DONTNOD Entertainment (stylized as DONTИOD) is an independent French video game development studio based in Paris and Montréal that specializes in narrative videogames, and the creator of the Life is Strange franchise. The studio created the original Life is Strange and its successor Life is Strange 2 as well as The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.
The studio was founded by Oskar Guilbert, Hervé Bonin, Aleksi Briclot, Alain Damasio and Jean-Maxime Moris on June 28[note 1], 2008, who previously worked for Criterion Games, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts.
Since working on Life is Strange, Dontnod self-describes as developing "AA" budget video games of popular genres such as adventure, action and RPG. The studio is structured in multiple teams, allowing different projects to be developed simultaneously. As of May 2020, the studio employs nearly 250 people which constitute four different development teams.
- Remember Me (2013)
- Life is Strange (2015, 5 episodes)
- Vampyr (2018)
- Captain Spirit (2018)
- Twin Mirror (2020, 3 episodes)
- Life is Strange 2 (2018-2019, 5 episodes)
- Tell Me Why (2020, 3 episodes)
- 5 undisclosed projects (2021+)
Their first game and AAA release was the third-person action brawler titled Remember Me. This game was published by Capcom in June 2013 and is an action-adventure sci-fi game based around a member of a resistance group looking to recover her lost memories. The game was originally called Adrift and was planned as an exclusive title for Sony's Playstation 3 console, but it was cancelled by Sony in 2011 due to budget constraints. The team had spent almost five years developing Remember Me, but its critical reception was mixed and it failed to hit commercial targets. As a result, Capcom never commissioned a sequel and Dontnod found itself in trouble. In January, 2014, it was reported that the studio had filed for bankruptcy. CEO Oskar Guilbert dismissed reports that the studio was bankrupt and stated that earlier financial issues were no longer a problem for the company as they started to work on "new projects" which required judicial reorganization and new investments. CEO Oskar Guilbert: "After Remember Me, the financial situation at Dontnod was very difficult. After that, we had to restructure the company and reinvent ourselves. Before, what we wanted to do was make big games with large teams and long production cycles... So we had to change that, do something smaller with smaller teams. We didn’t want to do just a small game, we also wanted to bring something new to the market, and we did it pretty well with Life is Strange."
Life is Strange is the studio's second game and breakthrough title, published by Square Enix. At the time, most prospective publishers were unwilling to publish the game unless it featured more action sequences or had a male protagonist due to "little sales potential", a problem they had already faced with their first title, Remember Me. CEO Oskar Guilbert had also challenged the idea at the start. Square Enix, who loved the game's storytelling element, was the only publisher that supported the project with no intention to change it. Originally, Dontnod had pitched a larger game to Square Enix that the publisher was not interested in, whereupon Dontnod chose to present their smaller narrative project What If?, which would later be retitled to Life is Strange.[note 2] Before signing with Square Enix, Life is Strange was imagined as a full-length video game that Dontnod would self-publish. However, the publisher surmised that it would be more successful as an episodic title. The episodic format, which had become a successful phenomenon through Telltale Games' releases, was adapted due to financial reasons as a "slow risk" approach, as well as marketing and creative reasons, allowing them to tell the story in its preferred slow pace. An episodic game about a young girl with rewind powers, it builds on a central mechanism from their first game, Remember Me, the memory remixes. Its first episode was released in January 2015; all five episodes were released by October 2015. Development on this game actually began in April 2013 with a small team of 15 people. This increased to a staff of 40 after a year when Square Enix stepped in to support production in June 2014.Two months after signing their publishing contract with Square Enix, Life Is Strange was announced for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC at Gamescom on August 11, 2014.
Life is Strange was the saving grace for Dontnod and improved the studio's situation immensely from two years ago. The episodic narrative-driven adventure game has won multiple awards and sold in huge numbers, thanks in part to the publishing efforts of Square Enix. Whereas prior to Life is Strange, Dontnot had to work hard to find a publisher, now publishers would reach out to the studio on their own for collaboration. "It has completely transformed Dontnod," according to Oskar Guilbert.
Since then, the studio has taken on various other narrative projects. Their third game, Vampyr, released on June 5th, 2018, published by Focus Home Interactive. Vampyr is a role-playing game set in 1918, London. Dr. Jonathan Reid, a pioneer in blood transfusion methods, recently returned from the front at the end of WWI and turned into a vampire. The game follows Jonathan as he investigates the Spanish flu epidemic (or what looks like it) and searches for who turned him and why; all the while he struggles between his thirst for blood and his Hippocratic Oath to cure people.
On July 27, 2016, the formation of Dontnod Eleven (formerly HeSaw) as a sister studio to Dontnod was announced, and that Dontnod helped them develop the side-scrolling shooter Battlecrew: Space Pirates. "The goal of our collaboration is to help those talented independent developers and benefit from their know-how", CEO Oskar Guilbert said.
Michel Koch said in an interview in July 2016 that they have two teams at Dontnod, one working on Vampyr and one working on an exciting unannounced game, which later turned out to be Life is Strange 2 and was revealed on May 18, 2017. It was also revealed that the new season has been in development since the release of the Limited Edition in January 2016.
On August 22, 2017, it was revealed a new partnership with Bandai Namco for the creation of a brand-new IP on a new narrative adventure experience that has been in development since 2016. The story was said to take place in a fictional city in the US and will include a "fair dose of investigation". This new title is developed by a new team of senior devs. Hervé Hoerdt, VP of marketing and digital at Bandai Namco, said that they are aiming for triple-A quality, an emotional experience with investigation and psychologically deep characters with their partnership with Dontnod. On June 8, the name was revealed to be Twin Mirror.
In June, 2017, it was announced that a prequel to Dontnod's Life is Strange was being developed by Denver-based studio Deck Nine Games partnered with publisher Square Enix. Dontnod was not involved in the game's production, which was helped by Square Enix's team that worked on the original Life is Strange, including Game Designer Alejandro Arque. They were given access to Dontnod's game assets and original files that contain character arcs and backgrounds. They communicated with Dontnod and flew to Paris for feedback. Dontnod received special thanks in the credits of Before the Storm, saying, "A very special thank you to all of the amazing developers at DONTNOD. We've been honored to continue the amazing work you started in Arcadia Bay."
A free self-contained spin-off game that serves as a precursor to the events of Life is Strange 2, called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, was announced on June 10, 2018, and released on June 26, 2018. It follows Chris Eriksen, a 9-year-old boy who dreams of adventure. Chris is a character Dontnod came up with while working on Life is Strange 2, but they wanted to do something more in-depth with him.
The announcement blog post for Captain Spirit from June 11, 2018, showed Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment's interest in further expanding the Life is Strange universe:
"For us, Life is Strange is so much more than a single set of characters, places, themes or scenarios - Life is Strange is an entire universe of storytelling founded upon relatable characters facing real world issues, but always with "a twist of the strange" and we have many more stories we want to tell. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is the first step towards showing you the true potential of Life is Strange, and the possibilities of a diverse universe filled with interesting characters and stories to tell."
On June 28, 2018, Dontnod celebrated its 10 year anniversary. They shared a video featuring all of their games with the following description:
Today we're celebrating the 10-year anniversary of DONTNOD!
We put together a video gathering all of our games, we hope you'll like it! We'd like to thank all of our players and everyone who encouraged us and supported us over the years. We wouldn't be here without you 😊
A huge thank you to all our publishers: Capcom (Remember Me), Focus Home Interactive (Vampyr), Bandai Namco (Twin Mirror), Square Enix (Life is Strange / Captain Spirit)
During Gamescom 2018's opening ceremony in April 2018, the official reveal trailer for Life is Strange 2 was presented by Co-Creative Director Michel Koch. Square Enix and Dontnod held a Meet and Greet event for the Life is Strange fan community.
During their annual What's next event in April 2019, Focus Home Interactive announced a new collaboration with Dontnod. Focus Home said this new co-production "promises to be one of the most ambitious in the history of the publisher and the studio."
In May 2020, Dontnod announced building a subsidiary studio in Montréal, Canada - which is recognized as one of the five largest video game production centers in the world - to work on a new IP, aiming for a team size of 50 people. The new studio will be led by Executive Producer Luc Baghadoust and Creative Director Michel Koch who have moved to Montréal for that reason. Michel Koch: "With the formation of a new team on another continent, we are writing a new page of Dontnod's history. It's also a new beginning for new characters and original stories that we hope will touch and inspire many players around the world." Dontnod aims to benefit from Montréal's game production network and proximity to the US market and to build a new diverse and international team in order to "be able to envision even more ambitious titles and keep writing wonderful stories for [their] players" and to focus on self-publishing their future IPs.
In March 2020, a new Life is Strange title named Life is Strange: True Colors was revealed by Square Enix. Like Before the Storm, the prequel to the original Life is Strange, this game is being developed by Colorado-based Deck Nine Games who were contracted by publisher Square Enix for another entry to the franchise. It was also revealed that Life is Strange and Before the Storm would be re-released as remastered editions in fall 2021.
In a financial report from March 31, 2021, Dontnod reveal their plan to focus on self-publishing.
The following Dontnod members are publicly known to have been involved in the creation of the Life is Strange games:
During the development of the original Life is Strange and following installments, several people from Square Enix helped Dontnod's team:
- Alejandro Arque (Game Designer at Square Enix)
- Scott Blows (Community Manager at Square Enix, until December 2015)
- Toby Palm (Community Manager at Square Enix, since 2015)
- Anne Chanteau (Communications Manager at Dontnod)
- Corentin Naud (Community Manager at Dontnod since December 2018)
- The word "dontnod" is a palindrome, meaning it is spelled the same backwards as it is forwards.
- The laterally or vertically inverted letter "N" in DONTNOD Entertainment's company logo appears in the Cyrillic alphabet and is equivalent to the letter "I" in the English/Latin alphabet.
- On January 27, 2015, a Reddit AMA for Life is Strange was held.
- The Weatherman, a character in Life is Strange, is based on and modeled by CEO Guilbert Oskar, as confirmed on Life is Strange's official Twitter.
- There are glyphs on a shack near the lighthouse in Life is Strange of a symbol that represents the characters in a French novel by Alain Damasio, one of the co-founders of Dontnod Entertainment, named La Horde du Contrevent. Wind is a recurring theme in the novel, and upon looking at the graffiti, Max says, "Weird, those glyphs remind me of... the wind."
- There are several references to the lead environment artist Amaury Balandier hidden in Life is Strange. A member of the 2013 Yearbook Committee at Blackwell Academy is called Amaury; the soda cans in Chloe's room are a brand called "Pr. Amaury"; Victoria's tablet is fabricated by the brand "Amaury"; and one of Jefferson's photographs that is displayed on the Blackwell campus shows the name "Amaury" in the background.
- In the ending credits for "Chrysalis," DONTNOD staff were referred to as "DONTNODDERS".
- DONTNOD games are made using the Unreal Engine which they customize.
- Gamescom 2014
- NYCC 2014
- BAFTA Showcase 2015
- PAX East 2015
- Game Developer Conference 2016
- Paris Games Week 2018
- Gamescom 2018
Dontnod Office Paris
Dontnod Office Montréal
Behind the Scenes
- Official website
- Investor website
- Actusnews IR releases
- Wikipedia (French)
- Donntod Entertainment: Discover Our Story
- The chart-topping return of Dontnod Entertainment (July 25, 2018)
- Dontnod Entertainment opens new Canadian studio (May 29, 2020)
- Based of dontnod-bourse.com Archived on October 3, 2020.
- Report: Remember Me studio Dontnod filing for bankruptcy (January 31, 2014)
- How Life is Strange changed Dontnod (October 25, 2016)
- Square Enix's Life is Strange Considered 100 Different Names (March 6, 2015)
- "Other Publishers Told Us to Make It a Male Lead Character," Life is Strange Dev Says (January 10, 2015)
- Publishers Wanted Life is Strange Devs to Make Leads Male (January 11, 2015)
- Publishers said 'You can't have a female character,' says Remember Me dev (March 19, 2013)
- Barnes, Ben (June 2016). "Edge #293". Edge. p. 94-97: Future plc.
- ‘They originally pitched a different game’: how Square Enix discovered Life Is Strange (August 7, 2015)
- Life is good: Dontnod on the success of Life is Strange and what comes next (March 15, 2015)
- Is Strange: episodic video games prove as addictive as episodic TV (April 26, 2015)
- Citation needed.
- Dontnod deepens collaboration with Hesaw (July 28, 2016)
- Dontnod Eleven isn't catering to Life is Strange fans, and that’s the point (August 19, 2016)
- Life Is Strange interview – live action web series and sequel talk (July 27, 2016)
- EXCLUSIVE: Bandai Namco partners with Life is Strange studio Dontnod on new narrative adventure IP (August 22, 2017)
- Bandai Namco press release (June 8, 2018) [Archived]
- Public statement by the Life is Strange Community Manager.
- ‘Life is Strange: Before the Storm’ developers reveal reason for prequel choice (October 4, 2017)
- Dontnod Financial Information
- Euronext listing
- Dontnod Share Information
- The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit will pick up three years after Life is Strange (June 15, 2018)
- Announcing the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (June 11, 2018)
- Shared by Dontnod on Twitter on August 21, 2018.
- Focus Home, Dontnod Collaborate on New Project After ‘Vampyr’ Success (April 11, 2019)
- DONTNOD ENTERTAINMENT company press release from 29/05/2020 Translation: DONTNOD expands and sets up a new studio in Montreal (aim at 50 people, one new IP) (May 29, 2020)
- Life Is Strange Dev Dontnod Opens New Studio To Work On "Brand-New IP" (September 24, 2020)
- Dontnod Entertainment opens new studio in Montreal (May 29, 2020)
- Twitter post
- Episode 1: "Chrysalis" credits
- Shared by official accounts on [date].
- Shared by official accounts on Twitter on March 26, 2019.
- Shared by official accounts on Twitter on April 2, 2019.
- Shared by official accounts on Twitter on April 9, 2019.
- [Shared by official accounts on Twitter on April 23, 2019.
- Shared by Luc Baghadoust on Twitter on July 27, 2018.
- Famitsu interview with the Life is Strange sound team (April 9, 2020)
- Shared by Audio Director Sébastian Gaillard on Twitter on August 3, 2018.
- Shared by Dontnod on Twitter on June 15, 2018.
- IGN Japan Developer Interview on Captain Spirit (June 19, 2018)
- DÉCOUVREZ NOTRE INTERVIEW DES DÉVELOPPEURS DE LIFE IS STRANGE 2 (August 26, 2018)
- Life is Strange BAFTA Showcase (July 10, 2015)
- June 28, 2018 is the date Dontnod celebrated its 10-year anniversary, however depending on what constitutes as the founding, the date varies. May 1, 2008, is mentioned on their website.
- The game was originally codenamed "What If" but then retitled to distinguish itself from the film of the same name. Dontnod had considered over 100 different titles, including "Chrysalis", which would later be used as the first episode's title.