Forza Horizon leads leave Xbox’s Playground Games to form new AAA studio

Some of the key talent behind Microsoft’s Forza Horizon series has left Xbox’s Playground Games to form a new triple-A development studio called Maverick Games.

The Leamington Spa, UK-based outfit’s founding team is led by former Forza Horizon creative director Mike Brown, who’s serving as its creative director and studio head.

The start-up said it has secured significant seed funding and its debut game will be a new, premium open-world title for consoles and PC, although Tuesday’s announcement didn’t confirm if it’s in the racing genre.

Forza Horizon 5 – Official Launch Trailer

Maverick’s leadership team also includes chief operating officer Harinder Sangha, who was previously co-studio head of Sumo Digital Leamington, and executive producer Tom Butcher, who was formerly lead producer at Playground.

Its chief technology officer Matt Craven was Playground’s technical director, its content director Gareth Harwood was technical art director at the Xbox studio, and audio director Fraser Strachan held the same role at the Forza developer.

Ex-Playground studio art director Ben Penrose is Maverick’s art director, while former EA experience design director Elly Marshall is the company’s UX/UI director.

“Our goal is for Maverick Games to be a studio people will love,” said Brown. “For players, we’re already at work on an exciting ultra-high quality title, and for developers, we’re building a home where everyone is encouraged to take risks, be curious, be creative, be innovative, be themselves, and above all – be a Maverick.”

Forza Horizon 5 released in November 2021 and enjoyed the biggest launch in Xbox history, attracting over 10 million players in its first week, according to Microsoft.

Like all first-party Microsoft games, the title is included with Xbox Game Pass, and it reached 20 million players in under seven months.