Another new AAA studio has joined the gaming scene, this one founded by Jerry Hook, one of the architects of the original Xbox who recently worked on Halo Infinite.
The new studio’s mission is to create a new generation of story-driven action games with “immersive worlds.” Its founding members include Paul Crocker, who served as lead story director on the Batman: Arkham trilogy; Greg Stone, who produced DOOM (2016) and Steve Dyck, who worked on the SSX, NBA Street and Halo series. Hook’s new venture follows his departure from 343 Industries, where he served as head of design on Halo Infinite. Hook helped launch Xbox Live and worked on Halo 4, Halo 5 and Destiny in various capacities.
Speaking to IGN before the announcement, Hook says the collective decision to leave 343 Industries was part of the natural cycle that follows a major project release.
“I wanted to take a step back and look at what impact I wanted to have moving forward; what impact I wanted to have, not just with the game or the next big idea, but really taking a look at the teams. And how I could create a home for creators and content creators. Who can really thrive and specifically help them grow so they can put their full passion into a project,” Hook says. “And so with creative ideas and new game ideas and all the innovation that goes into games, I realized that maybe my biggest challenge is that we haven’t spent a lot of time trying to really innovate in the game development space. Teams and studios and studio structures.”
Jar of Sparks is currently in the early stages of building its core team, which the studio hopes will provide ideas for its first project. Hook estimates that the studio’s first game is three to four years away.
One thing is for sure it won’t be a live service game. Despite Hook’s experience working on projects like Xbox Live and Destiny, he believes the live service is too risky for a new studio like Jar of Sparks.
“[O]One of the main challenges we all face is how much risk you can take in a new studio. You’re building an entire team with people who don’t know each other, have never worked with each other, or have brand new IP. Live service adds more complexity and I think from my own experience for service driven games, the amount of work you have to do to make live service work is pretty overwhelming. And I think the first game that Jar Sparks is going to do won’t have that element for the team to thrive first and be able to put their creative energy first without worrying about the constant pressure of models running on the server. ” Hook explains.
And despite the status of the studio as a “AAA developer”, Hook does not think in terms of big budgets and even big sales.
“I think the industry has set itself a challenge, where everyone is always shooting for the 300 million mark or the 10 million mark, then I think, OK, you build a team with the right budget that allows it. You just need a few million. Or just be successful with a million? And you can be successful that way,” says Hook, citing smaller successes like V Rising and Valheim. “So my goal, or at least our goal that we’ve talked about with the founders — we don’t want to go after God of War, we want to create our own niche. It has a good dedicated following and it’s one. It’s a great title that people want to sink their teeth into, that’s all. .”
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As for NetEase, Hook sees the Chinese publishing company as a backstop against potential disruptions from the volatile games industry.
“If you go and innovate and you want to drop something, if your publisher is financing those people, you have to make it clear that you can drop,” Hook says. “And that was one of the main conversations I had with NetEase, which was, if we’re going to go and innovate, you’ve got to be prepared to fall; if you’re innovating with us, you know the risks, and they were. That’s very clear with me. .”
Jar of Sparks joins other studios that have formed with funding from the game industry, including Nightingale developer Inflexion Games, Callisto Protocol developer Striking Distance Studios, and Stormgate developer Frost Giant Studios. The growth of the studio, led by seasoned industry veterans, is already showing results.
NetEase, for its part, called Jar of Sparks “a new first-party studio that will enjoy complete creative freedom.” His other holdings include Grasshopper Manufacture and a new studio created by Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi.
Kat Bailey is a senior news editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.