Crysis developer Crytek has long had plans to open a U.S. branch, but the opportunity to do that never really presented itself in an appealing way. That is, until Vigil Games' talent was up for grabs in Austin.
Vigil Games was one THQ studio that was up for auction following the publisher's collapse, but despite building a fanbase with the Darksiders franchise, no one tried to buy the Austin studio.
So along came Frankfurt, Germany-based Crytek, which just so happened to be looking to get its foot in the door in the U.S. market. Crytek saw an opening, and expanded its footprint using Vigil's core talent as a foundation.
"Crytek U.S. was always the plan for us," Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli told us in a phone interview. "It's a very significant expansion of our development culture and a big step for our CryEngine business."
Crytek USA is made up of 35 game developers -- some from Vigil's core team (but not the whole studio) and a number of Austin-based developers who were looking for new jobs.
Leading Crytek USA is David Adams, former general manager and co-owner of Vigil, a studio whose fate will ultimately be decided during THQ's upcoming bankruptcy case.
Crytek became a significant player in the aftermath of THQ's bankruptcy and asset sell-off. The studio bought the Homefront first-person shooter property (Crytek's Nottingham, UK studio has 140 developers who had been working on Homefront 2 for THQ) for $500,000 in order to ensure work on the game would continue.
The founding of Crytek in Austin will mean more game and CryEngine development in the U.S., and access to more development talent.
"We weren't just looking at Vigil's team [for recruitment], but the whole Austin development community," said Yerli. "Austin is a very small, connected community of game developers."
With the expansion into the U.S. still fresh, Yerli could only talk broadly about near- and long-term goals for Crytek USA. But it sounds like the new branch will play a significant role in the company's future.
"It would be pretty much safe to say that this team will be working on online games," he said, adding that the new team at Crytek USA will focus on "online games and kick-ass triple-A productions. It is going to be quite a significant investment for Crytek over the next five years."
Yerli also made clear that Crytek was not intending to purchase THQ's Darksiders IP.
For Crytek, the Austin game development community and the 35 game developers with jobs, things seemed to work out okay, despite the manic nature of the branch's founding.
"Austin was high on the list. It was pretty much highest on the list," said Yerli. "... We saw this as an opportunity. These guys are jobless, we can save their jobs at the same time, we can move Crytek forward in the U.S., and make steps that are in line with our strategies."