Today, British-based developer Playground Games, the team behind the Forza Horizon games, announced its plan to open up a second development studio.
The new branch will be based only a few blocks down from its current headquarters in Royal Leamington Spa, or so the developer hopes, as it has not secured a place at the moment of writing this. The studio will house a second, and new team, working on brand new game. Further details about the game have not been divulged, however, Playground has said it will be not be a racing game, and will be open world.
According to Playground Games, it won’t be all new faces at the second studio, with some of the team it has formed since starting in 2010 shifting over to the second team.
Founder and Creative Director of Playground Games, Ralph Fulton adds:
“We have a great studio here, with a really broadly experienced staff, some of whom joined us five, six years ago as graduates. For some of them, this was their first job in the industry. I remember many of them starting green as you like. They’ve grown up in this studio, grown in experience over three games of increasing quality, and are now in a position where they are looking to develop their careers. We want them to do that here rather than somewhere else, but with only one team the opportunities for that are limited.”
Playground Games currently houses a staff of 115, with room to support up to 30 more — usually contractors — when development on the Forza Horizon games hits crunch time. The company is aiming to grow its headcount to 200, and thus it needed another building. Fulton adds:
“We occupy pretty much all of this building, but even if we acquired the last of it, it wouldn’t be enough to fit the size of team we’re aiming for. The next best thing to it being in this building is for it to be approximate to the studio, ideally within walking distance.’
“We’re not doing this to diversify our recruitment pool, we’re not trying to open up a studio somewhere there’s already lots of people we can hire. We’ve had great success already in bringing people to Leamington, and we want to build an extension of Playground with the same values and principles.”
Fulton continues, talking about the importance of location and being at the hub of the town:
“It was a prerequisite when we set up Playground that we wanted to be in the town centre so that we could have a range of options for lunch, we could walk to the pub after work – not just because we like food and drink but because those things build team spirit and bonding. The ability to go after a pint with anyone on the team really helps developers bond over time. Wherever this new studio is around this area, it’s important that we can do the same or similar.”
With the new studio, Playground Games will trek off into uncharted territory, and that’s game development of multiple games at a time. Up until this point, the developer has only ever dedicated itself to one project at a time: the three Forza Horizon games. Transitioning to multiple game development will require many new processes, but Fulton is confident Playground is ready.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but the key to it is that we will minimise the number of people who are having to manage both. If we just say to the guys who are running one project ‘congratulations, you’re now running two’, those guys are going to get pretty frazzled pretty fast – or things are going to start falling off their plates.
For those of who worried Playground will be abandon the Forza Horizon series, don’t worry, according to Fulton the company is in no rush to leave behind the IP:
“Our business with Forza over the last six, seven years has been great for us. It remains the cornerstone of our business – we’re not running away from racing, we still feel passionate about making new racing games and delivering new experiences for our players.
“Horizon 3 was a watershed game for us – it’s certainly our best-reviewed game critically, it’s our most commercially successful game as well. It’s the first time we’ve experienced that commercial breakout hit phenomenon – the other games have been successful but not on the level of this one. We want to keep doing that. In a way, that game took six years to make. So we want to keep developing that skillset and pushing new boundaries.”
According to Fulton, opening another is something Playground has talked about for a few years, but it wasn’t something the company wanted to rush. He adds:
“We feel like we’ve become pretty good at racing games over the years. We can always get better, we can always strive to get better but we’d love to prove ourselves in a different genre. That’s another goal of Project 2, to allow us to do that. We’re going to need to hire some very talented people with experience that we don’t have.”