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​Saints Row developer threatened to leave Champaign — until the city gave it $200K

Above: No word on whether Volition used head-embiggening rays to get what it wanted from the City of Champaign.

Image Credit: Volition

The gang of people responsible for the Third Street Saints is growing.

Saints Row studio Volition is looking to hire 100 new developers after securing thousands in aid from the local government. The company also has plans to remodel its headquarters in Champaign, Ill., according to its request for assistance from the City of Champaign (as first spotted by Illinois newspaper The News-Gazette). In mid April, Volition asked the city to provide $200,000 for construction as well as $1,000 for every new employee it hires. The city eventually agreed to spend up to $150,000 on renovations and $1,000 for every additional employee with a ceiling of $200,000 on total spending. In its paperwork, the studio noted that it would look for a new location outside of Champaign if it didn’t get the money.

That sounds like a classic Johnny Gat move right there.

Volition will use the influx of cash to completely redesign its office space and rebuild its Internet-server room. According to its documentation, this will retrofit Volition’s space to meet its “current needs” and to prepare for incoming new hires.

At the end of 2013, Volition had 212 people on its staff with an average salary of $81,000. If it is able to grow as it intends, it should soon employ over 300 people.

The company most recently released Saints Row IV for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2013. The open-world crime game performed well for the studio and publisher Deep Silver. As it is bulking up its staff, the developer is obviously preparing for its next major game, but it has not made any announcements about what it is working on.

We’ve reached out to Volition and Deep Silver for comment. We’ll update this post with any new information.

Few in Champaign are complaining

In January 2013, German entertainment conglomerate Koch Media purchased Volition as part of the bankruptcy proceedings for defunct publisher THQ. Koch’s game-publishing label Deep Silver now oversees Volition. The developer’s general manager, Dan Cermak, told city officials that the only way he could justify keeping his studio in downtown Champaign to Deep Silver is if it gets assistance from the city.

Volition applied for the grant from Champaign in April. Later that month, some city officials publicly backed the plan after voicing fears about what would happen if Volition left the downtown area.

“I think it would be very significant,” Champaign planning and development director Bruce Knight said during a city council meeting in April. “The reality is that downtown is still fragile. It’s not a marketplace that can completely survive on its own.”

Volition’s original lease was up in May, according to its application. If it exited downtown, that wouldn’t just leave two floors of Champaign’s One Main development empty, but it would also have put an end to 200-plus well-paid developers visiting other local establishments in the heart of the city.

During the April city council meeting, the owners of several local Champaign establishments wrote in support of the financial aid. The city’s mayor, Don Gerard, read their remarks during the gathering.

“I put my business into One Main because I knew Volition was going to be in there,” said Jeff Brandt, the owner of restaurant in the same building as the game developer. “They have literally a daily effect on my business.”

After approving the deal, The News-Gazette, which is Champaign’s local newspaper, published an op-ed that said deals like these involving private business and taxpayer subsidies are a “fact of life” and that complaining about them is “almost a pointless endeavor.” The paper went on to say that Volition and Champaign came to a “mutually beneficial plan that simultaneously keeps Volition where it wants to be and boosts long-standing city efforts to build a thriving downtown.”

As gamers, let’s just hope that the next Saints Row has a mission where we get to threaten to leave the city unless the local government gives us some cold hard cash for every gang member we recruit.

More information:

Deep Silver is Koch Media's video game label. Founded in 2002, it has published and co-published some major titles. Deep Silver develops and distributes interactive games for all platforms. The Deep Silver label means to captivate a... read more »

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