The Initiative is a first-party Xbox game studio based in Santa Monica, California. The company was announced in June 2018, with a mandate to create “ambitious and innovative game experiences” for Xbox.
God of War level designers Ian Miller, Kai Zheng, Chris O’Neill and Ray Yeomans (who also worked on the Tomb Raider series) have all joined The Initiative from Sony’s neighbouring Santa Monica studio in the past few months, according to LinkedIn, as well as former Motive and Naughty Dog senior designer Robert Ryan.
Fiona Cherbak, the former talent acquisition lead at Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, recently joined Microsoft to help with its expansion of Xbox Game Studios, with a current focus on staffing up The Initiative.
The latest hires join a host of experienced talent at the Xbox startup, including game director Daniel Neuburger, who was a game director on the Tomb Raider series, and lead designer Drew Murray, who held the same role on Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive.
The studio’s director of production, Brian Westergaard, also worked on God of War as senior managing producer.
According to LinkedIn, the company currently stands at around 30 staff and is advertising a further 15 vacant positions, including for art director and lead producer.
Given the experience of its staff on series like Tomb Raider, God of War and Uncharted, it’s likely that The Initiative is staffing up for a third-person action game.
The company is part of a new drive at Xbox to significantly expand its portfolio of first-party studios.
As well as setting up The Initiative and a new Age of Empires studio, Xbox has recently acquired the likes of Ninja Theory (Hellblade), Playground (Forza Horizon), Obsidian (Fallout: New Vegas), InXile (Wasteland 3) and Double Fine (Psychonauts 2).
Xbox’s Initiative Dev Team (July 2019)
- Darrell Gallagher, studio head (Activision, Square Enix)
- Annie Lohr, recruiter (Respawn, Treyarch)
- Daniel Neuburger, game director (Tomb Raider series)
- Drew Murray, lead designer (Sunset Overdrive)
- Christian Cantamessa, narrative consultant (Red Dead Redemption)
- Brain Westergaard, director of production (God of War, Tomb Raider series)
- Blake Fischer, director of narrative (Xbox)
- Chris O’Neill, lead level designer (God of War + Metal Gear Online)
- Robert Ryan, senior systems designer (Motive + Naughty Dog)
- Ian Miller, senior designer (God of War)
- Kai Zheng, senior designer (God of War)
- Ray Yeomans, senior designer (God of War & Tomb Raider series)
- Tom Sherpherd, technical director (GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2)
- William Archbell, technical director (Riot Games, 343)
- Cristian Guzman, associate technical director
- Ben Diamond, lead systems engineer (Respawn, God of War III)
- Cesar Castro, senior software engineer (EA Sports UFC, FIFA)
- Robert Marr, lead gameplay engineer (Cryptic Studios)
- Victoria Miller, producer (PlayStation)
- Irma Ward, associate producer
- Matt Corcoran, principal character artist (Jurassic World movie)
- Sze Jones, principal character artist (Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4)
- Branford Williams, principal production designer (Daybreak)
- Oliver Guiney, concept artist (Black Ops 4)
- Isaac Yeram Kim, concept artist (Naughty Dog)
- Arlington Cruz, animator
- Lindsey McQueeney, HR manager (Google, Crystal Dynamics)