Jade Raymond Leaving Motive Studios Might Lead To Further Changes in the Industry
Where will Raymond wind up next? What will happen at Motive?
Expectations were sky high when Electronic Arts announced that they had hired former Ubisoft executive and Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond to head up a new studio. However, in the three years since it began, all consumers have seen has been disappointment from the brand as it has failed to make much of an impact. Now Raymond has left the company, and it’s looking increasingly like Motive Studios will never fulfill all of the high expectations that were thrusted upon them after being positioned as a marquee development house.
Motive’s only release so far was Star Wars Battlefront II, a first-person shooter that is better known for its controversial microtransactions than its satisfying gameplay. It was also mainly Swedish developer DICE’s project (Motive was a support developer), and its continued success has gone so poorly that around 40 employees have voluntarily left the studio for greener pastures while citing the underwhelming launch of Battlefront II as a reason why they were leaving.
Another key project that Raymond and the team at Motive Studios were involved in was Visceral Games’ untitled Star Wars action game. Despite little being known about the project, expectations from fans were sky high for the game since Visceral Games’ track record of great single-player titles (such as Dead Space and Dante’s Inferno) speaks for itself. It also had Uncharted series writer and director Amy Hennig working on the project since early 2014.
However, Electronic Arts decided to completely reboot development on the game and make significant changes as they decided to shut down Visceral Games in late 2017 and Hennig wound up leaving the company in January of this year without shipping a game. That’s two high-profile departures from EA that have decided to exit the company before releasing the game they’ve been working so hard upon.
Motive Studios, which now includes BioWare Montreal and has a development branch in Vancouver, is now working on the untitled Star Wars game, but it’s now going on four years of work with nothing to show for it. Electronic Arts hasn’t announced a name for the project, yet alone given players an idea of what type of experience they’re in for. It’s quickly becoming one of the most troubled development cycles of any major release all due to the mismanagement by EA.
The key players at Motive Studios now include Samantha Ryan, who has launched a number of successful games with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment including Shadow of Mordor, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Portal creator Kim Swift (who was invited to Motive Studios by Raymond). The two studios have plenty of talent and are working on two projects at the moment: the aforementioned Star Wars title and an original IP, which is a new open-world action-adventure game. However, development on the original IP has been going poorly as well as Raymond previously told Game Informer that several people have already left the project and it hasn’t left the conceptual phase.
Overall, things aren’t looking good for the development structure at Electronic Arts. Studios are getting shut down, employees are looking to leave even its most successful studios such as DICE, and projects are having trouble getting started. It’s clearly a chaotic time period for the company and the fallout from Raymond’s departure will still have some ripples. Management changes often result in other workers getting let got or leaving, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kim Swift leave the Star Wars project, which she is currently working on as design director.
What’s next for Raymond? Well, she cryptically tweeted back in late July:
I am thinking about a great horror game I want to make right now. pic.twitter.com/dGfBYaR5Kw— Jade Raymond (@ibjade) July 29, 2018
Looking back, it looks as if she was already planning her next moves and wasn’t sure that she had a long-term future at Motive. Hopefully, she’ll be able to make that a reality.
One possible home for Jade Raymond could be Microsoft, namely their new studio called The Initiative. Headed by Darrell Gallagher, The Initiative has hired many talented workers including God of War lead producer Brian Westergaard, Rockstar Games' Christian Cantamessa, and Crystal Dynamics veteran Daniel Neuburger. Considering Raymond’s background with Assassin’s Creed, she’d be a great fit.
It’s also likely that Raymond winds up as either a manager at an important studio or a key member at a newly created one. One place that could make that a reality is Sony, as they’ve been pushing first-party content and have worked towards partnerships that allow developers plenty of creative freedom. Their corporate structure has allowed studios to take risks with games like The Last of Us and Death Stranding, and it would make a great home for Raymond’s aforementioned horror project.
Regardless of their next moves, one thing is clear: Raymond and Motive Studios’ next moves will make a major impact on the gaming industry.