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Microsoft’s The Initiative studio hires top talent from Bungie, Crystal Dynamics

The Initiative, a mysterious, self-described “AAAA” gaming studio announced at E3 2018, has yet to produce a single game. That hasn’t stopped it from continuing to gobble up top developer talent from all over the gaming world.

According to studio head Darrell Gallagher on LinkedIn, the studio recently hired 16 new people to the company. Those include hiring Remi Lacoste, the director of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Marvel’s Avengersand Christine Thompson, the narrative lead writer for Destiny 2, to a lead writer position.

Francisco Aisa García, a former programmer at Naughty Dog and Rockstar Games, was brought on as a senior gameplay engineer, and Richard Burns, a UI artist formerly of Playground Games, was hired as a UI/UX lead.

These impressive hires are significant, especially for a studio that has yet to reveal a single upcoming title. The closest we’ve gotten to any news for the future of the studio comes from Xbox chief Phil Spencer himself, who said in a tweet that the studio was “challenging themselves to do new things (and old things) in new ways.” That was in January.

There have been other big-name hires as well in the two years since the studio was announced. In 2019, the studio hired Red Dead Redemption writer Christian Cantamessa and God of War franchise lead producer Brian Westergaard. The studio also hired Sunset Overdrive director Drew Murray and Tomb Raider reboot director Dan Neuburger.

“My focus is one of opportunity and trying to make something groundbreaking. I’ve been given the mandate and the freedom and the support to go do that,” Gallagher told Venturebeat in 2018. “We have all this hardware, all these tools, all the creativity. As a gamer, we have the opportunity to play games across every device in every place. For me, as a creator, it’s awesome to be given the opportunity by Phil Spencer and by Xbox to go build something.”

The website for The Initiative is a simple, pared-down affair, with lots of statements like: “Our mission is to create ambitious and innovative game experiences that our audience will love” and “We are a tight-knit team of experienced creators bound by the desire to push the art of video games forward.”

There’s also a prominent tab for “careers,” illustrating that while the studio isn’t ready to let us know what it’s working on just yet, it sure is hiring a lot of people to do it.

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On Tuesday morning, unredacted versions of a lot of documents pertaining to the Xbox vs. FTC trial appeared. These emails and documents, most of which were created or written sometime between 2020 and 2022, revealed a lot of unannounced information. That included things like a mid-gen refresh for the Xbox Series X and S, some unannounced Bethesda games, and even Microsoft's early goals for its next-generation console. Hours later, Spencer commented on the leak.
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