After the successful release of Prey earlier this year, co-director, founder and president of developer Arkane Studios Raphael Colantonio has announced that he is leaving the studio that he has built up for 18 years. Arkane Studios is a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media, Bethesda’s vast empire. As well as Prey, they are the developers behind the successful Dishonored franchise. Colantonio made the announcement yesterday through parent company Bethesda’s website. He writes that he’s lived both “magical moments” and “hard times”, but ultimately that “it is time for me to step out to spend some time with my son and reflect on what is important to me and my future”.
Colantonio (left) is passing the leadership of the company over to partner and co-director Harvey Smith (right). However, he is not stepping back completely. He writes that he will ” be around for as long as necessary to ensure a smooth transition to the new management team in Lyon”. The announcement however does not state that Colantonio is leaving the games industry. Instead Colantonio writes that he will be joining fans as “Arkane Studios’ biggest supporter”. This suggests that even having stepped down, the now-former president will never be far.
It is understandable that after 18 years, it is hard for Colantonio to truly leave Arkane Studios. After starting his career in the industry by winning a competition to work at a newly-opened EA office in France, he left, disillusioned with the transition EA had made to focusing on sports titles, to found his own studio. With three friends and money from his uncle, he founded Arkane Studios in Lyon in 1999. The company went on to release its first game, Arx Fatalis, in 2002. However, until the last five years the studio consistently had problems securing publishers and deals that fit into Colantonio’s vision. As such, rather than publishing a sequel to Arx Fatalis, Arkane Studios instead had to fit their gameplay into publisher Ubisoft’s Might and Magic franchise with the title Dark Messiah in 2006.
If these early days weren’t Colantonio’s “hard times” then he likely means the period when notable projects with Valve and Stephen Spielberg fell through. The result was Arkane having to take on additional roles for other developers such as Call of Duty: World at War’s multiplayer as well as design, art and animation for Bioshock 2. During this time, Colantonio had also moved to Austin, Texas to set up Arkane Studios’ Austin office. It was there that he met Harvey Smith, who joined in 2008 as part of the development of Dishonored.
The pre-release buzz surrounding Dishonored attracted Bethesda’s Todd Vaughn, and Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media acquired Arkane Studios in 2010. Bethesda has published all Arkane Studios games since: Dishonored, its 2016 sequel and Prey, all to critical acclaim. In his message, Colantonio makes note of joining ZeniMax as a turning point for Arkane. He writes “ZeniMax enabled us to make the best games that we’ve ever made”.
Ultimately, you have to recognise Raphael Colantonio for his contribution and commitment to gaming. His determination and unwavering love for what he was doing has created some truly great games.