Independent game developers The Collective (based in Southern California) and Backbone Entertainment (which has offices in Emeryville, California, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Boston, Massachusetts) are to merge, in order to “better position themselves as game development increases in cost and complexity”.
Financial terms of the deal have not been revealed, but the merger will apparently see the formation of a new studio named Foundation 9 Entertainment, to be headquartered in Los Angeles. The deal is subject to final board and shareholder approval and will create a new set of studios with more than 300 employees.
The new management of Foundation 9 Entertainment includes Jon Goldman as CEO, Andrew Ayre and Douglas Hare as co-presidents, and Gary Priest and Mark Loughridge as co-chairmen. Richard Hare will serve as chief creative officer, and Jeff Vavasour will continue as vice president of Canadian operations. Steven Sardegna will serve as CFO and Larry Kelly as COO.
The Collective are best known for their movie license work, most recently for LucasArts with the Indiana Jones and Star Wars properties but also including Star Trek, Men in Black and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The developer is currently working on the video game tie-in for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
Backbone Entertainment incorporates games developer Digital Eclipse and edutainment developers ImaginEngine and Games2Learn. Digital Eclipse is best known for its work on Game Boy Advance titles such as Grand Theft Auto Advance and Spider-Man, as well as for a range of retro compilations including Midway Arcade Treasures and Atari Anthology.
This specialization has evolved to include TV console hardware such as EA Sports Classics and Atari Paddle. The company’s highest profile forthcoming title, though, is Death Jr. for the PSP, which was the first game announced for the format.
The merger is just the latest example of small and medium sized developers consolidating their position in the industry, with John Goldman, CEO of Backbone, commenting: "There's a lot of nervousness about the scale and scope of games increasing... It will physically become impossible to do great games with a small team with the next generation of games coming on."
Goldman also suggested that the difficulty and expense of creating games for a growing array of game devices, including mobile phones and portable consoles, is another factor behind the deal to form Foundation 9.