Analysis: Who’s working at PlayStation’s new studio Haven?
33% of its employees previously worked at Stadia and 70% worked at Ubisoft Montreal
Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) announced this week that it’s set to acquire Haven Studios for an undisclosed sum.
The move wasn’t completely out of the blue, given that Sony had already confirmed plans to fund an original IP from the studio co-founded by Assassin’s Creed co-creator Jade Raymond when it was first announced in March 2021.
And following this January’s announcement that PlayStation is set to purchase Bungie for $3.6 billion, SIE boss Jim Ryan said industry watchers “should absolutely expect more” acquisitions from the company.
However, at first glance the Haven deal didn’t appear to fit the usual Sony playbook. It has traditionally opted to buy studios it has already worked with on a number of games, as it did with Naughty Dog, Insomniac and Bluepoint Games, rather than start-ups without a released product to their name.
Some observers have even questioned whether PlayStation is being pushed into making riskier bets in an effort to keep pace with rivals like Microsoft, which has been leading the recent trend in industry consolidation with big-money deals. Last year the Xbox maker paid $7.5 billion for Bethesda parent ZeniMax. And provided it receives regulatory approval, it expects to complete a $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard in the first half of 2023.
But analysis of Haven’s current workforce conducted by VGC shows the significant extent of the development team’s shared work history – this is a team that has shipped multiple blockbusters together over many years, just under different names.
The Montreal-based studio—which will become the 18th member of PlayStation Studios and its first to be based in Canada—was co-founded by Raymond with five other Stadia employees, and they have since been joined by many more ex-Google developers. Based on LinkedIn data, the studio currently employs 67 staff, and 33% of them (22) previously worked at Stadia.
More significantly, 70% of Haven employees (47) previously worked at Ubisoft Montreal, many of them veterans with a wealth of experience on the Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Rainbow Six, Watch Dogs and Splinter Cell franchises, among others.
A number of Haven employees also worked together at EA’s Motive studio, which Raymond headed up from 2015-2018, although the exact number is harder to deduce from online résumés.
As executive producer at Ubisoft Montreal, Raymond led the Assassin’s Creed franchise and was responsible for the development of new IP at the studio, where she also oversaw the conception of Watch Dogs.
Haven creative director and co-founder Mathieu Leduc previously served as Watch Dogs brand art director and Assassin’s Creed 2 art director, before holding similar roles at EA and Stadia.
Haven head of production and co-founder Pierre-Francois Sapinski was formerly a gameplay team lead on Assassin’s Creed 3 and production lead on Rainbow Six Siege, before moving to Stadia.
Studio operations lead Marco Soldano was production manager on Ubisoft Montreal’s Far Cry Primal before serving as development director on EA Motive’s Stars Wars Squadrons and Dead Space remake.
Haven’s art director Raphael Lacoste was the art director for the Assassin’s Creed franchise for 10 years, working on eight series entries including 2007’s original.
And Haven’s world/IP director Corey May was a core team member of the original Assassin’s Creed, and went on to serve as writer and/or narrative director on multiple series entries.
This history of shared work experience has enabled the new outfit to make a fast start, PlayStation Studios boss Hermen Hulst and Haven CEO Raymond told GamesIndustry.biz this week.
“We could have just carried on in the capacity of them being an external development partner,” Hulst said. “But what Haven has created is so exciting for us, there was just a desire to deepen that relationship. We have been very impressed with how Haven is coming together.
“It’s just easier for us to invest in the team and game more deeply this way. It is testament to the fact we’ve been very impressed with the progress that Haven has made. They’re actually exceeding a lot of the plans, including in terms of time, which very rarely happens in game development, let me tell you. So we thought: Let’s invest deeply and do this properly.”
Raymond added: “It’s testament to the talent, and the amazing relationships and trust we have between the team. A lot of these people have worked together over decades on many AAA games. We’ve created new IPs together.
“Many of them have gone on to work at different studios with me. That’s really a big leg up when you all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You know how to work together, and you have done this before.”
Haven’s debut game will be an original AAA multiplayer title. Monday’s announcement called it “a new live service experience for PlayStation built upon a systemic and evolving world focused on delivering freedom, thrill, and playfulness”.
Haven Studios team (March 2022)
Former companies/projects in brackets where applicable
- Co-founder and CEO Jade Raymond (Stadia, EA, Assassin’s Creed at Ubisoft Montreal)
- CTO and co-founder Leon O’Reilly (Stadia, EA, Ubisoft Toronto)
- Studio operations lead Marco Soldano (Dead Space remake and Stars Wars Squadrons at EA Motive, Far Cry Primal at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Creative director and co-founder Mathieu Leduc (Stadia, EA, Ubisoft Montreal, Eidos Montreal)
- Head of production and co-founder Pierre-Francois Sapinski (Stadia, Rainbow Six Siege at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Executive Producer and co-founder Paola Jouyaux (Stadia, EA, Ubisoft Montreal)
- World/IP director Corey May (Stadia, 2K, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Content program manager Julien Champagne (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and For Honor at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Character technical director Steeve Ouellet (Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs and Prince of Persia at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Engine architect Christian Martin (Rainbow Six Siege, Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Insights director Jonathan Dankoff (Stadia, Warner Bros. Games, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Graphic technical director Olivier Couture (Rainbow Six Siege, Rainbow Six Patriots, Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell Conviction)
- Technical director Sacha Viltofsky (Stadia, Panache Digital, Rainbow Six Siege at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Program manager Flora Luccini-Montiel (Far Cry franchise and Splinter Cell Blacklist at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Software engineer, cloud engineering Alexandre Barone (LogMeIn)
- Online architect Matthieu Gabriac (Watch Dogs 2 at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Game director Daniel Drapeau (Ubisoft Montreal, Eidos Montreal)
- Technical design director James Clement (Stars Wars Squadrons at EA, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Game designer Gunther Galipot (Rainbow Six Extraction, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Ghost Recon Future Soldier)
- Senior level designer Jean-Philippe Saucier (Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creeds Odyssey, Syndicate and IV: Black Flag, For Honor)
- Senior level designer Pierre Tremblay (Stadia, Assassin Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs 2 at Ubisoft Montreal, Shadow of the Tomb Raider at Eidos Montreal)
- Game designer Erwann Le Rouzic (Stadia, Rainbow Six Siege at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior game designer Jonathan Eve (Stadia, Ubisoft Montreal, Activision)
- Art director Raphael Lacoste (Ubisoft Montreal, Assassin’s Creed franchise art director)
- Level artist Tuan Thanh Truong (Stadia, EA, Warner Bros Games. Montreal)
- Senior environment artist Adrien Paguet-Brunella (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Animation director Nicolas Barbeau (Assassin’s Creed and Rainbow Six at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior gameplay animator Max Gariépy (Guerrilla, EA Motive, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior technical artist Jocelyn Da Prato (Watch Dogs, Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior level artist Jonas Axelsson (Stadia, EA, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior level artist Stéphane Larouche (Stadia, Star Wars Squadron and Anthem at EA, Deus Ex Mankind Divided at Eidos Montreal)
- Senior 3D gameplay animator Guy Larose (Rainbow Six Siege, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Splinter Cell Conviction and Far Cry 2 at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior 3D artist Olivier Carignan (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion at Ubisoft Montreal, Assassin’s Creed games and For Honor at Ubisoft Quebec)
- Senior concept artist Mathieu Latour-Duhaime (Stadia, Star Wars Battlefront II at EA, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Thief at Eidos Montreal)
- Senior concept artist Francis Denoncourt (Stadia, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior lighting artist Corentin Wünsche (Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior texture artist Alfredo Cristinziano (Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior presentation artist Jean-Philippe Rajotte (Ubisoft Montreal, EA Montreal)
- Level artist Damien Audy Laplante (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at Ubisoft Montréal, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Shadow of The Tomb Raider at Eidos Montreal)
- Animator Vanessa Roy (Rainbow Six Siege, Far Cry 5 and Far Cry 6 at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior character artist Mager Kamel Aquino (Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs 2 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior VFX artist Mathieu Vincent (Far Cry franchise at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior 3D character artist Emanuel Da Silva (Ubisoft Montreal)
- Audio director Louis-Philippe Dion (Stadia, Rainbow Six Siege, Splinter Cell: Conviction and Prince of Persia : The Forgotten Sands at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Technical audio director Nicolas Teplitzky (Ubisoft Montreal, Dontnod, Quantic Dream)
- Audio programmer Hugo Bédard (Audiokinetic)
- Senior gameplay programmer Pierre-Marie Charavel (Rainbow Six at Ubisoft Montréal, Dirt and Grid at Codemasters)
- Senior online software engineer Eson See (Rainbow Six Siege at Ubisoft Montreal and Skull & Bones at Ubisoft Singapore)
- Software engineer Pierre-André Gagnon (Behaviour Interactive, WB Games Montreal)
- Cloud team lead and senior software engineer Cristian Donoso (Stadia)
- Gameplay programmer Pierre-Olivier Chartrand (Stadia, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Software engineer Joshua Pinsent (Ubisoft Toronto, EA)
- Gameplay programmer Carl Leduc-Benoit (Stadia, EA)
- Technical program manager Jean-Francois (Stadia, Rainbow Six Siege and Assassin’s Creed franchise at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior software engineer Jonathan Chaput (Coyete)
- Programmer Melchior Corgié (Far Cry games and Child of Light at Ubisoft Montreal, Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Just Dance at Ubisoft Paris)
- Senior software engineer Sébastien Leclerc (Watch Dogs games at Ubisoft Montreal, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel at EA)
- Rendering and engine programmer Alexandre Lahaise (Hyperscape, For Honor, Naruto The Broken Bond at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior online programmer John Hope (Ubisoft Montreal, Jagex)
- Rendering programmer Pierre-Marc Bérubé (Stadia, Panache, Warner Bros. Games Montreal)
- Senior rendering programmer Gabriel Lassonde (Gotham Knights at Warner Bros. Games Montreal, Far Cry 4 at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior gameplay programmer Xavier Guilbeault (For Honor, Just Dance 3 and Shaun White Snowboarding at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Senior tools programmer Julien Lallevé (Dead Space Remake at EA, Watch Dogs Legion and Far Cry 5 at Ubisoft Montreal)
- Director of HR Elise Brosseau (Vortex Solution)
- Recruiter Agathe Fallet (Eidos Montreal)
- Finance manager Keith Wace
- Director of finance Karine Chapman