The head of Microsoft’s new The Initiative studio has revealed the hiring of six major talents who formerly worked on Red Dead Redemption, God of War, Tomb Raider, Shadow of Mordor, and more.
He also revealed that recruiter Lindsey McQueeney would be joining the team, who formerly worked for THQ, Crystal Dynamics, and Google. Microsoft is still looking for Art and Technical director, so her help may be invaluable.
The information was found on the LinkedIn of studio head Darrel Gallagher, who held executive roles at Activision, Square Enix, and Crystal Dynamics. Though the post was quickly removed, it’s now live again.
Putting its Money Where Its Mouth Is
With these hires, Microsoft is revealing a very strong commitment to first-party exclusives and addressing its major complaint this generation. The Initiative has promised craft, storytelling, and innovation, and it now has some of the talent it needs to do so.
Perhaps the most prolific of the hires is Brian Westgaard, who was previously the senior managing producer on PS4 exclusive God of War and lead producer on Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Joining him is Christian Cantamessa, who was the lead writer and designer on Red Dead Redemption and also worked on GTA: San Andreas, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Forza Horizon.
Coming from a 12-year stint at Crystal Dynamics is Daniel Neuburger, who directed Rise of the Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider (2013). Microsoft’s senior director of portfolio planning Blake Fischer is also joining the team after many years of assisting high-profile games like The Witcher 3 with their Xbox releases.
Importantly, it doesn’t look like The Initiative will stop its hiring spree any time soon. As well as Lindsey McQueeney, recruiter and co-director of Tomb Raider Annie Lohr will join.
Microsoft is clearly putting a lot of money into its new studio, but its recruiters are vital to acquire veterans outside of Gallagher’s personal bubble. So far, all of the hires worked with Crystal Dynamics in some form and likely held a working relationship with him.
Either way, the future of gaming for Microsoft is looking very exciting right now. At E3 this year, it also announced the acquisition of Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Undead Labs, and Compulsion Games.
It will undoubtedly take a while until we see the fruits of the company’s investments, but it should be well worth waiting for.