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Avalanche Studios Group

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Avalanche Studios Group
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
PredecessorRock Solid Games
FoundedMarch 2003; 18 years ago (2003-03)
Founders
  • Linus Blomberg
  • Christofer Sundberg
Headquarters,
Sweden
Number of locations
4 studios (2020)
Key people
Products
Number of employees
320+[3] (2018)
ParentNordisk Film (2018–present)
Subsidiaries
  • Avalanche Studios
  • Expansive Worlds AB
  • Systemic Reaction
Websiteavalanchestudios.com

Avalanche Studios Group is a Swedish video game developer and publisher based in Stockholm. It is a parent company that includes Avalanche Studios, Expansive Worlds, and Systemic Reaction. Founded by Linus Blomberg and Christofer Sundberg in March 2003, Avalanche Studios focuses on developing open world projects and bases them on their proprietary Apex game engine (formerly known as Avalanche Engine). The company is best known for developing the Just Cause game series.

Formed after the collapse of Rock Solid Games, the studio gained early success with the first Just Cause title. The team then began Just Cause 2's development, but the company suffered from financial problems due to the cancellations of two contracted projects. Despite missing the release window twice, Just Cause 2 was both a critical and financial success for Avalanche Studios. The company then opened a studio in New York City to work on Just Cause 3, while the Stockholm team began working on Mad Max in collaboration with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The company announced two titles in 2017, Rage 2 with id Software and a self-published title named Generation Zero. Nordisk Film also acquired the company in the same year.

A casual gaming subsidiary, Expansive Worlds, was established in March 2010 to work on theHunter series. The company aims to begin self-publishing new original intellectual properties in the future. In addition to the offices in Stockholm and New York City, the company opened a second Swedish office in Malmö in May 2018 and an office in Liverpool in June 2020.[4]

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Avalanche Studios was founded by Linus Blomberg and Christofer Sundberg in 2003. Prior to the establishment of the studio, Sundberg had worked in video game publishing as well as FIFA Soccer for Electronic Arts.[5] Both of them joined 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.[6] The company partnered with Conspiracy Entertainment to develop a video game adaptation of Tremors, a movie series from Universal Pictures. Titled Tremors: The Game, it was 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. The agreement between the two companies was ultimately broken by Starbreeze, and the acquisition was stopped.[7] In addition, Universal decided to cancel Tremors: The Game, which led Rock Solid to declare bankruptcy.[8] With the failure and collapse of Rock Solid, Sundberg and Blomberg became unemployed and in debt. They eventually decided to start over in 2003, establishing Avalanche Studios with six other employees.[9][10] Reflecting on the founding in 2015, Sundberg stated that the studio was born in "pure chaos", and attributed their failure with Rock Solid to trusting "the wrong people".[6]

2003–2010[edit]

Linus Blomberg, co-founder of Avalanche Studios

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.[6] The company worked on a prototype project called Rico: Terror in the Tropics in 2003. The project, designed by Sundberg himself, would eventually become Avalanche's first title, Just Cause. He pitched the game's concept to publisher Eidos Interactive, which was accepted.[5] According to Sundberg, he wanted to develop a game "where you could skydive onto the roof of a car and keep on going".[11] The game was released in 2006 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360.[12] Sundberg considered Just Cause to be the 'DNA' and 'center point of the studio', since it was the first game they developed.[11]

Following Just Cause, Avalanche began to provide technical assistance to theHunter. Originally developed and published by Emote Games, the franchise was acquired by Avalanche on 18 February 2010.[13] As theHunter is an online-activated game, Avalanche established a subsidiary studio called Expansive Worlds on 24 March 2010 to provide support to the continuous development of theHunter. The new studio will also work on new online games.[14]

Also in development during Avalanche's work on theHunter was AionGuard and Just Cause 2. AionGuard is a fantasy video game that was ultimately put on hold.[15] Just Cause 2 was announced in January 2008. Powered by the Apex Engine 2.0, Avalanche Studios' in-house engine, the game included several new and improved features.[16] Originally set to be released in 2008,[17] 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.[18] One of them was later leaked as Arcadia, a game that once was to be published by THQ.[19] After the incident, Sundberg claimed that the company would remain as a small studio in the future.[20] Just Cause 2 was not released in 2009, which was regarded as "a bad year for most companies including ourselves" by Sundberg.[21] In May 2009, 20 more employees were laid-off.[22] Despite Avalanche's layoffs, development of Just Cause 2 was completed, and the game was launched in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[23]

2011–2018[edit]

Upon the completion of Just Cause 2, Avalanche teased a new project.[24] A new downloadable title, called Renegade Ops, was announced on 30 March 2011.[25] The team was approached by Sega to develop a new downloadable intellectual property using the Apex Engine.[26] Compared to their past titles, the game's production and development periods were much shorter.[27] Renegade Ops was released on 14 October 2011.[28]

On 15 June 2011, Avalanche announced that the company would establish a new division in New York City.[29] The studio was officially opened on 17 November 2011, and the first title set to be developed by the New York division was revealed.[30] Codenamed Project Mamba, the title was a AAA video game set to be released for "next-gen" consoles and PC in 2014.[31] The new studio is located in SoHo, Manhattan, and is led by David Grijns, who was a former employee of Activision and Atari, SA.[32][33] 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.[32]

In 2012, Avalanche began the development of Mad Max.[34] 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 game director 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.[35][36] In August 2014, Avalanche Studios announced that they were developing several new projects, calling 2015 "the biggest year since the inception of Avalanche Studios more than a decade ago".[37] 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.[38] Mad Max was originally set to be released in 2014, but was delayed to September 2015.[39]

While Mad Max was being developed by Avalanche's studio in Stockholm, the New York division was working on Just Cause 3.[32] The development of Just Cause 3 also began in early 2012. While the 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.[40] The game was the first title published by Square Enix after their acquisition of Eidos Interactive.[11] 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.[41]

In addition to Mad Max and Just Cause 3, a standalone expansion of theHunter featuring dinosaurs, titled theHunter: Primal, was released on Steam's early access on 15 December 2014. The full game was launched on 31 March 2015.[42][43] The company also released their first mobile title called Rumble City.[44] It is a turn-based strategy game and was released on 7 July 2015.[45]

In October 2015, the company announced that both the New York office and the Stockholm office suffered minor lay-offs as the studio was undergoing major transition between projects and that it was unable to maintain multiple large teams during this period.[46] In June 2016, the Sweden office announced that they had hired Cameron Foote, the lead designer of Just Cause 2's multiplayer mod, to work on both Avalanche's "present and future projects".[47]

2018–present[edit]

In May 2018, Avalanche Studios announced that they had established a second Swedish office in Malmö.[48] Avalanche was announced in May 2018 to be co-developer of Rage 2 along with id Software.[49] In a video interview with Game Informer, Sundberg revealed that the company will focus on developing new original intellectual property in the future and, despite continuing to work with other larger publishers, the company's focus will be shifted to self-publishing.[9]

On 30 May 2018, Nordisk Film announced that they had wholly acquired Avalanche Studios for 117 million.[3] In June 2018, Avalanche announced a first-person shooter game, titled Generation Zero, scheduled for release on 26 March 2019.[50] On 10 June 2018, Just Cause 4 was announced at the Xbox Briefing at E3 2018, scheduled for release on 4 December 2018.[51] On June 25, 2018, Avalanche announced that it had 6 projects currently in development.[52]

The company announced it was renaming itself to Avalanche Studios Group in March 2020, serving as a parent company to three subsidiaries, Avalanche Studios (which will continue to handle AAA titles like Rage and Just Cause), Expansive Worlds (for the outdoor themed titles like theHunter), and Systemic Reaction (for the self-publishing division for games like Generation Zero).[53][54] The company's first UK office opened in Liverpool in June 2020.[4]

Games[edit]

Games developed by Avalanche Studios[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s)
PS2 PS3 PS4 Lin Mac Win Xbox X360 XONE iOS AND
2006 Just Cause Yes No No No No Yes Yes Yes No No No Eidos Interactive
2009 theHunter No No No No No Yes No No No No No Emote Games
2010 Just Cause 2 No Yes No No No Yes No Yes No No No Eidos Interactive
2011 Renegade Ops No Yes No No No Yes No Yes No No No Sega
2015 theHunter: Primal No No No No No Yes No No No No No Expansive Worlds, Avalanche Studios
Rumble City No No No No No No No No No Yes Yes Avalanche Studios
Mad Max No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Just Cause 3 No No Yes No No Yes No No Yes No No Square Enix
2018 Just Cause 4 No No Yes No No Yes No No Yes No No
2019 Rage 2 No No Yes No No Yes No No Yes No No Bethesda Softworks

Games developed by Expansive Worlds[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s)
PS2 PS3 PS4 Lin Mac Win Xbox X360 XONE iOS AND
2015 theHunter: Primal No No No No No Yes No No No No No Expansive Worlds, Avalanche Studios
2017 theHunter: Call of the Wild No No Yes No No Yes No No Yes No No Expansive Worlds

Games developed by Systemic Reaction[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s)
PS2 PS3 PS4 Lin Mac Win Xbox X360 XONE iOS AND
2019 Generation Zero No No Yes No No Yes No No Yes No No Systemic Reaction
2021 Second Extinction No No No No No Yes No No Yes No No

Just Cause series[edit]

Just Cause is a series of open world action-adventure games starring Rico Rodriguez as the protagonist, an operative from "The Agency", a military organization in Just Cause and Just Cause 2.[55] The series is known for allowing players to create chaos and providing players freedom in exploring the game's world.[56] Gameplay revolves around gunplay and the use of the grappling hook and parachute.[57] While the original Just Cause was not particularly well received by critics,[58] 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.[59] Some reviewers also regarded the game as "one of the most entertaining sandbox shooters ever created".[57] Upon release, Just Cause 2 was proven to be more popular than its predecessors;[60] over 2 million players played the game's demo,[61] and over 6 million players purchased the final game.[62] 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.[63] 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.[64][65] Just Cause 3, then the latest title in the series, was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 1 December 2015.[66] Sundberg considered the collaboration with Square Enix as "a long-term partnership".[9] During Square Enix's E3 2015 press conference, Square Enix of America CEO, Phil Rogers, stated that he considered Just Cause a major franchise that can stand "side by side" with other iconic Square Enix franchises.[67]

Mad Max[edit]

Mad Max was the first AAA title developed by Avalanche Studios outside of the Just Cause series. It was 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.[68] The title was initially slated for a 2012 reveal, but was later announced at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013.[69][70] 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.[71]

Generation Zero[edit]

Generation Zero is an open-world, co-operative, first-person shooter, survival game released on March 26, 2019 and self-published by Avalanche Studios. The game is set in an alternative 1980s Sweden in which killer robots roam the wilderness and attempt to destroy humans. The player assumes the role of a Swedish teenager who, upon returning from vacation, finds that their home has been abandoned and overrun with killer robots and must survive the Swedish wilderness while attempting to determine the fate of those who used to live there [72]

Other projects[edit]

The team also worked on theHunter, a free-to-play hunting video game. The game is a commercial success for Avalanche, with Sundberg claiming that the title "contribute[s] quite a lot to [Avalanche's] financial success".[9] Avalanche considered theHunter to be an experiment for them to see whether the free-to-play business model suited the company or not.[11] Renegade Ops is another original title from Avalanche. It is a top down shooter which had drawn inspirations from 1986's Jackal, 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.[27] The game received generally positive reviews upon release.[73] 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.[44] Avalanche Studios was set to be collaborating with Square Enix on the development of the airship segment of Final Fantasy XV. However, it was later revealed that the company only provided information to them, instead of working directly with them.[74]

The studio also worked on several cancelled projects. In 2009, Avalanche announced AionGuard, a God of War-style[15] open world fantasy game which features World War I fighters, samurai 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.[75] However, the project was eventually put on hold indefinitely in 2010.[76] In 2012, the company announced a non-Superman comic book game, which was eventually cancelled in 2014.[77] The studio almost collaborated with LucasArts to develop an open world video game based on the Star Wars universe.[78] A steampunk-themed game was also reported to be in development, but was later put on hold.[79]

On 14 May 2018 Bethesda announced Avalanche (along with id Software) as developers of Rage 2 for release on Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.[49]

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External links[edit]