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The Great Video Game Developer Exodus Of 2014

Recently, and especially last week, there were a surprising number of noteworthy video game developers who left their positions at the companies where they made names for themselves.

The video game industry is changing as small-scale development becomes much more attractive, and the backing of a major publisher isn’t necessary to create a successful game. These are the developers who recently left, and why they’re worth paying attention to, even if they are no longer working on the franchises you know them for.

As more developers leave their studios throughout the year, we will be continually updating this feature.

Justin Richmond – March 27

Richmond was the director on Uncharted 3 with Naughty Dog and was key in the creation of Uncharted's multiplayer. He was working on the development of Uncharted 4, but recently announced his decision to leave and join Riot Games to work on the League of Legends series. According to Naughty Dog, "The development timeline of Uncharted will not be impacted."

Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer – March 26

Baldree is credited as the creator of the game Fate and Schaefer has a history with Blizzard and the Diablo series. The two came together to form Runic Games in 2008 and released two Torchlight games. Runic games will continue going strong, but Baldree and Schaefer are leaving the studio behind to start work on smaller titles. The two will continue to work together in their future endeavours.

Seth Killian – March 25

Killian made a name for himself in the fighting game community before accepting a job with Capcom to work on Street Fighter IV. In 2012, Killian left Capcom to work with Sony on PlayStaton All-Stars Battle Royale. What's next for Killian is currently unknown, but he tells fans on Twitter to "stay tuned."

Jaime Griesemer – March 18

Griesemer was the lead designer on Sucker Punch’s Infamous Second son, but his history extends beyond Sony’s PlayStation 4 exclusive to one of Microsoft’s most noteworthy exclusives. Griesemer worked with Bungie on the Halo series, and also did preliminary work on the upcoming Destiny before moving over to Sucker Punch. At the moment, Griesemer isn’t ready to talk about what’s next for his career.

For more on Griesemer, check out our interview with him when we visited Sucker Punch Studios during our coverage of Infamous Second Son.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi – March 18

Mizuguchi’s departure is a complicated one. He left the development side of Q Entertainment in 2012, but stayed on as a consultant in order to make his transition away from the company more fluid. He has mostly been doing his own things separate of Q Entertainment since that time, but reports suggest he recently fully severed himself from the company.

Mizuguchi directed Child of Eden, and served as a producer on a number of memorable games including Lumines, Rez, and Space Channel 5.

Atman Binstock – March 11

Binstock was the lead engineer for Valve's VR project. Binstock worked to help overcome the motion-sickness that is a common by-product of virtual reality. Before Valve, he also worked with Intel and DICE. Binstock left Valve to take a position with Oculus Rift.

Stig Asmussen – March 18

Asmussen was the creative director on God of War III, but before that he served the role of lead environment artist and art director on the previous God of War titles. He also stars in this commercial promoting Art Institute college.

It’s unclear exactly where Asmussen will land next, or why he left Sony.

Koji Igarashi – March 17

Igarashi spearheaded the Castlevania series for years as producer. He helped to make Castlevania: Symphony of the Night the classic it is today and was producer on every Castlevania game through Xbox Live Arcade’s multiplayer Harmony of Despair.

Igarashi left Konami in order to create his own studio. He has no concrete plans or ideas he is ready to talk about, but he has shown a preference for 2D, and a continued appreciation for Metroidvania-style games.

Amy Hennig – March 5

The details surrounding Hennig’s departure aren’t completely clear, but Naughty Dog did release a statement to clarify, at least in some small detail, why she decided to leave as well as expel some of the rumors of her leaving.

The studio has nothing but positive words for Hennig saying she will be missed. Hennig was the writer and director behind the Uncharted series, and was an important component of Naughty Dog. You can read a deep dive on her past and future career by heading here.

Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry – January 3

Ward and Sperry founded Criterion Games back in 1993. The studio is likely best known for creating the Burnout series of racing games, but it also developed Need for Speeds Most Wanted and Rivals. Ward and Sperry announced their departure from the studio in the interest of creating Three Filed Entertainment. Not much is known about the duo's new studio, other than it is working with the Unity engine on a project set for release on Microsoft, Apple, and possibly Sony platforms.

 

Non-Developer Departures

Jack Tretton – March 6

Tretton, the now former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, had been with the company since its beginnings in 1995. Tretton officially leaves the company on April 1, and said, "I'm very excited about starting the next chapter of my career,” in the announcement of his departure. What that next chapter will entail remains a mystery.

Marc Whitten – March 17

Whitten was not on the creative side of game development, but he has been an important component of Microsoft and Xbox since the launch of the original console. According to corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios Phil Spencer, Whitten left for family and professional reasons, and to take on a position at Sonos speakers.

Karl Stewart – March 20

Stewart was the vice president of strategic marketing for Europe and North America for Square Enix before leaving. Like Whitten, he was less involved with the creative direction of video game design, but was heavily involved in bringing the recent Tomb Raider to life.

Stewart left to take on a position with Petrol Advertising, but specifically cited being involved with Tomb Raider as the "crowning glory" of his time at Square Enix.

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