Jerry Hook, who previously worked at 343 Industries, is now running his own development studio dubbed Jar of Sparks, which is owned by Chinese tech giant NetEase. Prior to his time at 343, Hook spent the last two decades helping build Xbox Live at Microsoft and Destiny at Bungie. More recently, he worked as a design lead on Halo Infinite until his departure in May.
As CEO and studio head of Sparks, Hook is joined by creative director Paul Crocker, who previously served as lead narrative director on Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham franchise; executive producer Greg Stone, who worked on Infinite and Doom 2016; and Steve Dyck, an animation and design director for Halo and EA's SSX franchise. The studio will be based in Seattle, but recruit globally, with the goal to create "a new generation of narrative-driven action games."
Speaking to IGN, Hook admitted that the studio's first game was years away, but promised that it wouldn't be a live service title. "There's only so much risk you can take on within a new studio," said Hook. "Live service adds more complexity on top of that." He was also candid in his desire to not try and chase the high budgets of industry darlings like God of War. Citing recent indie darlings like V Rising and Valheim, Hook wants to "build a team with the right budget that allows you to be successful with just a couple million...and you can be successful that way."
NetEase gets deeper into gaming
In a press release, Hook acknowledged that since the four men have spent so long working for some of the industry's biggest western companies, they now want to "start putting our own personal lightning in a bottle." The desire to take "innovative risks" led them to NetEase, who he said impressed them with their "creative first" approach. "They demonstrated the same passion we have for our players and building new experiences that we believe players are looking for.”
Recent years have seen NetEase make a bigger push into the gaming space. It put a $100 million minority stake into Destiny developer Bungie in 2018, and is currently partnering with the studio on a mobile game. In January, Yakuza director Toshihiro Nagoshi formed his own studio, Nagoshi Studio, with the publisher. More recently, Blizzard's just released mobile game Diablo Immortal was developed with NetEase, though the game's release in China had to be delayed.