Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Xbox pioneer to head game studio with Moscow development center

Times technology Reporter

Seattle video-game veteran Kevin Bachus, a co-creator of Microsoft's Xbox console, has agreed to become chief executive of a large game developer with operations in Moscow.

Bachus will work in Los Angeles at the U.S.-based headquarters of Nival Interactive, a studio whose games are well-known in Eastern Europe but have made little headway here.

One of his first tasks will be to introduce Nival to the American gaming industry.

"There's only so much that you can do from Moscow," Bachus said.

"We have relationships with the Western publishers and can go secure development deals on console platforms," he said.

Bachus resigned in November as CEO, president and acting chief financial officer of Infinium Labs, a Seattle-based company that for years has been developing a gaming system called the Phantom Lapboard.

Infinium's chairman, Timothy Roberts, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and has been tied to a scheme the SEC alleges was designed to con investors. The agency has not commented further on the case and likely will not until its investigation is complete.

Bachus had been an executive at Infinium since 2003 but said he's had very little to do with the company since he resigned.

Nival was founded in 1996 and has 300 developers — 200 full time — mainly in studios in Moscow and Siberia. It's profitable, Bachus said, and has developed 15 games for personal computers, including "Blitzkrieg," "Rage of Mages" and "Night Watch."

Nival will begin developing games for video-game consoles and cellphones as well, Bachus said.

The studio was bought in August by the Ener1 Group, a holding company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The California branch will also house designers, art directors and the business-development team, while the Russian offices will focus on technical work.

Bachus was recruited partly because he can manage relationships, which are extremely important in the gaming business, said Charles Gassenheimer, chief executive of the Ener1 Group.

Nival's management team also includes former executives from Sega and Warner Bros.

"Having someone like Kevin whose reputation precedes him in having tremendous experience and qualities in the gaming space was critical to that team," Gassenheimer said.

Nival can produce games for less money than U.S. developers, Bachus said, and will be a safer bet for publishers in the high-stakes gaming industry. Next-generation video-game titles can cost anywhere from $10 million to $50 million to produce.

"There's tremendous risk and a lot of apprehension, because the economics are broken," Bachus said. "In some small way, we're going to try to bring things back in balance."

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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