Based in the city of Derby, England, Core Design was set up in 1988 by Chris Shrigley, Andy Green, Rob Toone, Terry Lloyd, Simon Phipps, Dave Pridmore, Jeremy Heath-Smith, Kevin Norburn and Greg Holmes. Most were former employees of Gremlin Graphics.
The studio was part of distribution company CentreGold when it was acquired by Eidos Interactive in 1996. Eidos subsequently sold most of CentreGold, but retained U.S. Gold, the owners of Core Design. Core had a brief history of producing titles for the Sega consoles, such as Thunderhawk for the Mega-CD and later the original Tomb Raider game for the Sega Saturn.
The company is widely known for the Tomb Raider series, created by Toby Gard and Paul Howard Douglas, which was released in 1996 and followed by several sequels. The success of Tomb Raider and its subsequent sequels played a huge part in keeping Eidos Interactive financially solvent.
After the release of the original Tomb Raider, which had debuted on the Sega Saturn platform ahead of the PlayStation version (they had been developed simultaneously) Sony Computer Entertainmentrecognised the game's popularity and the potential mass appeal of future Tomb Raider titles. SCE offered Core Design and Eidos Interactive an exclusivity agreement, to ensure that the first sequel would not be developed for either the Saturn or the Nintendo 64. The full terms of this offer have never been revealed. By making the PlayStation the only console with Tomb Raider II, Sony Computer Entertainment was able to benefit by attracting new PlayStation owners leveraging Tomb Raider as a killer application and using Lara Croft as a marketing character alongside Sony's own first partycharacters. Core Design also had the advantage of developing only for a single console, rather than several at once. This exclusivity agreement was further extended to cover the third game in the series. The fourth and fifth games in the franchise, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider Chronicles respectively, were also released for the Sega Dreamcast.
In 2003, parent company Eidos moved development of the Tomb Raider franchise from Core Design to Crystal Dynamics, another Eidos-owned studio, after the sixth instalment, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, was met with mixed reactions by reviewers and was not a large commercial success. This prompted three key members of the Core Design team and several others to leave the company and establish a game development team of their own, Circle Studio. Jeremy Heath-Smith, a key member of the company and executive producer of the vast majority of their games, resigned from Core Design on 15 July 2003.
On 11 May 2006, it was announced that Core's assets and staff were sold to independent development group Rebellion. Eidos still owns the Core brand and intellectual property, including those of Tomb Raider. In June 2006, screenshots were released showing development of a PSP version of an anniversary edition of the original Tomb Raider, developed by Core Design. Days later, SCI, the owners of Eidos Interactive at that time, issued a press release announcing that Crystal Dynamics would be producing the game, rather than Core Design. Remnants of the Core Design team (under the banner of Rebellion) went on to work on several titles in the years since including Shellshock 2: Blood Trails and Rogue Warrior. The Derby studio was closed by Rebellion in 2010 due to an expiring lease and the inability for the company to find a financier for the studio.