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Ex-Tomb Raider boss Smith's latest studio enters administration

Crush Digital seeking buyers; all staff made redundant; administrator "confident" of deal

Nottingham-based developer Crush Digital, headed by former Core Design boss Adrian Smith and industry veteran Martin Carr, has been placed into administration, GamesIndustry.biz can reveal.

ReSolve Partners LLP, based in London, has been appointed as administrator and earlier today confirmed the news. Cameron Gunn, a partner in the firm, said that Crush was formally placed into administration on March 24, adding: "Unfortunately all employees were made redundant on Monday, 16-odd in total."

The studio had an office in the Icon Business Centre in Sherwood Park, Nottingham, with a receptionist this morning confirming that the company was "not based in this building any longer".

Sources close to the studio said that management had informed employees that the studio was seeking a buyer, with "three potential suitors" said to be interested. Gunn confirmed that ReSolve was "marketing the business and assets to potential buyers. Several offers were received which we're exploring". He added that the firm was "reasonably confident that a deal can be done," expecting to be "in a position to make an announcement by the end of the week."

Crush Digital was founded in early 2007 by, according to its website, by "experienced industry professionals". The studio has maintained a low profile since opening and Smith's involvement was never officially announced, but the domain was registered in his name and multiple sources have since confirmed his involvement.

The studio's first title is Blended on DS, described as an "exciting new puzzle game all about mixing colours" and due to be published by 505 Games. GamesIndustry.biz has learned that development on the title began at Smith's previous company, CiRCLE Studio.

According to Crush's blog, last updated in August of last year, the game was originally due for release last September. GamesIndustry.biz was waiting for a statement from 505 Games at the time of writing, with the game currently still on release schedules for 2009.

According to a report by EM Media, the 'Regional Screen Agency for England’s East Midlands' and a declared investor in the studio, Crush was working on a further DS title called Beauty Salon, targeting the female market. Carr is quoted on EM Media's site as stating: "EM Media’s investment has allowed us not only to bring Beauty Salon to the gaming community, but to grow our business, secure quality staff members and secure future development contracts."

EM Media was unavailable for comment at the time of writing. ReSolve also managed the administration of fellow Nottingham developer Free Radical Design, and Gunn explained that, in spite of the tough economic conditions, there were "still players willing to put hands in pockets and take decent businesses forwards."

Adrian Smith, alongside brother Jeremy Heath-Smith, was one of the key figures in the Britsoft explosion of the 1990s. The pair founded Core Design, creator of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series, but left the boards of both Core and owner Eidos soon after the troubled launch of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness in the summer of 2003.

The brothers subsequently set-up CiRCLE Studio close to Core's offices in Derby, taking numerous staff with them. Circle released one videogame, Without Warning for PS2, before focusing on the interactive DVD market. Core Design staff and assets were acquired by Rebellion in 2006, while Circle went into liquidation in February 2007.

GamesIndustry.biz understands that former Circle employees joined Smith once again in Nottingham for his latest venture. Jeremy Heath-Smith is understood to be pursuing interests outside of the games industry.

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Johnny Minkley: Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.
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