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Westwood Studios (French Trafalgar, British Waterloo)

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Westwood Studios
Former type Publisher, Developer
Founded 1984
Headquarters Reno, California, United States
Employment 6,900


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Westwood Studios (NYSE: WES) is one of the largest video game companies in North America and the world, headquartered in Reno, California. Developer of the famous Command & Conquer series of Real Time Military games, as well as adventure and role-playing games based off of popular media franchises including movies and books, and simulation games, including the popular franchises SimCity, Mass Effect, and Ultima. As of 2012, Westwood products hold a 14% share of the entire video game market according to some analysts.

History

Founded by a group of artists and programmers in 1984 in the aftermath of the Video Game Crash of 1982, Westwood Studios began with the production of their first game Lands of Yore, an adventure game. What made this game unique was its graphics and story: the mantra for the company was and still is to encourage artists to join, as anyone can be taught to program and game, but very few have the talent to make it look good. From this start, Westwood began to turn out three or four games a year from the main Reno Studio.

Their biggest gamble was in 1994, with the release of the first Command & Conquer. Set in an alternate history past when the Dual Powers Conflict became a war, the game was spellbinding in its story, graphics and unique gameplay that no one had seen before, and that Westwood coined "Real Time Military" (RTM). Further expansions and sequels would cement C&C's status as one of the premier gaming franchises in the world.

In 1998, SimCity developer Maxis was purchased by Westwood for over $87 million dollars, and, unlike other studios, made a commitment to keep as many programmers from Maxis on board as possible. Maxis CEO and Founder Will Wright was kept in charge, and except for a few products that were considered inferior being scrapped, the the new "Westwood-Maxis" studio was given freedom to pursue what it wanted. In 2000, the next installment of the SimCity series, SimCity 3000, hit store shelves and made back almost twice the amount that Westwood purchased Maxis for. Westwood-Maxis continues to make simulation games, including the upcoming SimCity in March 2013.

In 2003, the announced partnership with up and coming developer Valve to form a joint partnership, where both companies retained their independence, but shared resources and personal and even intellectual property between the two. This lead to Valve making the popular First Person Shooter Command and Conquer game Renegade, and Westwood developing a popular RTM based off of the Half-Life series of games, Half-Life: Opposing Force. This partnership has also resulted in the development of the Steam service in 2005, where developers can directly sell their games to the consumer without the need to go through a publisher. The first titles for Steam included Command & Conquer 4: Battle for Earth and Valve's Half-Life 2.

In 2005, Westwood bought St. Louis based game developer Origin Interactive, maker of well received Role Playing Games, and, other than being renamed "Westwood Missouri," mostly maintained its former shape. In 2007, another studio, this time Bioware in Vancouver, Alyseka, was brought under Westwood's wing, and continued to produce popular FPS and Action-Adventure games such as Mass Effect and Ultima, still under the Bioware label.

Westwood Studios was restructured in 2008, with Westwood Missouri being closed down due to high costs, with many of the staff invited to Reno to work under the original Westwood. While many fans cried foul, especially as this came right on the heels of the mediocre performance of Sword of Ali, Westwood maintains that the game had no factor in the decision, and that the planning to close the studio was already months ahead in planning. The other part of the restructuring was the establishment of publishing duties in-house, though mostly with a focus on small publishers and the Steam platform.

In 2009, leaked rumors of an MMO being produced by Westwood Studios in Reno was confirmed, and Above and Beyond was announced later that year. However, after an internal review, the project was placed on hold in 2011, and no news of the current status of the project has been revealed.

Westwood Studios announced on July 8, 2011, the acquisition of Assiniboian developer True North Entertainment, which became True North Westwood. The developer of both shooters, sports games and some mobile games was considered a smart investment by economists, allowing Westwood a larger hold in genre's that they haven't had success in before. However, gamers and critics claim that Westwood is becoming the next ACE Games, working to establish a monopoly in the industry.

After the disappointing results of Command & Conquer: New Beginning in 2009 and the so-called "expanded stories" to tie into the series, further C&C RTM games were put on hold except Valve's Renegade 2, but answering questions at the VGA 2011, Westwood Vice President of Development Sam Katz answered that further games in the C&C franchise was being put on "hiatus" for an indefinite amount of time, responding later in a written statement: "We at Westwood believe that, while there are further avenues of story telling we could go on about, we feel that it is time to start developing new IP's, and share new stories and new experiences for our dedicated and loyal fans." However, in late 2012 a new Command & Conquer universe was announced based on the modern world with the defensive oriented French Empire, a technologically advanced America, and the hit-and-run tactic fictional terrorist group. Uniquely, the game was announced with an episodic format, which will allow new factions, story lines and units to be added.

Development Studios

  • Westwood Studios; Reno, California: 1984-present
  • Westwood-Maxis; Roseville, California: 1998-present
  • Westwood Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri: 2005-2008
  • Bioware; Vancouver, Alyseka: 2007-present
  • True North Westwood; Wascana, Assiniboia: 2011-present

Games

  • Lands of Yore (1986)
  • Command & Conquer (1994)
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1995)
    • Command & Conquer: Covert Operations (1996)
  • Command & Conquer 2: Brotherhood Rising (1998)
    • Command & Conquer 2: Crisis on the Rhine (1999)
  • SimCity 3000 (1999)
  • Command & Conquer 3: First Contact (2001)
    • Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars (2002)
  • Command & Conquer 4: Battle for Earth (2004)
    • Command & Conquer: Kane's Wrath (2005)
  • SimCity 4 (2005)
  • Command & Conquer Renegade (Licensed to Valve, 2005)
  • Half Life: Opposing Force (Licensed from Valve, 2006)
  • Command & Conquer 5: Twilight War (2008)
  • Command & Conquer: New Beginning (2009)
  • Command & Conquer Renegade 2 (Licensed to Valve, 2010)
  • SimCity 5 (2013)

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