EA Australia’s two big Melbourne studios, Iron Monkey and Firemint, have recently merged their operations to become the Firemonkeys. The two studios already shared offices, with the Firemint team moving to the St Kilda Road building that housed Iron Monkey not long after their acquisition from EA, so one could argue that such a step was long since on the cards.
“Both of these studios have produced award-winning games and we believe combining the incredible talent pool in Melbourne, as well as leveraging the EA brand sets us up for further success in the mobile arena”, says Tony Lay, General Manager of the new studio, and former head of Iron Monkey. Both studios have a history of great mobile development, with the Iron Monkeys responsible for the flawed yet fun Mirror’s Edge, and Dead Space, while Firemint has produced the insanely popular Flight Control series, alongside Real Racing 3. “IronMonkey and Firemint have solid reputations for producing well-known games and we are excited to have the opportunity to share best practices, technology and resources.” adds Rob Murray, Executive Producer of Firemint Studios. This merger makes the Firemonkeys the biggest game development studio in Melbourne, and one of the largest in Australia.
The biggest question here is how the new studio will incorporate the different IP’s from the old studios together. The most obvious example of this is the conflict between NFS and Real Racing: being two of the largest racing franchises in gaming, it will be interesting to see if both survive the merge, or whether one of the licences will be rested on the mobile platform. There is also the chance of redundancies, however, at the time of posting, no reports of job losses have been made public.
Either way, this news is positive for the local dev scene, which has seen many large scale closures and redundancies over the last few years. While we have a fairly large “indie” development community, large publisher backed studios have suffered, due to the strong Australian dollar and console development costs, making the decision by EA a welcome change from the recent gloomy norm.