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


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

Based in Leamington Spa, UK, the founding team is led by former Forza Horizon creative director Mike Brown, who serves as 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, though Tuesday’s announcement didn’t confirm whether it’s in the racing genre.

Forza Horizon 5 Official Launch Trailer

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

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

Ex-Playground Studio Art Director Ben Penrose is Maverick’s Art Director, while Elly Marshall, former EA Experience Design Director, is the company’s UX/UI Director.

“Our goal is for Maverick Games to be a studio that people will love,” Brown said. “For gamers we are already working on an exciting title of the highest quality, and for developers we are building a home where everyone is encouraged to take risks, be curious, be creative, be innovative, be yourself and above all – be a maverick.”

Forza Horizon leads leave Xbox's Playground Games to start a new AAA studio

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

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