Ex-Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone developers found new studio
by Danny Craig ·
Industry veterans behind card games Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, as well as World of Warcraft, have teamed up to launch a brand new studio called Popularium.
- Richard Garfield, the creator of the massively popular Magic: The Gathering card game, has teamed up with Skaff Elias, Arka Ray, and Jon Bankard to found the studio, with Ray serving as its CEO and technical director. It was revealed behind closed doors during a "First Look" event, where it also showed off its in-development game called Chaos Agents, with more information about both the game and the studio to come later, with gamers able to sign up for a waiting list to receive an invite to the community and possibly play an early build of the game via the Popularium site.
- Chaos Agents, according to Garfield, "aims to restore a sense of magic to playing digital card games" and has been described as a "auto battler royale" and a "mix of genres." It will be available on PC as well as in a web browser, allowing players to play the game from "any device," with early concept art of the game's characters already available on the official website. Garfield explained why the studio chose a collectible card game for its first release: "When Magic was first designed, everyone had their own treasured collection, but those treasures became commodities, and we lost some of that magic.” Expert advice is intended to be much more general than in other card games, allowing players to "discover something interesting about what they uniquely own.”
- Ray, one of the founders, has extensive industry experience, having been a part of the launch of the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, as well as working on the architecture and third-party portfolio game development teams between 2006 and 2013. Ray and Bankard ended up working together on the Windows gaming team before Bankard left for his 11-year stint at Blizzard, where he worked from the beginning on the hit card game Hearthstone, with Ray moving into the adtech space. Ray reached out to Garfield and Elias after wanting to get back into gaming to discuss how they could "re-create the magic," which resulted in bringing Bankard on board to help found the company.
Recent studio openings:
- Greg Street, the former executive producer of the in-development League of Legends MMO, will be opening his own fully-remote studio in the near future. Little is known about the studio so far, including its name, but Street is still searching for senior-level staff to help get things up and running before it looks for talent with less experience.
- Sega subsidiary Creative Assembly has opened a new studio location in Newcastle-upon-Tyne called Creative Assembly North. The studio will work alongside the main studio in Sussex on an unannounced project and is responsible for "constant improvement in tools, workflows, and development experience."
- More Blizzard veterans are also opening their own studio, Magic Soup Games. The trio of Jen Oneal, John Donham, and J. Allen Brack plan to make "massive AAA games with positive themes" at the fully remote studio, although no information has been given regarding the project itself.