French indie developer Dontnod Entertainment, best known for developing the widely beloved Life is Strange series, has announced it’s opening a new studio in Montréal, Canada. This will be the developer’s first North American studio.
“We are delighted to share our plans of expansion with the opening of this new office in Montréal, completing the talented team working out of Paris,” said Dontnod CEO Oskar Guilbert. The team working out of Paris consists of approximately 250 employees.
“Our goal is to create video games as close as possible to our community’s expectations. With this new international team, we will be able to envision even more ambitious titles and keep writing wonderful stories for our players.”
The studio is currently hiring to begin work on a new, unannounced project. In a statement, the studio said it is looking to hire a diverse staff in order to create games that reflect that diversity. This will make the third project the studio is publicly working on, along with Twin Mirror and Tell Me Why—both of which are slated to release at some point this year.
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I’m extremely happy to hear this last point regarding diversity. While Dontnod Entertainment has developed titles like Remember Me and Vampyr, it’s certainly most known for developing the episodic Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2. The former came out before I began writing in the industry, but its exploration of queerness between women was pivotal to my coming out as a bisexual woman. As for the latter, I’ve personally covered it extensively since its release, highlighting the game’s importance during the time of its release, unprecedented humanization of Latinx people in video game stories, depiction of the complexities of queerness, discussions on the different ways racism manifests, and refreshing portrayal of themes related to motherhood.
I also interviewed series writer Christian Divine on one of the franchise’s core focuses, which is empathy. And, I interviewed Life is Strange co-director Michel Koch on storytelling authority in today’s political climate, covering who gets to tell which stories, how the studio tackled the sensitive themes of the game, and why it’s crucial for the leads at Dontnod Entertainment to create these kinds of stories. In other words: I’ve written a lot on Life is Strange 2.
I would be dubious about a statement on diversity from most studios. But, from my conversations with various leads and through being a longtime fan of the studio’s work, I know I can trust the developers to do their best. This doesn’t mean they’ll do things perfectly by any means—but, judging from the amount of care they have put into their past projects, I anticipate new important and well-written stories as much as the writing that will come out of them from various games writers.
I’m particularly looking forward to Tell Me Why, the studio’s next episodic project. The story will be released over the course of three episodes and will focus on a mystery surrounding twins Alyson and Tyler Ronan. Tyler has been confirmed to be transgender, with Dontnod Entertainment saying in a press release that it worked closely with LGTBQ+ advocacy group GLAAD to make sure that Tyler is an authentic representation of the trans experience.
While that remains to be seen and the trans experience is different for every individual, it’s been acknowledged as a step forward for the kinds of stories the industry is willing to tell. Tyler has also been confirmed to be voiced by trans actor August Black. The game is slated for a summer 2020 release, but with COVID-19, it’s unknown as to whether it’s still on schedule. Though, considering all the gaming events in the near future, we’ll hopefully be hearing more of it soon.