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Former Forza Horizon leaders open ‘AAA’ studio Maverick Games


Yet more video game veterans are forming a new studio after leaving an industry heavyweight. Key leaders from Forza Horizon creator Playground Games have established Maverick Games, a Leamington Spak, UK development house devoted to ‘AAA’ titles. Gamesindustry.biz notes the studio is headed by former Horizon creative director Mike Brown, while executive producer Tom Butcher, technical chief Matt Craven, content director Gareth Harwood and audio lead Fraser Strachan.

The 10-person team’s art director is Ben Penrose, who most recently worked at Vampire the Masquerade: Blood Hunt developer Sharkmob but also has experience at Playground. Former EA experience director Elly Marshall is in charge of experience and interface development. Sega and Sumo veteran Harinder Sangha is the operations chief.

Maverick hasn’t shared much about his first project, but does say it will be an open-world title for consoles and PCs. Brown suggests the game will be a response to how people entertain themselves in the modern era — think subscription services and TikTok. That means games that are continuously involving without being repetitive, Brown explains.

As with similar launches, Maverick is hoping to veer away from ‘safe’ projects. Brown tells GI.biz he wants to encourage “creative risks,” but also wants to keep out “toxic” egos that can damage the team. Sangha hopes the company can help improve diversity in the game industry. This is about shaking up the existing formula which, while reliable, doesn’t allow for much variety.

Brown and Sangha stressed that they left their respective former employers on good terms. However, they and Maverick are part of a broader trend of high-profile game devs going independent after dealing with creative frustration (or simply boredom) at major studios. Simply speaking, big-name brands can’t assume their top talent will stick around.

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