Digital Anvil was a computer game company. It was founded in 1996, when Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts left Origin Systems, Inc., along with Marten Davies, Erin Roberts, Eric Peterson, Tony Zurovec and many other employees. Their first game to be released was Starlancer, developed together with Warthog Games.
According to Chris Roberts, Digital Anvil was created to bring back the "small-team" element that characterized the computer gaming industry throughout the 1980s. Four titles were initially announced: Conquest: Frontier Wars, a Command & Conquer-style game set in space; Loose Cannon, a racing game similar to the later Driver and Grand Theft Auto games; Starlancer, a space combat game in the Wing Commander tradition, and the company's flagship, Freelancer, an ambitious unofficial follow up to Wing Commander: Privateer.
The first game to be released by Digital Anvil was Starlancer, developed in partnership with Warthog Games. It was released by Microsoft to very solid reviews, and overall sales were decent with around 700,000 units sold.
Digital Anvil was purchased by Microsoft on December 5, 2000. One of the consequences of Digital Anvil's purchase was a reshuffling of titles being developed. Conquest: Frontier Wars and Loose Cannon were dropped by the company, eventually being picked up by Ubisoft Entertainment. Conquest was eventually released in 2001, but Loose Cannon has not yet been released and it remains doubtful it ever will be. Many of the Digital Anvil staff working on Loose Cannon were reassigned to the company's flagship Freelancer. Brute Force (still unannounced at the time) was switched from a computer game to an Xbox exclusive. Of all the projects being produced, only Freelancer escaped major change. Co-founder Chris Roberts left the company after the Microsoft takeover, but he still worked as a consultant on Freelancer.
For the next year, Digital Anvil was mostly silent, and many wondered whether any games from the company would see the light of day. Then, in 2001, Digital Anvil revealed a lighter Freelancer to the gaming press. Although some of the more ambitious elements were dropped, this act proved Freelancer was not vaporware.
In March 2003, Freelancer was released and immediately became one of the month's top-selling games. Reviews were mixed, but the game did well commercially. In May of the same year, Digital Anvil released Brute Force for the Xbox. The game also did quite well, setting first-month sales records for Xbox games.