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2K Silicon Valley studio becomes 31st Union and expands to Spain

“We want to identify opportunities where they haven't traditionally existed for underrepresented voices”

2K's Silicon Valley studio has been branded 31st Union.

The development firm will also open an office in Spain.

31st Union was formed last year by former EA and Activision development veteran Michael Condrey (best known for Dead Space and Call of Duty) to work on an entirely new IP. The company says that the new name was picked to 'represent the spirit of California'.

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The new 31st Union logo

"The team ended up generating well over 1,000 potential names," Condrey tells GamesIndustry.biz. "In the end, we chose 31st Union to represent the spirit of California -- the 31st state to join the Union in 1850 -- and our home in the San Francisco Bay Area. We live in an amazing place that is rich in diversity of thought, music, culture, and the arts, and it's set against the backdrop of many great leaders in technology, innovation and interactive entertainment."

He continues: "Our team has grown quickly but thoughtfully over the past year, with just over 50 developers now in our Silicon Valley studio. That number will continue to grow this year, and we will begin developing our studio in Spain very soon."

When we spoke to Condrey last year, he said that diversity and inclusivity was central to his vision for the studio. And the firm has introduced measures to try and attract a wide variety of staff. Yet the process will take time, the firm says.

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Brooke Grabrian

"In our first meeting, Michael and I talked about what it meant to build a diverse and inclusive team -- and why it was important for 31st Union," says head of talent Brooke Grabrian.

"We agreed to pursue a vision for sustainable impact that could change the landscape of development teams and, by extension, the games they create. We want to identify opportunities where they haven't traditionally existed for underrepresented voices and be a leader for the industry in working toward -- and ideally achieving -- these goals.

"The team, from inception, has been passionate about a shared vision of rich representation in the studio, which means the team is willing to do the work to get there."

Brooke Grabrian, 31st Union

"While 31st Union is born out of a mission and set of core values paramount to the studio, we also recognize this vision will take long-term effort. We've started by being introspective, and talk regularly about unconscious bias, how we measure talent, what criteria we're using to evaluate skills, and how we write job descriptions. The team, from inception, has been passionate about a shared vision of rich representation in the studio, which means the team is willing to do the work to get there."

Condrey adds: "We want to recruit and foster team members eager to speak their truths but also who show up authentically, take risks, and push past their limits in an environment supportive of independent thinking and creative freedom. In addition, you may recall we hired Suzanne Lettrick last year as our Director of People and Culture Development. Suzanne's influence in creating healthy dialogue, facilitating communication, prioritizing health and wellness, pushing outside of comfort zones and reminding us to celebrate our successes has been instrumental in building 31st Union into a place we believe can help redefine the vision and function of a game development studio."

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Michael Condrey

That studio will now include an office in Spain, making it the fourth 2K office (after Cloud Chamber, Hangar 13 and Visual Concepts) to be based ins multiple locations.

"Expanding internationally fuels both the creative and production process, and it enables us to incorporate a global array of thoughts, ideas and cultural perspectives in a meaningful way," Condrey explains. "We also believe crafting an experience that resonates with players of all backgrounds is best done from the ground up, and we know there are many amazing developers who call Spain home."

And more locations may follow, Condrey says. "We are actively exploring a number of different locations, which will be based on need as we continue evaluating our development roadmap, but today we are confirming plans for an office in Spain and are focused on getting that location up and running. We will have more to share in the future as we continue growing our team."

"We are actively exploring a number of different locations, which will be based on need as we continue evaluating our development roadmap."

Michael Condrey, 31st Union

When we spoke last year, Condrey said that everything was on the table in terms of the new IP the firm is looking to create -- any genre, business model, distribution model or platform. Some of that has been nailed down, but Condrey remains coy over what to expect.

"We're still in preproduction, but this is the most ambitious project I've ever been a part of, and many opportunities are on the table to drive us forward," he explains. "We started this adventure to take a moon-shot, and the team is impassioned to deliver an experience that thrills fans across the globe."

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Tyler Michaud

Head of Strategy Tyler Michaud continues: "Our studio has been empowered to take a fresh approach to everything from game design to platforms to community engagement.

"Our ambition is to create a game that changes the way people play and think about interactive entertainment. Crafting a new experience that everyone can enjoy, no matter who they are or where they live, is at the forefront of our current development process. Putting fans first is also something we talk about regularly. That commitment is shared by everyone at the studio, and it guides our thinking on everything from creative authenticity to platform specs."

"Our team is committed to building an entertainment experience that can evolve and endure over time."

Tyler Michaud, 31st Union

Michaud adds that the entire studio is being built with the new IP in mind. "Our team is ambitious and committed to building an entertainment experience that can evolve and endure over time, as well as potentially transcend many avenues of entertainment media."

31st Union is Condrey's third role leading a team for a major games publisher, having previously worked for Electronic Arts and Activision. 2K operates a bit differently to those giants, with the firm adopting an independent studio model where it gives each development team the autonomy and freedom to build the games it wants how it wants.

"All three are very successful publishers in their own individual ways," Condrey concludes. "I've had the opportunity to learn from so many incredible developers over the years, and I'm incredibly grateful to now call 2K home. The label and our parent company in Take-Two both embody the values of autonomy and responsibility at the developer level, with a shared belief that empowered teams that are passionate about their vision will deliver incredible experiences for fans.

"I love the freedom and responsibility that Strauss [Zelnick] and David [Ismailer], respectively at Take-Two and 2K, have granted 31st Union. It's an organization known to take bold risks, and we look forward to pushing the industry forward with their full support."

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