Buena Vista Games Acquires Salt Lake Game Developer

Buena Vista Games Acquires Salt Lake Game Developer

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Buena Vista Games, Walt Disney's interactive entertainment division, has announced it will buy Avalanche Software LC, a Salt Lake City-based video game development company.

Buena Vista also announced Tuesday that it plans a second development studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Terms of the deal for Avalanche were not released Tuesday, but Avalanche President John Blackburn said the cash deal was "something less than $50 million," and will allow him, other managers and 115 employees to stay on board and remain in Utah.

"The main thing that will change is that we were independent developers, doing games for multiple clients, and now we will be doing games only for Buena Vista," he said.

Blackburn, a native of Bountiful, Utah, helped found Avalanche in 1995. The company's game titles include "Mortal Kombat," "Tak and the Power of Juju," "Dragonball Z Sagas: Evolution" and the upcoming "25 to Life."

Avalanche also is developing "Disney's Chicken Little" video games, based on Walt Disney Pictures' animated feature film scheduled for release in November.

"The plan is that not only is everybody going to stay, but we've got some growth plans for the future," Blackburn said. "Right now we've got 31/2 game teams. We will fill that out to a fourth team, so about 150 people (total) ... over the next two years.

"Part of the contract is that we get to keep it here. One of the reasons for that is, strategically, there's a bunch of different cities that are video game development hubs, and Salt Lake City is one of those, so Disney wants a presence here."

Buena Vista, based in Burbank, Calif., said the new Vancouver studio will be run by former Electronic Arts developers that created the "NBA Street" and "Def Jam" franchises. The studio has more than 20 game developers.

Tuesday's actions "mark a significant milestone in becoming a top-tier video-game publisher by securing the industry's top talent to build and create game franchises," said Graham Hopper, Buena Vista general manager.

"Avalanche Software has a proven track record of creating high quality console games based on its own compelling content and some of the industry's top brands, and is a perfect fit for our Disney-based franchises," he said.

Avalanche will continue to operate under its current name for now, but Blackburn expects there eventually will be a name change as part of an expected Buena Vista branding campaign.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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