Forza Horizon Veterans Leave to Form New AAA Studio

Several former developers and leaders at Playground Games, the studio behind the much-revered Forza Horizon series, have left the studio for a new creative venture. Thanks to a report from, the new studio is located in Leamington Spa (United Kingdom) and named “Maverick Games.”

Mike Brown, previously the creative director on the Forza Horizon franchise, will head the studio. Joining him from Playground Games are other veterans including executive producer Tom Butcher, CTO Matt Craven, content director Gareth Harwood, and audio director Fraser Strachan. Also announced at this time are Elly Marshall (former design director at Electronic Arts) and Ben Penrose (formally of Sharkmob).

The COO, Harinder Sangha, has previous experience with Sega Hardlight and Sumo Leamington.

According to the report, Maverick Games currently has 10 employees but has their target on growing to approximately 140. This will support the development of an open-world, AAA game for consoles and PC.

Brown offered the following statement:

“[In 2021] we shipped Forza Horizon 5, which was a thrill to work on,” Brown told “As much as I had an amazing journey at Playground, I was asking myself, what’s next? Do I stick with this fun, good job? Or do I look for other opportunities?

“This opportunity came up. I was asked what my vision would be for a new studio… and it was lucky I had an idea in mind.”

Sangha meanwhile, offered the following:

“I wasn’t looking to leave Sumo,” she tells us. “I loved it. I am really proud of what we’ve done in Leamington.

“But then I met this guy [laughs] and everything changed. He cares about all the things that I can’t bring to the table. So what makes this, I believe, quite special is that we both bring different things. When we talk about developer-first, it is exactly [what Mike was saying], making the games that we want to make. But also empowering them with the right environment around them. We’ve all been places that haven’t been so great, this is about putting them in an environment where they’re challenged, where they’re involved in what’s going on, they have a voice, they’re appreciated, they’re valued… all the things that bring out the best in people.”

She continues: “Mike’s challenge is to come up with a world class game, and my challenge is to make this a world class studio.”

So then, where does the name “Maverick” come from for the studio? Sangha comments:

“It is about being rebellious, it is about changing the way things are. Everything that we stood for while we’ve been in our previous places… I do want to change the industry. I want to change it for the better. It’s about finding better leaders for the industry, it is about not tolerating practices that have been on past and inspiring those around us. People will come and go. If they come and do brilliant things with us and go onto something bigger and better, they go on with our blessing. And they go on with these better practices, and that’s going to make for a better industry.”

The studio certainly seems as though it has the talent and drive to develop something special. We’ll be paying close attention to their growth in the coming years. In the meantime we highly recommend reading the full interview from!

By Seasoned Gaming

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