Iowa City Press-Citizen: Activision Buys Local Game-Maker

Monday, January 5, 2009

WEB NOTE:  Isaac Burns, managing partner of Budcat Creations, earned a BS degree in mechanical engineering from The University of Iowa in 1996.

By Chris Rhatigan
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Since Budcat Creations LLC moved to Iowa City in 2006, the company has exploded, going from six to 59 employees.

And the world's largest video game-maker, Activision Blizzard, took notice of that success. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company purchased Budcat recently in a deal that will allow the smaller publisher to stay in Iowa City.

Budcat has made hit games such as "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock," several editions of the Madden franchise and "Medal of Honor: Vanguard." The company has designed games for PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Game Boy Advance and Xbox.

Budcat was started in Las Vegas in 2000. Six years later, brothers Jeremy and Jason Andersen and Isaac Burns decided to move the company to Iowa City, an area with deep roots for all three.

The Andersen brothers grew up in Iowa City and Burns graduated from Highland High School in Riverside.

Jeremy Andersen said that he and Jason wanted to return to Iowa City because it seemed like a good place to raise a family.

He said that although there's a bias in the industry in favor of the East and West coasts, Budcat has found that talented people are willing to come to Iowa City.

"We're successful because of our employees," Jeremy Andersen said. He described the Budcat team as "very talented and very passionate about software development."

Grant Poock , a producer for Budcat, applied for a job three years ago by knocking on the back door at the Budcat office. He said that his persistence helped land him a job at the video game developer.

Poock said that ever since he was a kid, he's analyzed how video games are constructed.

"This is exactly what I've been wanting to do," he said.

Although developing video games is something that Jeremy Andersen said he enjoys, there's a misconception that all developers do is play video games.

"We have a large team of engineers and artists working together," he said. "It involves really, really long hours."

Jeremy Andersen said the purchase will have a positive impact. He said that Activision won't change Budcat's management style and will provide them with greater resources.

He said he could not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Poock said Activision has a track record of allowing smaller publishers that they acquire to maintain their independence.