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Crystal Dynamics is an American video game developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was acquired by Eidos Interactive, a British video game publisher, in 1998, and is still part of the Eidos group. Eidos Interactive has been subsequently acquired by British entertainment company SCi in 2005.
Crystal Dynamics was formed in mid-1992 by Sega veterans Judy Lange (sales and acting CEO), Madeline Canepa (marketing) and Dave Morse (Amiga). Crystal was the first licensed developer for 3DO, a gaming hardware platform simultaneously funded by Kleiner Perkins.
In 1993 Strauss Zelnick, then president of 20th Century Fox's film studio, was hired to run Crystal Dynamics. This made national news and helped to touch off the frenzy of multimedia investments of the mid-1990s.
3DO's launch during the 1993 Christmas season was a commercial failure, undermining Crystal's one-platform software strategy. Zelnick, Lange and Mark Cerny all resigned at about this time.
The next strategy was to become a leading publisher for two new 32-bit, 3D-capable consoles, the Sony PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Randy Komisar was hired away from LucasArts in 1994 to replace Zelnick as CEO. Crystal Dynamics expanded to a staff of 140, and shipped some of the world's first PlayStation and Saturn games for Christmas 1994. However, losses continued to mount.
Sony Computer Entertainment of America, which had the power to set both retail price and cost of goods for licensed publishers of Playstation games, dictated a reduced retail price for such games. This reduced the contribution margin of Crystal Dynamics games to a point where the company could not make money on its existing sales and cost structure.
In May 1996, with more than $80m gone and no route to profitability in sight, Kleiner Perkins pulled the plug on the publishing strategy laid out two years earlier. Komisar and most senior management resigned within a few days, and forty percent of the staff was laid off. Crystal was recast as a boutique game developer, and buyers were sought. Eidos finally bought the firm in 1998.
Crystal Dynamics has developed games both for the PC and for various consoles. At one time, Crystal Dynamics was also a publisher; mostly publishing games that it had developed itself. However, it also published several games developed by other companies.
Crystal Dynamics had been most well known for developing the Legacy of Kain and Gex series, but in 2003 the studio was entrusted the development of the best-selling Tomb Raider franchise after original developer Core Design failed to gain critical or commercial success with their later Tomb Raider games, and released in 2006 its first game in the series, Tomb Raider: Legend, which was the fastest selling game in the entire series, with more than 2.6 million units sold worldwide. Crystal Dynamics recently co-developed Tomb Raider: Anniversary with developer Buzz Monkey Software. Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a remake of the first Tomb Raider game from 1996, was released in June 2007. The next instalment, Tomb Raider Underworld, was released on November 2008 on next-generation consoles.
As of April 2, 2007 Crystal Dynamics is now located in Redwood City at 1300 Seaport Blvd. The company left its Menlo Park location after 9 years as it had outgrown its office space. Crystal Dynamics shares its new office space with Eidos's North American office which had previously been located in San Francisco before April 2, 2007.