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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor director Stig Asmussen starts new studio, Giant Skull

The Skull from Giant Skull's logo.
Giant Skull

After a boom of video game studio foundings, acquisitions, and developer recruiting in the late 2010s and early 2020s, the industry is headed in the opposite direction. Acquisitions have slowed down, layoffs happen multiple times a week, and news of canceled projects and studio closures has overtaken that of studio announcements. During this time, an industry veteran and game director behind titles like God of War 3 and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has started a new studio

Stig Asmussen left Respawn Entertainment in September 2023. At the time, we didn’t know what was next, but this morning, Asmussen announced that he had founded a new studio called Giant Skull alongside veterans from companies like Respawn Entertainment and Epic Games. That team is now at one on creating its first title, an action-adventure game that Giant Skull is keeping under wraps for now. Prior to the announcement, I spoke with Asmussen to learn more about this AAA studio emerging at a time when the video game industry is struggling.

No regrets

“This idea of being able to start a studio from the ground up with really good people and to be able to define the culture, the types of games that we’re going to make, and the types of players that we want to speak to, it really resonated with me,” Asmussen tells Digital Trends. “I just couldn’t let it go.”

Stig Asmussen's headshot.
Giant Skull

From my conversation with Asmussen, it became clear that this isn’t a former AAA developer attempting to strike out on his own for a small independent production. He was reached out to with a studio-founding opportunity — something that’s getting increasingly rare for video game developers — and Asmussen decided to embrace it. He tells us leaving Respawn was a “difficult decision” because he was happy working there and not trying to “run away from anything.”

“One of my mottos is ‘no regrets,’ and I felt like if I didn’t take this opportunity, then I would always look back, wish about what could have been, and perhaps wasn’t going to be the best version of myself, ” he says. “Something of this scale, there are people that I’m partnering with, and it’s actually an incredible support group. That’s making sure we can focus on being creative and not have the friction that normally would be involved with starting up a new studio.”

As for what projects the developers on the team are focused on, Asmussen confirmed that Giant Skull is starting as a one-game studio and that it’s making a single-player action-adventure game that plays from a third-person perspective. He believes action adventure games should be “about taking a player on for a ride and asking them to look around, probe the world, and ask questions,” a sentiment that certainly applies to his Star Wars Jedi games. He wants Giant Skull’s games to “have a certain tempo and momentum to them, so you are always driving and you feel like you want to move forward.”

We’re not going to go out and try to make a flight simulator.

During our conversation, Asmussen emphasized that he’s not interested in chasing industry trends like live service and instead embraces what he knows his team can execute well. He also has no qualms about doubling down on single-player AAA games.

“We’re not going to go out and try to make a flight simulator; we’re not good at that. We’re going to focus on the type of game that we’re good at,” Asmussen explains. “And especially for the first game, we’re going to be ambitious, but we’re going to build upon things that we’ve done in the past rather than trying to create things that might be a little bit more exploration for us. That’s not about reducing ambition because I think we’ve proven that we can do premium quality AAA games and handcrafted experiences, and that’s always difficult to do.”

The giant skull of a struggling industry

Giant Skull’s unveiling results from a long-gestating plan to establish a new AAA studio that has secured funding and isn’t facing the same struggles other game companies face in 2024. Asmussen says the layoff wave the video game industry is facing right now is “tough,” citing his own experience with game cancellations, studio shutdowns, and knowing people impacted by this current flurry of video game industry layoffs.

He also points out that “when you have 30 great games come out in one year in one space, there are only so many games that an individual can buy, and maybe those games cannibalize each other to a certain extent.” Giant Skull’s first game is still years off, so the video game industry will likely be in a different place when its first game comes out. Still, it’s notable that Giant Skull appears to be in a good place at a time when many other studios are struggling.

The company logo for Giant Skull.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Asmussen says the team is currently 30 people and wants Giant Skull to stay “lean and mean” for now in its early stages. While Giant Skull has an office in Los Angeles, Asmussen also says he’s open to employees doing remote work at a time when companies like Blizzard Entertainment and Rockstar are forcing their employees to work at the studio, much to the chagrin of those developers.

“I think there’s a lot to be learned from COVID. The most important thing is having freedom and being able to work the way and operate the way that’s going to be best for your personal life. In turn, that will probably allow you to execute best as an individual on the team.” Asmussen went on to tell me that people are the most important thing to account for when building a studio, which is refreshing to hear when it feels like the leaders at video game companies see their workers as little more than numbers on a spreadsheet

Although many of the studios struggling right now can’t match Giant Skull’s situation of having support before the currently tumultuous storm of the video game industry, there is something to be Asmussen’s approach of seizing available opportunities and having the support of people who want you to be creative. Hopefully, those kinds of studios survive the tumultuous period the video game industry is in the middle of.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
Why Cameron Monaghan wanted a ‘darker’ Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
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“In the first game, he had a naivete and a wide-eyed nature that I love about Cal,” Monaghan tells Digital Trends. “But I think tha,t situationally, if you’re in such a desperate place for so many years and fighting and being a soldier and a tool for resistance, at some point, it’s going to start to change the way you see the world around you.”
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Back before a sequel was greenlit, when you were waiting to see if Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order would get one, what did you want to do with Cal Kestis if you got a second run with him?
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He’s been through some stuff, and I think over the last two years, we’ve all been through some stuff, man!

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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - Official Reveal Trailer
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Cal Kestis with BD-1 droid on his shoulder.

The release date of the highly anticipated Star Wars game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor leaked on the game's official Steam page.
A Steam Page for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor went live with this release date information on Monday morning, seemingly ahead of a heavily rumored appearance at The Game Awards. The store page description reveals more details about Star Wars Jedi: Survivor as well as its Deluxe Edition, which contains cosmetics that make protagonist Cal Kestis look like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and the pre-order bonus with a costume, Lightsaber, and Blaster based on Obi-Wan. 

The "About This Game" section also provides more details on the game. Narratively, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor's Steam page explains that "Cal is driven to make a stand during the galaxy’s darkest times -- but how far is he willing to go to protect himself, his crew, and the legacy of the Jedi Order?" On the gameplay side of things, new Force abilities, Lightsaber fighting styles, and enemies to take down are teased. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor looks like it will be a galaxy-trotting adventure like its predecessor the description hints that there will be lots of planets to explore and that they'll be bigger and have more secrets than the ones in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
EA and Respawn Entertainment have been relatively quiet regarding Star Wars Jedi: Survivor since announcing the game in May, so it's exciting to get a lot of new information about the game like its sooner-than-expected release date. If the rumors are true, this may have deflated the hype from one of The Game Awards 2022's big reveals.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor will be released for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S on March 15, 2023.

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