Game publisher Annapurna Interactive has announced that it's spinning up an internal development studio headed up by Chelsea Hash, with game development veterans Brett Lajzer, Evan Hembacher, Cosimo Galluzi, and Nate Grove being the company's first hires. The team is working on an unannounced original game.
Lajzer will serve as the studio's technical director, Hembacher as lead producer, Galluzzi as art director, and Grove as environment artist.
Hash (who will also direct the team's first game) said that they're looking to create "a special new experience."
The publisher's expansion into game publishing feels like a natural move, given its above-average success in publishing independent games. Its track record has been so successful that it's frequently outshone its parent company: film and TV production studio Annapurna Pictures (which needed to wipe away $200 million in debt after a series of unsuccessful projects).,
In 2021, Annapurna Interactive CEO Nathan Gary was promoted to President of Annapurna Pictures, leaving a vacancy that was filled by Deborah Mars and Nathan Vella. Vella had previously co-founded and run Capybara Games.
Annapurna's efforts to build an internal game development studio won't likely impact is publishing efforts (which have turned out pretty well for the company and its partners alike), but it does mean now that it is able to produce games in-house and keep a closer eye on key talent.
The publisher's loose hand in managing key creative partners has been a key footnote in revelations about alleged abuse at studios like Fullbright, Funomena, and Mountains. Revelations about Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor led to the publisher stepping in and acting as a "mediator" between Gaynor and those he employed.
A key complaint in allegations against Mountains founder Ken Wong and Funomena co-founder Robin Hunicke was that Annapurna had reportedly been notified of the allegations against both creative leads, but did not intervene.
These troubled partners likely won't pose a problem for the new studio, but it will be worth watching if adjustments to Annapurna the publisher shape its relationship with its internal development team.