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Rockstar Vienna

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Rockstar Productions GmbH
Rockstar Vienna (2003–2006)
FormerlyNeo Software Produktions GmbH (1993–2003)
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
Founded4 January 1993; 29 years ago (1993-01-04) in Hirtenberg, Austria
Founders
  • Peter Baustädter
  • Niki Laber
  • Hannes Seifert
Defunct11 May 2006 (2006-05-11)
FateDissolved
Headquarters,
Austria
Key people
Number of employees
110 (2006)
Parent

Rockstar Productions GmbH (trade name: Rockstar Vienna; formerly Neo Software Produktions GmbH) was an Austrian video game developer and a studio of Rockstar Games based in Vienna. Peter Baustädter, Niki Laber, and Hannes Seifert founded the studio as Neo Software in January 1993 when they neared the completion of Whale's Voyage. The game led Neo Software to early success, as did 1994's The Clue!, which sold over a million copies, and enabled the company to relocate from Seifert's house in Hirtenberg to Vienna. After Neo Software's Alien Nations sold more than a million copies in 1999, Computec Media acquired a majority stake in the company, seeking it to produce online games. It then sold the studio and several other businesses to Gameplay.com in February 2000, which sold Neo Software to Take-Two Interactive in January 2001 in exchange for a Take-Two subsidiary Gameplay.com had obtained earlier.

As part of Take-Two, Neo Software developed ports, starting with bringing Max Payne to the Xbox. The studio became part of Take-Two's Rockstar Games label in January 2003 as Rockstar Vienna, porting the label's Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, Grand Theft Auto III, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to consoles. The studio worked on Manhunt 2 from January 2004 until May 2006, when the company was abruptly closed in a cost reduction. Rockstar Vienna had become the largest developer in Austria by that time, and its disestablishment left 110 people out of work. Manhunt 2 was completed at Rockstar London, controversially omitting all Rockstar Vienna credits upon release.

History[edit]

Early years (1993–1999)[edit]

A former Neo Software logo

Rockstar Vienna was founded as Neo Software by Peter Baustädter, Niki Laber, and Hannes Seifert. Laber and Seifert had met as freelancers at a computer school, where they quickly decided to work on video games.[2] Seifert's 1989 game Der verlassene Planet was the first commercial video game release from Austria.[3] After five years of independent work in the video game industry, Baustädter, Laber, and Seifert were nearing the completion of Whale's Voyage. While meeting at a coffeehouse near the Wien Westbahnhof railway station, they decided to create a company and consequently established Neo Software on 4 January 1993.[2][4] Its offices were set up in Seifert's house in Hirtenberg, a small village south of Vienna, the Austrian capital.[4] Laber and Seifert became the joint managing directors.[5] Whale's Voyage was released as the company's first game in February 1993 by Flair Software.[6][7] The game's success allowed Neo Software to begin moving to the more central Business Park Vienna in 1994, which made it easier to hire international employees.[8] The Clue!, released later that year, became the company's first game to sell more than a million copies, accelerating the relocation.[2][8]

In the following two years, Neo Software worked on Prototype, Dark Universe, Whale's Voyage II, and Cedric (all released in 1995),[9] as well as Mutation of J.B., Spherical Worlds, Black Viper, and Fightin' Spirit (all 1996). During 1996, the company discontinued its publishing activities and established a consulting branch, Neo Consulting.[10] By 1997, Baustädter had left the company for Digital Domain while remaining a shareholder.[5] While developing Rent-a-Hero in 1997, Neo Software's first year without a release, the company underwent structural changes to improve its development capabilities and strengthened relationships with publishers for future releases. Rent-a-Hero was released in 1998.[11] Neo Software worked with the nascent Austrian company JoWooD to release Alien Nations in 1999, which sold over a million copies.[2][12]

Acquisitions and closure (1999–2006)[edit]

Computec Media, a German media company that produced magazines and online games, announced on 1 June 1999 that it had agreed to purchase a 51% majority stake in Neo Software, citing the success of Rent-a-Hero and Alien Nations as a motive for the acquisition. The deal was to close by the end of the year, with the studio to receive shares worth DM 2 million of Computec Media's stock. The company expected Neo Software and its eleven employees to develop two online games and generate DM 7 million in revenue each year.[13] However, it proceeded to sell off Neo Software, alongside three other subsidiaries, to Gameplay.com in February 2000 for a combined £11.8 million in cash and £35.8 million in Gameplay.com shares.[14] Under its new owner, Neo Software had commenced work on the Sid Meier's Pirates! spin-off Online Pirates (or Pirates! Online) by September that year.[15][16] In October, Gameplay.com acquired Take-Two Interactive's subsidiary Toga Holdings (the parent of developer Pixel Broadband Studios). Alongside paying cash and shares, Gameplay.com entered into a "joint exploitation agreement" that allowed Take-Two to purchase Neo Software. The studio's valuation of US$17.3 million was pre-paid in this transaction.[17] Take-Two completed its acquisition of Neo Software on 31 January 2001, officially paying £1, while assuming $808,000 in liabilities.[17][18] The new parent company envisioned that the studio would act as a localisation studio for the German language in addition to developing games.[19]

Later in 2001, JoWooD published Neo Software's sequel to The Clue!, The Sting!.[20] As part of Take-Two, Neo Software developed the Xbox port of Max Payne, which was released in December 2001.[21] Online Pirates was still in development in late 2002. At the time, Seifert commented that Neo Software, which now had forty employees, saw online games as a "market of the future". However, he lamented that the lack of widespread broadband connections in households at the time made games like Online Pirates unviable as mass-market products.[16] On Neo Software's tenth anniversary in January 2003, Take-Two moved the studio to the Rockstar Games label, rebranding it Rockstar Vienna.[12][22] The legal entity, Neo Software Produktions GmbH, was consequently renamed Rockstar Productions GmbH.[23] The studio continued developing ports, bringing Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne to the Xbox and PlayStation 2, as well as Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to the Xbox.[24]

In January 2004, Rockstar Vienna began work on what would become Manhunt 2, the sequel to 2003's Manhunt.[25] On the morning of 11 May 2006, Take-Two closed down Rockstar Vienna's facilities and fired all employees without prior notice. In a blog post, Rockstar Vienna designer Jurie Horneman described how he arrived at the studio to work, only to be turned away by security guards.[26] With 110 employees before the closure, Rockstar Vienna had been the largest video game developer in Austria.[2][27] The move was described as a cost cutting exercise: Rockstar Games had too many studios and its expenses were too high, and the decision to close Rockstar Vienna was made easier because it was its only studio in a non-English-speaking country.[2] Rockstar Games stated that employees were "offered packages in accordance with Austrian law, as well as other job opportunities within Take-Two and Rockstar Games where possible".[26] Laber later described the closure as "completely fair", noting that the severance packages far exceeded the legal minimum.[2]

The development of Manhunt 2 was shifted to Rockstar London and the game was released in October 2007.[25][28] Following the release, Horneman, who had been a producer for the game while at Rockstar Vienna, noticed that the game's credits lacked all names of the Rockstar Vienna employees who had worked on the game before the studio's closure. In a blog post listing all 89 missing credits, he stated that "the majority of the work we did at Rockstar Vienna is in the released game. Rearranged and modified, but it's there."[29][30] He added that he was "disappointed and outraged that Rockstar Games tries to pretend that Rockstar Vienna and the work we did on Manhunt 2 never happened – the work of over 50 people, who put years of their lives into the project, trying to make the best game they could".[31]

Legacy[edit]

Rockstar Vienna's demise prompted the creation of many smaller studios in the Vienna area.[32] Seifert, Laber, and Jürgen Goeldner established the studio Games That Matter, which they announced in January 2007.[33][34] By the end of that month, the studio mostly comprised former Rockstar Vienna staff.[35] Koch Media bought the studio in August 2007 and incorporated it into the Deep Silver label as Deep Silver Vienna.[36] It was Koch Media's first acquisition of a development studio.[37] Deep Silver Vienna's first game was Cursed Mountain, developed in association with Sproing Interactive and released for the Wii in 2009.[38] Laber left the studio in December 2009 and Seifert announced his intent to leave the company by 31 January 2010.[39][40] Koch Media disestablished Deep Silver Vienna on 31 January 2010 and laid off its twenty employees, citing that it was necessary to concentrate its operations at its Munich headquarters in the face of the "overall economic situation".[39][41] The project it had in development at the time, Ride to Hell, was handed to Eutechnyx.[42] Seifert later acted as the studio head for IO Interactive from 2010 until February 2017, while Laber joined the Viennese social network game company Socialspiel, previously founded by former Rockstar Vienna and Deep Silver Vienna staff, in August 2012.[43][44]

Games developed[edit]

As Neo Software[edit]

List of games developed by Rockstar Vienna, 1993–2001
Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
1993 Whale's Voyage Amiga, Amiga CD32, MS-DOS Flair Software
1994 The Clue! Kompart UK, Max Design Co-developed with And Avoid Panic by[5]
1995 Prototype MS-DOS Max Design Co-developed with Surprise! Productions[45]
Dark Universe Co-developed with Martin[5]
Whale's Voyage II Amiga, Amiga CD32, MS-DOS Neo Software
Cedric Amiga Co-developed with Alcatraz[46]
1996 Mutation of J.B. MS-DOS Co-developed with Invention[5]
Spherical Worlds Amiga Co-developed with 4-Matted[5]
Black Viper Amiga, Amiga CD32 Co-developed with Lightshock Software[5]
Fightin' Spirit Co-developed with Lightshock Software[5]
1998 Rent-a-Hero Windows THQ, Magic Bytes
1999 Alien Nations JoWooD
2001 The Sting!
Max Payne Xbox Rockstar Games Port development

As Rockstar Vienna[edit]

List of games developed by Rockstar Vienna, 2003–2007
Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
2003 Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne PlayStation 2, Xbox Rockstar Games Port development
Grand Theft Auto III Xbox Port development
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Port development
2007 Manhunt 2 PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Windows Development completed by Rockstar London

Cancelled[edit]

  • Online Pirates / Pirates! Online

References[edit]

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External links[edit]