cancel Tremors: The Game, which led Rock Solid to lose all their money and go bankrupt.[6] With the failure and collapse of Rock Solid, Sundberg and Blomberg became unemployed and in debt. They eventually decided to restart in 2003, establishing Avalanche Studios with six other employees.[7][8] In hindsight, Sundberg stated that their studio was born in "pure chaos", and attributed their failure with Rock Solid to trusting "the wrong people".[4]

2003-2010[edit]

When naming the company, Sundberg, Blomberg and the other employees brought up a list of military code words used during World War II. They ultimately decided upon "Avalanche" as the company's name.[4] The company worked on a prototype project called Rico: Terror in the Tropics in 2003. The project would eventually become Avalanche's first title, Just Cause, a game designed by Sundberg himself. He pitched the game's concept to publisher Eidos Interactive, which was later accepted.[3] According to Sundberg, he wanted to develop a game "where you could skydive onto the roof of a car and keep on going".[9] The game was released in 2006 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360.[10] Sundberg considered Just Cause to be the "DNA of the studio" and "a center point of the studio", since it was the first game developed by them.[9]

Following Just Cause, Avalanche began to provide technical support to theHunter, a free-to-play title for Microsoft Windows. Originally developed and published by Emote Games, the franchise was acquired by Avalanche on 18 February 2010.[11] A subsidiary studio called Expansive Worlds was founded by Avalanche on 24 March 2010 to develop online games and provide support to the continuous development of theHunter.[12] Avalanche considered theHunter to be an experiment for them to see whether the free-to-play business model suited the company or not.[9]

Another video game in parallel development during the time was Just Cause 2. While the original was neither a commercial nor a critical success, a sequel was announced in January 2008. Powered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0, Avalanche Studios' in-house engine, the game was stated to include several new and improved features.[13] Originally set to be released in 2008,[14] the game subsequently missed its target release window. In 2008, the studio suffered from layoffs; Avalanche dismissed 77 staff members after the company lost approximately US$35 million due to the loss of two contracted projects.[15] After the incident, Sundberg claimed that the company would remain as a small studio in the future.[16] Just Cause 2 was not released in 2009, which was regarded as "a bad year for most companies including ourselves" by Sundberg.[17] In May 2009, 20 more employees were fired.[18] Despite Avalanche's layoffs, the development schedule for Just Cause 2 remained unaffected, and the game was launched in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[19]

2011[edit]

Upon the completion of Just Cause 2, Avalanche teased a new project.[20] A new downloadable title, called Renegade Ops, was announced on 30 March 2011.[21] The team was approached by Sega to develop a new downloadable intellectual property using the Avalanche Engine.[22] Compared to their past titles, the game's production and development periods were much shorter.[23] Renegade Ops was released on 14 October 2011.[24]

On 15 June 2011, Avalanche announced that the company would establish a new division in New York City.[25] The studio was officially opened on 17 November 2011, and the first title set to be developed by the New York division was revealed.[26] Codenamed Project Mamba, the title was a AAA video game set to be released for "next-gen" consoles and PC in 2014.[27] The new studio is located in SoHo, Manhattan, and is led by David Grijns, who was a former employee of Activision and Atari, SA.[28][29] According to Grijns, Avalanche Studios chose New York City as their location due to less competition. They also aimed to change the "inhospitable" environment of the game industry there.[28]

2012-2015[edit]

In August 2014, Avalanche Studios announced that the company would be moved to a larger studio for further expansion.

In 2012, the development of Mad Max began.[30] Prior to the game's development, Avalanche had pitched several projects that were set in a post-apocalyptic environment to different publishers. While the original projects never came to fruition, an opportunity was presented to Avalanche Studios by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to develop a video game set within the Mad Max universe. Film director and creator of the Mad Max franchise, George Miller, was consulted during the game's pre-production period. Cory Barlog, the creator of God of War II, joined the studio in 2010 and left in 2012. Prior to his arrival, he had already been working on a Mad Max game with Miller, leading to a confusing relationship between the two projects.[31][32] In August 2014, Avalanche Studios teased several new projects, calling 2015 "the biggest year since the inception of Avalanche Studios more than a decade ago."[33] In addition, the company announced that the Stockholm-based studio would be moved to a larger building for further expansion in the third quarter of 2015.[34] Mad Max was originally set to be released in 2014, but was delayed to September 2015.[35]

While Mad Max is being developed by Avalanche's studio in Stockholm, the New York division is working on Just Cause 3.[28] The development of Just Cause 3 also began in early 2012. While all previous Just Cause games were developed by the Swedish studio, the development of Just Cause 3 was transferred to the New York studio to give the title a fresh start.[36] The game would be the first title to be published by Square Enix after their acquisition of Eidos Interactive.[9] Avalanche Studios sent a team to visit a jungle in Costa Rica to inspect the local landscapes and environments to help them create the game worlds for both Mad Max and Just Cause 3.[37]

In addition to Mad Max and Just Cause 3, a standalone expansion of theHunter, titled theHunter: Primal, which features dinosaurs, was released on Steam's early access on 15 December 2014. The full game was launched on 31 March 2015.[38][39] The company also released their first mobile title called Rumble City.[40]

Future[edit]

In a video interview with Game Informer, Sundberg revealed that the company will focus on developing new original intellectual property in the future, and that the company's focus will be shifted to self-publishing, despite continuing to work with other larger publishers.[7]

Games[edit]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Publisher Platform(s)
PS2 PS3 PS4 Xbox X360 XBO Win Lin iOS Android
2006 Just Cause Eidos Interactive Yes No No Yes Yes No Yes No No No
2009 The Hunter Avalanche Studios No No No No No No Yes No No No
2010 Just Cause 2 Eidos Interactive No Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No
2011 Renegade Ops Sega No Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No
2015 The Hunter: Primal Avalanche Studios No No No No No No Yes No No No
2015 Rumble City[41] Avalanche Studios No No No No No No No No Yes Yes
2015 Mad Max Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment No No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No
2015 Just Cause 3 Square Enix No No Yes No No Yes Yes No No No

Just Cause series[edit]

Just Cause is a series of open-world action-adventure games starring Rico Rodriquez as the protagonist, an operative from "The Agency", a military organization in Just Cause and Just Cause 2. He returned as a normal citizen of Medici, a fictional island, in Just Cause 3.[42] The series is known for allowing players to create chaos and providing players freedom in exploring the game's world.[43] Gameplay revolves around gunplay and the use of the grappling hook and parachute.[44] While the original Just Cause was not particularly well-received by critics, only selling 1 million copies as of 2009,[45][46] its sequel, Just Cause 2, received critical acclaim. The PC version of the game received an 84 out of 100 from Metacritic, a review aggregator.[47] Some reviewers also regarded the game as "one of the most entertaining sandbox shooters ever created".[44] Upon release, Just Cause 2 was proven to be a popular game among players; over 2 million players played the game's demo,[48] and over 6 million players purchased the final game.[49] As the game did not ship with any multiplayer feature, a multiplayer PC mod, which can accommodate more than one thousands players in a single map, was created by a modder.[50] Avalanche Studios supported the mod, made the mod official on 16 December 2013, and released the mod on Steam as free downloadable content for players who had purchased the game.[51][52] Just Cause 3, the latest title in the series, is set to be released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 1 December 2015.[53] Sundberg considered the collaboration with Square Enix as "a long-term partnership".[7] During Square Enix's E3 2015 press conference, Square Enix of America CEO, Phil Rogers, stated that he considered Just Cause a franchise that was huge enough to "stand side by side" with other iconic Square Enix franchises.[54]

Mad Max[edit]

Mad Max is the first AAA title to be developed by Avalanche Studios outside of the Just Cause series. It is also the company's first licensed video game. The game follows the series' titular character as he ventures into a wasteland to search for his lost car, the Interceptor.[55] The title was initially slated for a 2012 reveal, but was later announced at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013.[56][57] Originally set to be released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game were cancelled due to hardware restrictions. A Linux port was also announced.[58]

Other projects[edit]

Avalanche Studios' other projects include theHunter, a free-to-play hunting video game. theHunter is a commercial success for Avalanche, with Sundberg claiming that the title "contribute[s] quite a lot to [Avalanche's] financial success".[7] Renegade Ops is another original title from Avalanche. It is a top down shooter which had drawn inspirations from 1986's Jackel, 1992's Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf and 1993's Cannon Fodder. The team aimed to "recreate classics" with Renegade Ops, similar to 2010's Shadow Complex.[23] The game received generally positive reviews upon release.[59] Avalanche Studios' first mobile game, titled Rumble City, is a strategy board game which takes inspiration from the American bike culture during the 1960s. it was released in July 2015 for iOS and Android devices.[40]

In 2009, Avalanche announced AionGuard, a God of War-style[60] open world fantasy game which features World War I fighters, samurais and knights for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Influences for the game were drawn from Star Wars and works from Frank Herbert and Michael Moorcock.[61] However, the project was eventually put on hold indefinitely in 2010.[62] In 2012, the company announced a non-Superman comic book game, which was eventually cancelled in 2014.[63] The studio almost collaborated with LucasArts to develop an open-world video game based on the Star Wars universe.[64] A steampunk-themed game was also reported to be in development, but was later put on hold.[65]

Philosophy[edit]

Starting from Avalanche Studios' inception, the company's primary focus is to create open world sandbox games, citing Elite as their inspiration. According to Blomberg, the studio has always been interested in creating open world games, and they aimed to be "the best" in developing them.[4] While the Just Cause franchise represents the center point of the studio, the company seeks to remain flexible to market changes and tries not to limit themselves to one business model.[7] Avalanche also focuses on developing games with long gameplay length and high replay value.[66] Sundberg considers Avalanche Studios to be an independent company, and often keeps the rights to their intellectual properties.[67] Sundberg also stated that video game developers should not put too much weight in income;[68] as a result, the company seldom develops "forced" multiplayer modes, as they believe that approach "makes absolutely no sense" and does not add any value to the game.[69] When seeking future projects, the studio chooses projects that they are passionate about and allow creative freedom.[68] They only make games that "[they] love to play" or games that "can bring a smile to people's faces".[9]

Sundberg described the company as a "family-driven" company. Sundberg and Blomberg do not have their own offices in the studio, as they want to maintain a close relationship with their staff members. The two also seek to be closely involved with all their ongoing projects.[7]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]