Something that’s well known among Australian devs, but maybe not so much among the broader gaming public, is that Activision has always had a small crew of folk down under. But that’s not enough for the Call of Duty conglomerate, who in a new interview revealed their massive ambitions for their Melbourne office — and some real interesting tidbits along the way.
First of all, let’s appreciate just how many people Activision wants to hire. A story in the Australian Financial Review‘s commercial section says they’re hoping to ramp up from six staff to 120 by the end of 2021:
“It already employs six coders in the city. They support another studio, but this new studio will be a full operation in its own right that will employ 120 people – coders, sound engineers, artists, game developers and a leadership team – by year-end.”
That by itself is not completely new — Sledgehammer Games said they were hiring Melbourne staff last year. But that was amidst the nightmare of the coronavirus pandemic. The real key is that Activision’s plans haven’t changed despite the nightmare of 2020 — especially given the extensive multi-month lockdown Melbourne endured.
It does, however, mean competition in Melbourne is going to be real tight. Sledgehammer will be targeting the same bucket of talent as the rapidly expanding League of Geeks (backed with their secret new project), EA’s Firemonkeys, the recently-ASX listed PlaySide Studios, Big Ant (which was just bought out by Nacon for $54.8 million deal, and has plans of its own to grow to 200 staff), the exceedingly talented mobile developers Mountains, Hipster Whale, Untitled Goose Game developers House House, Tantalus Games (which has recently worked on the Age of Empires Definitive Edition games), Krome Studios (Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series, and the Xbox port of Wasteland Remastered) and countless more.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Activision navigates the expertise issue: Australia doesn’t tend to have a lot of specialists thanks to the nature of how large studios are here.
But, that’s Activision’s problem to navigate. One problem they weren’t prepared to deal with, unfortunately, was Sydney. The studio reportedly considered setting up shop here, but it would have been too inconvenient for the amount of talent they wanted to hire. “Melbourne is where the talent we were looking for was,” Simon Parfitt, Activision’s head of international real estate operations, said.
And despite the pandemic, the office won’t be cheap. From April, the Sledgehammer Australian office will run out of the third level of 68 Clarke Street, South Melbourne. That building, according to the AFR, costs “in the high $500-per-square-metre range”.
A quick search online reveals that the third floor has 1,550 square metres available. After some quick napkin math, that puts the cost of the office into at least the high hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s obviously a very small piece of the actual cost of setting up a new office — there’s also ongoing power, internet, burn rates per employees, office basics and all other sorts of expenses — but it’s a strong indication of how seriously Activision is taking this.
You can read the rest of the interview over at the AFR, although the majority of the story is from the perspective of the design firm and not Activision themselves. Still, it’s an interesting look into what might hopefully be a new wave of investment by major publishers. The piece also doesn’t detail whether the Victorian government are helping the new office get started in any way. But given that they put $33.8 million into screen industries just a few months ago, I imagine the local screen bodies are doing everything they can.