Forza Horizon veterans found new studio Maverick Games

Forza Horizon 5 Anniversary Update

Several key Playground Games veterans have left the Forza Horizon developer to form a new triple-A studio at Maverick Games. The studio will be getting to work on a new open world game for consoles and PC, though it’s not yet confirmed whether or not this will be a racing game.

The new studio is led by Playground Games’ former creative director Mike Brown, who will be both creative director and studio head. He’s joined by new executive producer Tom Butcher, CTO Matt Craven, content director Gareth Harwood and audio director Fraser Strachan all coming from Playground Games. There’s also UX/UI director Elly Marshall coming over from EA, and COO Harinder Sangha, who was previously co-studio head at Sumo Digital Leamington.

Announcing the new studio, Mike Brown said, “Our goal is for Maverick Games to be a studio people will love. For players, we’re already at work on an exciting ultra-high quality title, and for developers, we’re building a home where everyone is encouraged to take risks, be curious, be creative, be innovative, be themselves, and above all – be a Maverick.”

As for why they’ve left? It’s simply looking for a fresh challenge. Brown said to GamesIndustry.biz, “As much as I had an amazing journey at Playground, I was asking myself, what’s next? Do I stick with this fun, good job? Or do I look for other opportunities?

“This opportunity came up. I was asked what my vision would be for a new studio… and it was lucky I had an idea in mind.”

Maverick Games is currently this core of 10, but has plans to grow up to 140 developers in Leamington Spa. The area is home to a number of game studios, including Playground Games, Sumo Leamington, Lab42, and with Codemasters in the nearby Southam.

This could be a bit of a blow to Playground Games (especially if Maverick hires away more of their developers), though at the same time it’s an opportunity for people to step up to the more senior roles and potentially put a new stamp on the Forza Horizon franchise after several years of iterative stability. Forza Horizon 3 really solidified the form that the open world arcade racer took, with Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Horizon 5 honing its high-speed thrills to perfection. However, it’s also fair to say that, while Forza Horizon 5 set new records for players and engagement, it’s retreading a lot of familiar ground from the previous games, just with a new map and setting.

Playground and their development partners are currently working on the second expansion to Forza Horizon 5, a more serious affair after the Hot Wheels expansion from last summer, but they will also be some way into production on the next Forza Horizon game. The studio also has another team working on the Fable reboot that was announced all the way back in 2020, though we’ve seen hide nor hair since then.

Source: Press release, GamesIndustry.biz

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