Game developers Gigante move into expanded space; grow to 35 staffers

Well into development on their second major game release, Studio Gigante ? the former “Mortal Kombat” development team ? moved to 13,000-sq. ft. space at 4621 N. Ravenswood, triple the size of its former West Loop space.

The move was motivated when Gigante landed a contract to develop a game series for an undisclosed software publisher. “I can’t say much about it right now,” said Josh Tsui, VP/partner. “But it’s considered one of the largest and most successful franchises around in any media. We find ourselves extremely fortunate to be a part of it.”

The new, loft-like space occupies more than half the first floor of a “creative center” office building. Empty space next door will allow them to expand when other anticipated game business comes through.

“The biggest jump for us is the addition of our motion capture studio,” said Tsui. “We’re talking to vendors now about a purchase. “This is huge for us because we were flying to House of Moves in Los Angeles for our motion capture needs.”

Tsui founded Gigante in 2000 with three other local Midway Games colleagues who had worked together on Midway’s enormously successful “Mortal Kombat” franchise.

John Tobias is company president and lead game designer; Dave Michicich is VP/character modeling/design; Mark Penacho is VP/lead programmer; Tsui is in charge of environmental design for the games. They’ve since added two more partners, Nik Ehrlich and Richard Ho, also from Midway.

The new studio quickly landed a Microsoft contract to develop a game for its Xbox system. “It was a situation of great timing for all parties concerned,” Tsui commented. “We quickly went from four people to 24 to get the project done on time and on budget.”

Last March, Microsoft released Gigante’s martial arts game, “Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus” to boffo sales, Tsui said.

Gigante currently employs 35, one-third of them programmers and the others modelers, texture map artists, animators and concept artists. Gigante currently develops only Xbox games but plans to branch out to other consoles in the future, Tsui noted. It is one of only eight game developers in a region that once boasted more than 20.

All video is handled in-house, and sound and music elements are outsourced. Hiring was outsourced from start, as experienced qualified game industry artists are hard to find. Tsui estimated that 25-30% of the present staff came from the West Coast.

“We’re getting more and more used to our roles as not just creatives, but also as managers, something that took us a while to develop,” he acknowledged.

“The big picture goal is to be able to have multiple teams working on different projects. We’re slowly building towards that goal and hope to achieve that milestone very soon.”

Studio Gigante’s phone number is 773/334-7881. See www.studiogigante.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com.

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