|Traded as||First North: STAR|
|Industry||Computer and video games|
|Founded||1998 (as O3 Games)
2002 (as Starbreeze Studios)
|Bo Andersson Klint (CEO)|
|Products||Payday 2 (2013)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013)
Payday: The Heist (2011)
|Revenue||180 MSEK (13/14)|
|110 MSEK (13/14)|
Number of employees
Starbreeze Studios is a video game development studio founded by members of the demogroup Triton, based in Stockholm, Sweden. The company was merged with O3 Games in 2002, and the name Starbreeze was retained. The company then went on to produce titles including Enclave and Knights of the Temple: Infernal Crusade.
In the early 2000s, cancellations of their projects due to conflicts with publishers, and a failed acquisition led Starbreeze to enter a severe financial crisis, resulting in a massive lay-off during the development of Starbreeze's fourth game, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, which received critical acclaim and helped Starbreeze to establish a reputation of making good licensed game. The company then worked on The Darkness, whose sales was considered satisfactory for Starbreeze.
The company then partnered with Electronic Arts to develop a reboot to the Syndicate series, but it ended up being a commercial failure, and many staff members moved to rival company MachineGames, founded by Starbreeze's founders. As a result, the company shifted part of its focus to develop smaller games, such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Starbreeze began expanding the company in 2012, with its acquisition of Overkill Software. Overkill's first title after the acquisition, Payday 2, helped Starbreeze to gain net profit after suffering an accumulated loss of $14.4 million since the company's establishment. In 2015, the company announced that they will start publishing video games from independent developers, and that they had begun the development of a virtual reality headset named Project Star VR.
Founding and merger
The company was founded by a Swedish programmer named Magnus Högdahl and designer Gustaf Grefberg. He was a former member of the PC demoscene group Triton, specialized in making tech demos, and decided to left the company after his project, an action role-playing game named Into the Shadows get cancelled due to publishing troubles. He then decided to found his own studio and began crafting his own game engine. He then actively recruited his acquaintances to join his company and the studio was officially established in 1998 in Härnösand.
Högdahl served as the company's head and tech lead. He was also responsible for creating a new game engine for their future games, and looking for publishers that were willing to help publishing their game. At that time, the company had only about five people, and they created a prototype for a video game and pitched it to publishers at E3 1998. Gremlin Interactive agreed to publish the game, and the deal was finalized in late 1998. At that time, the company had around 11 staff members. The game was a first-person action role-playing game named Sorcery. Set in a high fantasy setting, the game featured 3D visuals and its gameplay was similar to that of Diablo and Quake. However, Gramlin Interactive was acquired by Infogames in 2000 and the partnership between them broke, resulting in the game's cancellation.
O3 Games was founded by Lars Johansson, who also worked at a demoscene company. Their first game was The Outforce, a space real-time strategy game that was successfully released in 2000 and subsequently became a success for the company. O3 needed to expand so that they could continue video game development. After Sorcery cancellation, Starbreeze entered financial troubles. Unable to support themselves financially, they needed to merge with another developer so as to continue their business. The two companies then organized a conference in Uppsala, and were merged together shortly afterwards, retaining the name "Starbreeze Studios".
After the merger, the company began working on Enclave, originally a multiplayer-only video game inspired by Team Fortress set at the Medieval Times. The game would also became their first game that covered an international market, and they had partnered with various publishers including Swing Entertainment, Conspiracy Entertainment and Vivendi. However, Swing Entertainment faced bankruptcy at that time, and decided to turn the game into a single-player action-adventure video game with the goal of sending it to the market as soon as possible. The game was released in 2002, and Starbreeze had to lay off staffs after the game's release. Enclave II was also in development. The sequel was said to feature a more elaborate story, 28 different maps, 10 playable characters, and an improved fighting system. However, these features were axed when they get into legal troubles with the publisher, resulting in the game's cancellation. Their another game, Knights of the Temple: Infernal Crusade, was successfully released with help from publisher TDK Mediactive. Its sequel, nonetheless, was shifted to another develop. The studio also attempted to acquire another studio, Rock Solid Games, but the agreement between them fell apart and brought both companies financial problems.
Another project being worked by Starbreeze at that time was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Set in the The Chronicles of Riddick movie universe, the game was published by Vivendi. The team took inspiration from films such as Escape from Alcatraz and video games such as GoldenEye 007 and the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series. However, the company was downsizing due to financial problems and the number of employees dropped from 80 to 25, and the entire development team moved away from the main Starbreeze floor to prevent themselves from being affected by low morale, and allow them to focus on the game's development. The game enjoyed an 18-month development cycle, which was significantly longer than typical licensed games. A PlayStation 2 version of the game was also in development, but was ultimately cancelled as the then head of Vivendi's publishing division, Michael Pole, ordered its cancellation to "make his mark". Universal Motion Pictures intervened and kept the game's Xbox version. Escape from Butcher Bay received critical acclaim upon launch, with many critics regarding it as one of the best licensed games ever made. Its gameplay element including the puzzle-solving mechanics and the stealth segment, and its ahead-of-time visuals, also received praise from critics. Despite receiving critical acclaim, it was not a commercial success for Starbreeze.
After the release of Escape from Butcher Bay, Starbreeze entered financial problems again due to not having significant royalty payment from Vivendi. They sold part of their motion capture and animation department to a British company named Centroid. However, the game helped set Starbreeze's reputation as a studio that is capable of making good licensed titles. With the help of Union Entertainment, an intermediary company, Starbreeze signed an agreement Majesco Entertainment for a new title set within the The Darkness universe owned by Top Cow Comics on July 16, 2004. Mid-way through the game's development, Majesco underwent restructuring, suffered from financial troubles, shifted its focus and dropped the game. 2K Games stepped up and acquired the publishing rights. 2K extended the game's development cycle, and told Starbreeze to develop a multiplayer mode for the game. The Darkness was released in 2007. It fared worse than the team expected critically, but its commercial performance was satisfactory for the company, selling more than 1 million copies worldwide.
After working on two different licensed games, the team had the intention of making their own intellectual properties. A game named Kano was developed, which involves mind-reading, but its development had never completed. After the release of The Darkness, the company signed with a two-project contract with Vivendi. One of the games included in the contract is a new property known as Polaris. As a game set in a post-apocalyptic environment, players are tasked to overcome snowstorms and defeat terrorists and monsters cooperatively with other players. The game failed to convince Vivendi and promoted it to adjust the contract to simply one project, a remake of Escape from Butcher Bay, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. Vivendi originally named the game Riddick 2 but Starbreeze protested as they thought it would bring an immense amount of expectation that the remake may not be able to deliver. Vivendi's subsidiary Sierra Entertainment was set to publish the game. After the merger between Activision and Vivendi, the new company began streamlining Vivendi and put the game, along with Brütal Legend, Ghostbusters: The Video Game for sale to other publishers. Atari eventually acquired the publishing rights and the game was released in 2009.
Starbreeze then partnered with Electronic Arts for two different games, one was known as Project Redlime, while another was an action-adventure video game set within the Bourne universe. The Bourne game, titled The Bourne Ascendance, was cancelled as a direct result of Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass not participating in the fourth Bourne film. Project Redlime had a larger scale than the Bourne game. It was said to be a reinvention of one of Electronic Arts' franchises. The company shifted from a technology-orientated company to focus more on core gameplay mechanic of their new project. Syndicate was announced in September 2011. The game suffered from a troubled development, with Starbreeze completely reworking the game one year after the game's development. There are also lots of creative differences between the developer and the publisher, and the two companies suffered from an unharmounious relationship. During the game's development, 7 senior members of the company, including Högdahl, left the company to form their own smaller studio, MachineGames, to work on their own original games. Having a budget that was less than other typical AAA video game. Syndicate received average reviews and was a commercial failure. Grefberg left the company after the game's completion, and 25 employees were laid off.
Many employees left Starbreeze when MachineGames recruited. The then CEO Johan Kristiansson also stepped down, and was replaced by Mikael Nemark. Nemark brought the studio to a new direction that besides focusing on AAA video games, they would also allocate resources for smaller, downloadable game in order to broaden the company's portfolio of games. These new games will no longer use the engine created by Högdahl. In 2011, Starbreeze announced that they were partnering with Epic Games to use their engine, Unreal Engine for their first new small titles. In 2012, Starbreeze announced Cold Mercury, a free-to-play video game and a project codenamed P13. Prior to that, Josef Fares, an award winning Swedish director, was pitching game ideas for several Swedish developers but was rejected. Starbreeze, at that time, was in need of a new original properties, and accepted Fares' pitch. P13 later became Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Focusing on creating an emotional and "personal" experience, Starbreeze partnered with publisher 505 Games to publish the game. It was released in 2013 to critical acclaim and received numerous awards and accolades. The rights to the Brothers intellectual property was later acquired by 505 Games in 2015. After the success of Brothers, Fares announced that he had established a new studio named Hazelight and is working on a project with Electronic Arts.
In 2012, Starbreeze also announced that they had acquired the developer of Payday: The Heist, Overkill Software, granting them rights to all of Overkill's propriety technology and intellectual properties. Overkill at that time was working on the game's sequel, Payday 2, a game that was set to "broaden the Payday template". The game was a massive commercial success, and was profitable from pre-order sales alone. Payday 2 also became Starbreeze's best selling game of all time, and help the company to gain net profit after suffering an accumulated loss of $14.4 million from 1998 to June 2013. The success of the game also prompted publisher 505 Games to invest $5 million in Starbreeze in March 2015 to continue to improve and develop additional content for Payday 2 for 20 months. The game was ported to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One under the title Payday 2: Crimewave Edition.
Starting from 2014 the company began broadening their business. On 25 September 2014, Starbreeze Studios announced that they acquired a LA-based studio called Geminose for 7 million. The studio is currently working on a toys-to-life game. In May 2015, Starbreeze Studios announced that the company will start publishing video games from independent developers. The first independent title set to be published by Starbreeze is Raid: World War II, an upcoming four-player World War II shooter in development by Lion Game Lion. During E3 2015, Starbreeze Studios announced Project StarVR, a virtual reality headset, which is currently under development by InfinitEye, which was acquired by Starbreeze on the same day. The company also acquired Payday Productions and the film rights to Payday in July 2015. Project wise, their subsidiary Overkill was working on Overkill's The Walking Dead, which is set to be released in 2017 with the help of publisher 505 Games, and Storm, which was merged from Starbreeze's own Cold Mercury. Starbreeze is also set to publish a John Wick game developed by WEVR and Grab for virtual reality platforms. The core Starbreeze team also received investment from Korean publisher Smilegate to develop a new first-person cooperative game set within the Crossfire universe. Starbreeze also announced that they will be publishing Dead by Daylight, an asymmetrical multiplayer survival horror game developed by Behavior Interactive.
|2000||The Outforce[A]||Strategy First||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
|2003||Knights of the Temple: Infernal Crusade||TDK Mediactive||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|2004||The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay||Vivendi Games||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
|2007||The Darkness||2K Games||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|2009||The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena||Atari Inc.||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|2013||Payday 2B||505 Games||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|2013||Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons||505 Games||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|2015||Payday 2: Crimewave EditionB||505 Games||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|2017||Overkill's The Walking DeadB||505 Games||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
According to Starbreeze, the studio is keen on making intellectual properties and licensed projects which allow them to have creative control. According to Starbreeze's CEO Johan Kristiansson in 2008, the company did not wish to recruit lots of employees as a lot of time is needed to integrate them into the company. After the departure of many employees around 2012 and the disappointing commercial sales of Syndicate, Mikael Nermark, the company's CEO in 2012, decided to shift the company's focus from producing standard licensed games to creating new and original intellectual properties. He stated that he strongly believed Starbreeze's ability of making games games that are more than typical AAA games, and that Starbreeze members would consider making games as their "daily work", taking ownership for their projects.
As an independent company, Starbreeze believes that in addition to developing AAA games, they must develop some smaller-scale projects like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, or free-to-play games like Cold Mercury to survive. Nermark further added that he is confident that the studio is capable of bringing their "style" to all genre and business model, and that gameplay innovation is considered one of the most important elements while developing a game.
- "Starbreeze: An interview with Starbreeze, the Swedish company behind fantasy role playing game Sorcery". Eurogamer. November 11, 1999. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Leone, Matt (June 2, 2011). "The Secret History of the Riddick Team". 1UP.com. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- "Starbreeze: About Us". Starbreeze Studios. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Peter Zackariasson (2012). The Video Game Industry: Formation, Present State, and Future. Routledge. p. 143. ISBN 0415896525.
- Pitts, Russ (15 May 2014). "Making Wolfenstein: a fight club on top of the world". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- "Enclaved II First Look". IGN. March 6, 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Perry, Douglass C. (September 2, 2004). "Epilogue: The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, Pt. 2". IGN. Ziff Davis. p. 2. Retrieved April 5, 2009.
- "Majesco to publish The Darkness on next-gen consoles". GamesIndustry.biz. 2005-03-22. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "2K Games Grabs The Darkness From Majesco". Gamasutra. 2006-03-03. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "Chronicles of Riddick redux confirmed for '07". GameSpot. May 17, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Sinclair, Brendan (July 28, 2008). "Activision Blizzard 'streamlining' Vivendi". GameSpot. Retrieved April 5, 2009.
- Nicholson, Brad (February 23, 2009). "Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena coming April 7". Destructoid. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Ransom-Wiley, James (March 14, 2011). "'Bourne Ascendancy' was canceled Starbreeze game, corroborates ex-dev". Joystiq. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Haywald, Andrew (February 21, 2008). "Starbreeze to Reinvent Mystery EA Franchise". 1UP.com. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- "Syndicate reboot officially announced". Metro. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (27 February 2012). "EA: Syndicate reboot as FPS "the right choice"". Eurogamer. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Dutton, Fred (19 June 2012). "Starbreeze: Syndicate was "a lost battle from the get-go"". Eurogamer. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
- Martin, Matt (February 17, 2013). "25 jobs cut at Starbreeze following Syndicate completion". Gameindustry.biz. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Bradford, Matt (March 26, 2012). "Starbreeze going free-to-play with Cold Mercury". GamesRadar. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Mahardy, Mike (October 27, 2013). "Brothers: How A Film Director Shook Up Starbreeze". Polygon. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- John Agnello, Anthony (April 28, 2013). "Starbreeze’s CEO discusses the rebirth of the studio". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- "Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons critical review". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Matulef, Jeffery (January 16, 2015). "Brothers IP sold to 505 Games". Eurogamer. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Mahardy, Mike (December 5, 2014). "Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Creator Announces Hazelight Studios". IGN. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
- Crapple, Craig (April 19, 2012). "Starbreeze swoops in to acquire Overkill Software". Develop. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Cook, Dave (December 13, 2013). "The making of Payday 2: from ‘1.5’ project to heavyweight sequel – part two". VG 247. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Gaston, Martin (August 8, 2013). "Payday 2 turns a profit from preorders alone". GameSpot. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Maiberg, Emanuel (February 28, 2014). "Payday 2 helps developer Starbreeze post record profits". PC Gamer. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Wawro, Alex (March 23, 2015). "505 invests $5M in Starbreeze on the back of Payday 2's success". Gamasutra. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Nunneley, Stephany (May 7, 2015). "Payday 2: Crimewave Edition has a release date for PS4 and Xbox One". VG 247. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Tom Ivan (25 September 2014). "Starbreeze acquires studio making toys-to-life game". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- Futter, Mike (May 8, 2015). "Payday Developer Starbreeze Announces Move Into Publishing With Raid: World War II". Game Informer. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
- Futter, Mike (June 13, 2015). "Starbreeze Unveils Project StarVR With The Walking Dead Demo". Game Informer. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
- Handrahan, Matthew (July 10, 2015). "Starbreeze acquires Payday film rights". Gameindustry.biz. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Scammell, David (January 22, 2016). "Overkill's The Walking Dead delayed to 2017". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Devore, Jordan (January 22, 2016). "Starbreeze's Storm pitched as 'Payday in space'". Destructoid. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Hilliard, Kyle (August 8, 2015). "Starbreeze Announces John Wick Virtual Reality Game". Game Informer. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Jarvis, Matthew (January 21, 2016). "Starbreeze receives $40m investment to develop new Crossfire game". Develop. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- Skyes, Tom (February 6, 2016). "Dead by Daylight is an asymmetrical slasher horror". PC Gamer. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
- Martin, Matt (June 10, 2008). "Starbreeze Studios' Johan Kristiansson". Gameindustry.biz. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
- Handrahan, Matthew (April 13, 2012). "Starbreeze: More To Life Than AAA". Gameindustry.biz. Retrieved February 10, 2016.