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Key talent behind Microsoft’s Forza series has left Playground Games to form a new AAA studio

Some of the leaders behind the Forza Horizon series have formed a new AAA games studio in Leamington Spa called Maverick Games.

The team is led by studio head and creative director Mike Brown, who was previously the creative director on the Forza Horizon franchise. He is joined by other ex-Playground veterans including executive producer Tom Butcher, CTO Matt Craven, content director Gareth Harwood and audio director Fraser Strachan. Ben Penrose has joined the company as Art Director from Sharkmob (but was also a former Playground employee), and Elly Marshall has been named UX/UI Director, following her role as experience design director at EA.

Running the studio itself is COO Harinder Sangha. Sangha is an award-winning studio leader who helped form Sega Hardlight and Sumo Leamington.

The company currently has ten employees, with the aim to grow to 140. And it is working on an open-world premium AAA game for consoles and PC.

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Simundo531d ago

Sony should buy them. For the Lol's

crazyCoconuts531d ago

I think it's nice to see independent studios can still exist. I'd rather they stay that way

Simundo531d ago (Edited 531d ago )

It was sarcasm. In that I think the opposite to what I've said and was using the words as a way to mock and insult MS's current policy of spending tens of billions buying truck loads of devs/publishers. I'm a little disappointed Coco to be honest. I would of thought someone with the name crazyCoconuts might of been a bit more attuned to such attempts at humour even if they didn't find it outright funny in itself. Just a little bit of recognition of yeah I see what you tried to do there.

SonyStyled531d ago

Media Molecule was created by ex Lionhead devs, and Sony bought Mm in 2010

crazyCoconuts531d ago

Sorry man. My craziness usually manifests in the evening after a few beers. In the morning I'm boringPeanuts

Knushwood Butt531d ago

Media Molecule, what are they working on?

SonyStyled531d ago

@Kushwood, Mm was making games in Dreams for a few years after launch. Not sure if there’s a team that still does. The same year Dreams launched they announced the studio was expanding. That’s the last I heard of them in the news.

Quick search: it looks like they are focused on a mp project.

+ Show (3) more repliesLast reply 530d ago
Simundo531d ago (Edited 531d ago )

@crazyCoconuts Nice. That's more like the Coco I was envisaging from the name. Faith restored. Maybe consider not limiting your drinking to just the evenings. That way your can be at your funnest all day.

Simundo531d ago

@shinoff2183 Thank you. People take this stuff far to seriously.

lelo2play531d ago

Wouldn't be surprising... Sony already purchased Bungie.

As for Microsoft, loosing talent from one of their best studios isn't good news. It looks like their gaming studios are a mess, without real leadership. Lets hope they actually release games in 2023.

Chevalier531d ago

Well they have 2 games coming so its already better than last year.

DarXyde531d ago

Talent from a very capable studio leaving definitely comes with a change in the output of a product, but whether or not it's a bad sign is up for debate in my opinion.

Naughty Dog lost Bruce Straley, but they're still a top-tier studio that I would arguably call the world's first "true AAAA game developer". Did it impact The Last of Us Part II? I mean...I think so. The narrative elements appealed more to the emotional aspect of social issues than the first game. Ultimately, I thought it was a better product, but I still love both.

Very plausible that Playground will take a different direction, but may not necessarily be worse.

What I think it might mean though is people are leaving to protect their reputation within the industry... And if so, why? My guess is Fable might be in hot water. I don't blame them and it's quite a pivot from their comfort zone. Not all pivots are bad (Guerilla did it beautifully), but sometimes, it doesn't work. I do hope the outcome is positive and Fable isn't negatively impacted, but we'll see.

KillBill530d ago

@jznrpg "On June 19, 2000, on the ninth anniversary of Bungie's founding, Microsoft announced that it had acquired Bungie and that Bungie would become a part of the Microsoft Game Division." And it remained that way until 2007 were it and Microsoft announced that Bungie was splitting from Microsoft and "becoming a privately held limited liability company named Bungie, LLC".

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Jin_Sakai531d ago

For those wondering who left Playground Games.

1. Tom Butcher, Lead Producer
2. Mike Brown, Creative Director
3. Matt Craven, Technical Director
4. Gareth Harwood, Technical Art Director
5. Ben Penrose, Art Director
6. Frasher Stachan, Audio Director

1Victor531d ago (Edited 531d ago )

Simundo “ Sony should buy them. For the Lol's “
And call their new game
Grand Turismo Horizons🤣

1Victor531d ago

It’s a joke don’t take it too seriously 🤷🏿

SullysCigar531d ago

Actually, New Horizons would have been an awesome name for their new studio! Cheeky too, which is always a good thing!

Simundo531d ago

Like it, you're an idea's man and I feel you know this industry more completely than the legion of mini Michael Patcher's running amok in the comments.

TheSaint531d ago

41 and counting that didn't realise the obvious joke.

Simundo531d ago

44 have though so sanity just about prevails. But who knows why people get riled by such things. It could be 41 MS fans who totally got it but took Umbrage to them being lightly mocked.

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sammarshall102531d ago (Edited 531d ago )

It sounds like a big reason for them leaving is control, they want to be more creative and take risks

I guess Microsoft really haven't changed as far as not giving their devs creative freedom

crazyCoconuts531d ago

I think that's the interesting thing about purchasing these big $ game studios- after the contracts for retention bonuses are over, people are free to move, and a company is little more than a collection of people. Sure, MS may own the IP, but IP can be trashed very quickly by crappy products that result from good people leaving

sammarshall102531d ago

Yeah true and I think that even if MS get Activision Blizzard, they will see a lot of the workforce leave to either start up a studio or leave for another existing studio

blackblades531d ago

What sully said and other games as well. Then again CoD did fine without the OG crew.