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Opinion Business Game Dev Why Smilegate poured $100m into That's No Moon and its AAA veterans


NeoGAFs Kent Brockman
Dec 1, 2014

The team at That's No Moon, a new Los Angeles-based developer that emerged from stealth today, chose the company moniker as a nod to a "great moment in entertainment that ignited people's imaginations and delivered something truly unexpected" -- because that's exactly what it hopes to build.

"We wanted [the name] to be impactful, the start of something big," CEO Michael Mumbauer tells GamesIndustry.biz. "We want players to think about our narrative experiences long after the game credits roll and they put the controller down."

Even so, he's talking about a moment in a story that revolutionised its industry -- but Mumbauer and his team sound no less ambitious when it comes to their plans for games. And when you see the collected works of its initial employees, it's easy to understand why.

Mumbauer himself was previously head of PlayStation's Visual Arts group, having contributed to various titles from the Ratchet & Clank, God of War, and Uncharted series and even credits for assisting with Returnal and last year's Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part 2.

Alongside him, he has veterans from studios such as Naughty Dog, Infinity Ward, Bungie, Electronic Arts and Sony Santa Monica, which was responsible for the 2018 God of War revival.

That's No Moon's first title will be led by creative director Taylor Kurosaki, who previously served as narrative design lead at Naughty Dog and studio narrative director at Infinity Ward, and game director Jacob Minkoff, previously lead designer on The Last of Us -- and it's Left Behind DLC -- and design director for 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

The studio has actually been operating for around six months and currently stands at just under 40 people, with a goal of reaching 100 by the end of 2022. It plans to specialise in AAA story-driven titles, with its first set to be a third-person action adventure, although its ambitions stretch beyond video games (more on that later).

As with Kurosaki and Minkoff, there's a lot of crossover when it comes to where people have worked, and Mumbauer says this has helped That's No Moon feel like more than your typical startup.

"This is, to some degree, kind of bringing the band back together with all of these people who have been working together for, in some cases, decades," he says.

"There's never been a better time to start something new. The games industry just keeps growing exponentially. Every time there's a need for some kind of reinvention of industry, the top talent gets together and tries to evolve or revolutionise those industries. You can see it in film with DreamWorks, in comics with Image Comics, or in music with Interscope [Records] and Aftermath [Entertainment]. I feel like that's where we are right now. We're at a point in the industry where there are a lot of big things happening, and we want to use our collective experience to do something new."

The prospect of disrupting the AAA space has also helped convince members of the team to leave long-running and highly successful studios -- something that, for industry veterans in their 40s is a "big consideration," says Mumbauer. The goal here is not just to compete with their former employers, but to surpass them and elevate the already impressive quality of AAA blockbusters.

Check the link for more


May 18, 2020
I still don’t think this idea of getting a bunch of big names together is a guaranteed recipe for success. Like Microsoft’s quad-A thing. Think about the number of egos at play. I can’t see this going smoothly. And even if it did it wouldn’t be till their 2nd or 3rd game that they find their operating rhythm. I think this idea that they will launch a AAAA title from the get-go is absurd.

If I were building this sort of company I would target one key big industry name then let them build their own team. Mashing all these big names together, throwing cash at them and hoping they work well together...I don't know.
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