Digital Extremes

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Digital Extremes
IndustryVideo games
HeadquartersLondon, Ontario, Canada
Number of employees
DivisionsDigital Extremes Toronto[2]

Digital Extremes is a Canadian video game developer founded in 1993 by James Schmalz. They are best known for creating Warframe, a free-to-play cooperative online action game, and co-creating Epic Games' Unreal series of games. Digital Extremes is headquartered in London, Ontario. In 2014, 61% of the company was sold to Chinese holding company Multi Dynamic, now Leyou, for $73 million.[3] President Michael Schmalz and two partners retained 39% of Digital Extremes, and will continue to manage it.[4] On May 22, 2016 Leyou exercised a call option and now owns 97% of Digital Extremes for a total consideration of $138.2 million US.[5]


Founder James Schmalz created Epic Pinball, published by then shareware publisher, Epic MegaGames. Bolstered from the success of Epic Pinball[6] and the rising technology movement in the mid-'90s toward realistic 3D graphics, Schmalz founded Digital Extremes in 1993 and the company began co-development with Epic on what would become Epic's Unreal franchise.[7]

Unreal is a first-person shooter, released in 1998, and was followed up with Unreal Tournament in 1999, which received numerous industry awards.[8] Subsequent sequels in the Unreal franchise include Unreal Championship, Unreal Tournament 2003, and Unreal Tournament 2004. The Unreal series has sold more than 15 million units worldwide across a multitude of game platforms including PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, Xbox, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac and PC.

After years of working in the same universe with Unreal, Digital Extremes broadened its library and technology with development of its original intellectual property, Dark Sector. A third-person shooter released in 2008 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, Dark Sector used Digital Extremes' proprietary game engine, the Evolution Engine.

Digital Extremes worked with 2K to develop the comic-book franchise video game sequel, The Darkness II, which met with positive reviews.[9][10][11][12] Digital Extremes developed the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock,[13] as well as developed the multiplayer component of the sequel, BioShock 2, while simultaneously developing the multiplayer portion of THQ's first-person shooter Homefront.[14]

Digital Extremes developed the game for the Star Trek Into Darkness film, working with Bandai Namco and Paramount to develop Star Trek, which was very poorly received.[15]

On October 14, 2014, Sumpo Food Holdings Ltd. acquired a majority share of Digital Extremes, with Perfect World Co. acquiring minority shares.[16][17][18] Sumpo was rebranded as Leyou in 2015, and by June 2016, had purchased the remaining shares in Digital Extremes.[19][20]

In 2016, it was revealed that Digital Extremes' game Warframe had been hacked, exposing the email addresses of more than 700,000 players.[21]

On October 6, 2017, Digital Extremes announced it would open a development studio in Toronto, Canada, set to begin operations the following month.[2]

Leyou was acquired by Tencent on December 23, 2020, which included Digital Extremes. The developer stated this would not change how they operate as they remained independent of Tencent, though through Tencent they would be able to provide better support for the Chinese version of the Warframe client.[22]


Digital Extremes started development of Warframe, a free-to-play title, in 2000. Digital Extremes launched Warframe on PC in March 2013, PlayStation 4 in November 2013, and on Xbox One in September 2014. At TennoCon 2018, Digital Extremes announced it would bring Warframe to Nintendo Switch. The company released Warframe on Nintendo Switch on November 20, 2018. Digital Extremes continues to refresh this games-as-a-service title on a regular basis with updates including "Plains of Eidolon" (October 2017), "The Sacrifice" (June 2018), "Fortuna" (November 2018), the Nightwave series (February 2019), "The Jovian Concord" (May 2019), "Empyrean" (Christmas 2019), the ongoing "New War" expansion, "Heart of Deimos" (August 2020), and the upcoming "Duviri Paradox".

Digital Extremes worked with developer n-Space to develop the fantasy role-playing video game, Sword Coast Legends, set within the Dungeon and Dragons franchise.[23]

Digital Extremes worked with Madison, Wisconsin-based developer Human Head Studios to publish Survived By, a free-to-play bullet-hell MMO with crafting and role-playing elements. Survived By was shut down as of April 19, 2019.[24]


The Evolution logo

Evolution is Digital Extremes' proprietary game engine.[25] The engine made its debut with Dark Sector; and was again utilized in The Darkness II.[26] 2013's Star Trek featured use of the Evolution engine; and the engine is currently in use on the free-to-play online title Warframe, released on PC in 2013.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Since the launch of Warframe, its expansion and popularity has grown, resulting in multiple industry awards. In late 2017, Warframe won the Steam Labor of Love award,[27] an award nominated by Steam's internal team, but voted on by players. The award is described by Steam as: "This game has been out for a while. The team is well past the first unveiling of their creative baby, but being the good parents they are, these devs continue to nurture and support their creation. This game, to this day, is still getting new content after all these years." Warframe was nominated in The 2017 and 2018 Game Awards as one of the Best Ongoing Games, losing to Overwatch and Fortnite, respectively.[28]

In early 2018, Warframe won the People's Voice Webby Award for Best Action Game,[29] and ProMax's Best Marketing Campaign of the Year Award.[30] In March 2018, Noclip, published the video documentary on the making of Warframe. The two-part feature tells the story of how Warframe succeeded as an independently developed and published game that changed the course of Digital Extremes.[31][32]

Digital Extremes' employment environment has been recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for 2010, 2011, 2012[33] and through to 2018.[34] Additionally, the company has been recognized as one of Canada's top employers for Young People.[35] In 2010 and 2011, the Financial Post named Digital Extremes one of the 10 best companies to work for in Canada.[36]

The company has a 3.6 star rating on the employer review site Glassdoor, with 74% of employees saying they would recommend it as a workplace to a friend.[37] On the provincial level, Digital Extremes received the Ontario Small Business Award in 2010.[38] Digital Extremes was also presented with the Large Business of the Year award in 2011 from the London Chamber of Commerce.[39] Digital Extremes was also awarded the Excellence in Human Resources award from The London Chamber of Commerce in early 2012.[40]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Platform(s)
DC DOS Lin Mac PS PS2 PS3 PS4 Win Xbox X360 XOne Switch
1993 Solar Winds No Yes No No No No No No No No No No No
1993 Epic Pinball No Yes No No No No No No No No No No No
1993 Silverball No Yes No No No No No No No No No No No
1995 Extreme Pinball No Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No No No No
1998 Unreal No No No Yes No No No No Yes No No No No
1999 Unreal Tournament Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes No No No No
2001 Adventure Pinball: Forgotten Island No No No No No No No No Yes No No No No
2002 Unreal Championship No No No No No No No No No Yes No No No
2002 Unreal Tournament 2003 No No Yes Yes No No No No Yes No No No No
2004 Unreal Tournament 2004 No No Yes Yes No No No No Yes No No No No
2005 Pariah No No No No No No No No Yes Yes No No No
2006 Warpath No No No No No No No No Yes Yes No No No
2008 Dark Sector No No No No No No Yes No Yes No Yes No No
2008 BioShock (PS3 port) No No No No No No Yes No No No No No No
2010 BioShock 2 (multiplayer) No No No Yes No No Yes No Yes No Yes No No
2011 Homefront (multiplayer) No No No No No No No No Yes No No No No
2012 The Darkness II No No No Yes No No Yes No Yes No Yes No No
2013 Warframe No No No No No No No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
2013 Star Trek No No No No No No Yes No Yes No Yes No No
2015 Sword Coast Legends No No Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes No No Yes No
2017 The Amazing Eternals No No No No No No No No Yes No No No No
2018 Survived By (published) No No No No No No No No Yes No No No No

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Digital Extremes - Our Company". July 9, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Digital Extremes expands to Toronto".
  3. ^ "GamesBeat Boss interview: China's Leyou moves from chicken meat to triple-A game publishing". VentureBeat. September 2, 2017. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  4. ^ DeBono, Norman (October 15, 2014). "London's Digital Extremes sold to Multi Dynamic Games Group". The London Free Press. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
  5. ^ "HKSE-Listed Leyou Technologies Acquires Balance of Digital Extremes from Founders | Bennett Jones". Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  6. ^ RGB Classic Games. "Epic Pinball". RGB Classic Games.
  7. ^ David Jenkins (August 20, 2007). "Digital Extremes Weighs In On Unreal Engine 3 for PS3". Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  8. ^ "GT Interactive and Epic Games Earn Coveted 'Game of the Year' Honors for 'Unreal Tournament'". Business Wire. February 17, 2000. p. 1261.
  9. ^ "PC Gamer review". February 7, 2012.
  10. ^ "Giant Bomb review".
  11. ^ "EGM Review".
  12. ^ "Quarter to Three Review". February 28, 2012.
  13. ^ Mike Bendel (June 8, 2008). "Digital Extremes To Assist In BioShock PS3 Development". Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  14. ^ Jaz McDougall (August 18, 2010). "Homefront PC port has dedicated servers". Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  15. ^ "Star Trek director J.J. Abrams 'emotionally hurt' by Star Trek: The Video Game". September 13, 2013.
  16. ^ Digital Extremes (October 14, 2014). "In-Depth: Partnership Announced".
  17. ^ Makuch, Eddie (October 15, 2014). "Unreal, BioShock Dev Digital Extremes Sold to Chinese Companies". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  18. ^ Futter, Mike (October 16, 2014). "Digital Extremes: No Changes To Leadership Following Majority Acquisition By Chinese Firms". Game Informer. GameStop. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  19. ^ "GamesBeat Boss interview: China's Leyou moves from chicken meat to triple-A game publishing". VentureBeat. September 2, 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  20. ^ "Lexpert ® | Leyou Technologies acquires 39% of Digital Extremes for US$65 million". Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  21. ^ "Digital Extremes admits Warframe hack".
  22. ^ Stanton, Rich (December 23, 2020). "Tencent acquires Warframe developer Digital Extremes and several other studios". PC Gamer. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  23. ^ Jared Petty (February 13, 2015). "New Dungeons & Dragons Game Sword Coast Legends coming in 2015". IGN. Retrieved February 13, 2015.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Survived By: A MESSAGE TO OUR PLAYERS". March 19, 2019. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  25. ^ Mark DeLoura (March 9, 2010). "In-Depth: The State Of Game Engines At GDC 2010". Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  26. ^ Kranzl, Justin (May 5, 2011). "Preview: The Darkness II". Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  27. ^ "The Steam Awards". Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  28. ^ "Awards - The Game Awards". The Game Awards. Archived from the original on February 26, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  29. ^ "Warframe | The Webby Awards". Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  30. ^ "Best Marketing Campaign of the Year".
  31. ^ Noclip (March 19, 2018), Warframe Documentary (Part One) - The Story of Digital Extremes, retrieved October 8, 2018
  32. ^ Noclip (March 21, 2018), Warframe Documentary (Part Two) - The Story of Warframe, retrieved October 8, 2018
  33. ^ Canada's Top 100 (October 7, 2011). "Canada's Top 100 Employers: National Competition". Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  34. ^ "Top Employer: Digital Extremes Ltd". Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  35. ^ Canada's Top 100 (September 19, 2011). "Canada's Top 100 Employers for Young People". Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  36. ^ Canada's Top 100 (February 1, 2011). "Financial Post's Ten Best Companies To Work For". Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  37. ^ "Working at Digital Extremes". Glassdoor.
  38. ^ Jody Lundrigan (September 16, 2010). "Twelve Ontario Businesses Named Winners of Business and Export Excellence". Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  39. ^ London Chamber of Commerce. "Business Achievement Awards – Business of the Year Hall of Fame".
  40. ^ London Free Press. "Celebrating City's Best".

External links[edit]