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Mike McCain returns to Harebrained Schemes, now as executive producer

McCain is rejoining the studio after co-founder and executive producer Mitch Gitelman stepped back into an advisory role in late 2023.

Bryant Francis

January 31, 2024

2 Min Read
The logo for Harebrained Schemes.

At a Glance

  • BattleTech and ShadowRun: Dragonfall game director Mike McCain is returning to Harebrained Schemes.
  • The studio is in recovery mode after regaining independence from publisher Paradox Interactive in 2023.

The Lamplighters League developer Harebrained Schemes is undergoing a change in leadership. The studio announced today that Mike McCain, who previously directed BattleTech and Shadowrun: Dragonfall while at the company, is now returning to replace co-founder Mitch Gitelman as executive producer.

According to a post posted on Harebrained Schemes' website, Gitelman informed employees that he was stepping back into an advisory role in late 2023 (the news was publicly delayed while the company spun up a new blog).

“This is a ridiculously talented team," Gitelman said in a statement. "I’m proud of them, I'm excited for them, and I look forward to playtesting the new game they're prototyping—I think it will really resonate with longtime HBS fans."

McCain is rejoining the company after a few years away working in TV and feature-length animation. He worked on visual development for Blue-Eyed Samurai on Netflix and Sony's multiversal adventure Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse. He also art directed the Academy Award-winning short film The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and the Horse. His role at the company will be to help it "navigate the transition to indie studio again."

It appears McCain and the studio will be maintaining a remote-friendly strategy, as he noted in his statement he's back in the "virtual office" with his colleagues. “There will be plenty of challenges, but the creative momentum we have around this new project right now is exhilarating.”

A long road back for Harebrained Schemes

The Seattle-area studio that was one of the first developers to find massive success through Kickstarter crowdfunding was dealt a nearly fatal series of blows in 2023. Paradox declared that The Lamplighters League was a commercial failure just days after its release, and it would come to light that Harebrained Schemes laid off an estimated 80 percent of the company earlier in the year.

In December, the studio announced it was splitting off from Paradox and regaining its status as an independent developer. Said breakup came at a price: Paradox would retain the rights to BattleTech, the Shadowrun Returns trilogy, and The Lamplighters League.

A January 22 blog from Harebrained Schemes didn't mince words about the hard road ahead. "There’s no sugarcoating it, it’s a brutal time in the games industry," it said.

"You look at the industry news and the only reason that the articles about layoffs aren’t back to back is because of the ones about studio closures sandwiched in between them. Publishers and investors are getting squeezed by rising interest rates and they need to de-risk any investments as best they can right now."

That's not an easy spot for any studio to be in. Harebrained Schemes deserves praise for sticking it out and not collapsing under the pressure, but also scrutiny as to whether it can return to a state of sustainability and avoid mass layoffs in the years ahead.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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