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|Proprietary limited company|
|Industry||Computer and video games|
|Founded||1994(as Tantalus Media)|
|Headquarters||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Tom Crago, CEO|
Joss Ellis, Director of Development
|Products||See complete products listing|
Number of employees
Tantalus Media (formerly Tantalus Interactive) is a video game developer based in Melbourne, Australia, founded in 1994 by former Beam Software programmers Trevor Nuridin, Tim Bennett and Andrew Bailey. In the mid 1990's Tantalus was partly owned by UK developer Perfect Entertainment, which secured contracts with Psygnosis for ports of their popular PlayStation games to the Sega Saturn. During this time, Tantalus was known as Tantalus Entertainment, but reverted to Tantalus Interactive after they became independent when separating from Perfect in 1998. Private investment then allowed the business to develop it's inhouse title 7th Gear to the point it was able to secure a contract from Akklaim to use the game engine for a "kart" style game with the South Park license. The company changed its name to Tantalus Media in 2007 following a hostile buy out from then CEO Tom Crago and an investment from private equity company Netus. In 2010 following the completion of the DS & PSP title Megamind: The blue defender, CEO Tom Crago re-acquired the business from Netus.
Tantalus Media are best known for licensed platform conversions and have created over 45 games for platforms as such as Xbox, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and PC, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Nintendo Switch and iOS.
Initially Tantalus were best known for porting games from the PlayStation and arcade to the Sega Saturn. Their first original title was South Park Rally, completed for all four platforms of the time in eighteen months. The fast pipeline was largely attributed to the already existing in house title - 7th Gear. The development team at Tantalus worked on their first handheld game released ATV Quad Power Racing for the Game Boy Advance another title Woody Woodpecker: Crazy Castle 5 also developed concurrently was delayed by Kemco to July 2002 (interesting this title saw the return of director Trevor Nuridin to coding taking the lead role in its development), and they released Space Race, their first PS2 game, that same year. They used two cross-platform engines: CRIS for handhelds, with skinned mesh rendering, and the Mercury Engine for new generation consoles in its early years.
CRIS (Character Render Interactive System) was developed by CTO Andrew Bailey following discussions with studio producers Stephen Handbury and Arthur Kakouris for use on the Game Boy Advance (GBA). Using a unique procedure, it was able to render 3D mesh on the handheld system. CRIS was used mainly in the 2003 GBA title Top Gear Rally. Released to critical acclaim, it showed the power of a system at it peak, while raising the bar for racing games on hand-held systems. Tantalus won 'Best Game' at the 2003 Australian Game Developer Awards in Melbourne for its effort.
In addition to licensed video games, the developer released two original titles, Trickstar and Black Market Bowling. In 2005, Tantalus' had two prominent original IP titles that did not managed to attract publisher interest. Metal Shell was developed into a playable demo, originally a vehicle shoot-em-up on the PlayStation 2 in 2003, the feature making it popular was deformable terrain as vehicles and shells exploded. In 2005, new concepts and a short promotional video were developed in-house by the art team, shown at E3 that year it was promoted as a Battlefield 1942-type game, set in the future. However, the 2003 promotional video was seen by players of the Toronto-based games producer Longbow Digital Arts 'Treadmarks' tank combat and racing game, and several issues were flagged up, leading to graphical comparisons drawn in a side-by-side fashion; they were incredibly alike, in one case down to exact sprite design. Tom Crago was contacted directly on the issue and denied any infer of 'copying' (or trying to copy) Treadmarks, despite Tantalus holding Treadmarks source material. Archived video footage of both titles can be found and compared on YouTube.
Anaka was first pitched as a jump n' run title for the Game Boy Advance in 2003, while only a document existed featuring loose details. In 2005 an animation feature short was made with the help of Act3animation as part of a pilot for television. In 2006, a touch-only Nintendo DS demo was created. Players could control the character indirectly by touching the screen where they wanted them to go. It was a mix between a jump n' run and a traditional adventure game.
The developer's best performing title was the 2007 girl's horse riding simulator Pony Friends for the Nintendo DS, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the largest-selling single-format game developed in Australia. Previous work on the Sony Playstation developing the title Mary-Kate and Ashley Winners Circle (Akklaim) (the "massive world" technology developed by Andrew Bailey for Winners Circle was largely wasted on a branded title and an aging system) and Equestriad 2001 (Midas) had given the studio the background experience and tools to develop the title.  By 2008, Tantalus was running two studios, and during that time the studio worked on Cars Race-O-Rama and MX Reflex for the Nintendo DS and PSP, as well as Pony Friends 2 for the Wii & Nintendo DS, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole for the latter system. Shortly after completion of Cars Race-o-Rama in 2009, the Brisbane studio started work on the company's first digitally distributed title, Drift Street International, for the Nintendo DSi. Meanwhile, the Melbourne office began work on Megamind for PSP and DS, while also prototyping demos for 360, iPhone, and PS3.
In the decade since, Tantalus briefly re-branded to Straight Right, relocated its entire studio and underwent a number of changes which despite keeping the business branding of 'Tantalus' to this day, heralded a radical change for the developer. During this time Tantalus Media dabbled in some touch-gaming development and largely returned to its former self- a studio dedicated to porting on Nintendo platforms.
Tantalus' first office was in Queen Street in Melbourne's CBD from 1994 to 2000. They then moved to 'The Tea House' at South Wharf, Victoria in South Melbourne where they stayed until late 2011. In December 2011, they relocated their headquarters to Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne. In December 2008, Tantalus established an office in Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, supporting a small team to increase development capacity. At that time Tantalus employed just over 70 staff across the two offices, with 5 titles in production across 5 platforms. The studios were equipped to handle mutable projects, with 3-4 titles were being developed at any one time.
During the last half of 2009, due to a shift in the games industry in Australia, Tantalus Media closed its Brisbane office, while also making much of the staff in the Melbourne office redundant. During the first half of 2010 the company was reduced to a staff of under 18, at a time when many Australian development studios were closing. By December 2012, the company was in development of two new titles and is currently focusing on digital distribution, developing for the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, iPhone/iPad and Android devices.