God of War 2 has all but been confirmed by Sony Santa Monica, but one has to wonder how the project will turn out now that top talent has left the lauded developer this week. Both Google and Microsoft have a blind spot when it comes to first-party action-adventure games like God of War, but these new hires seem intended to change that.
Santa Monica Studio Head and Executive Producer Shannon Studstill has left for a role at Stadia, while God of War's Senior Combat Designer Dean Rymer revealed he is working on an unannounced game at Microsoft subsidiary inXile Entertainment.
Studstill is poised to lead a new branch of Stadia Games and Entertainment in Playa Vista, California. Following the acquisition of Typhoon Studios in January, this move and studio opening shows that Google still has faith in Stadia's long-term prospects, despite the concerns of many developers. At this new studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment VP Jade Raymond says Shannon Studstill and her studio will "focus on delivering exclusive games, using new gameplay mechanics, creative ways to play together and unique interaction models that we’re just starting to explore." Raymond also teases that Studstill's next game will be a "new IP."
Sony Santa Monica also chimed in on her departure, telling IGN that "all of PlayStation is better for and grateful of her many years of exemplary service and bold creative vision." As a co-founder, she had worked at the studio for more than twenty years. Studstill will be replaced with Yumi Yang, a product development specialist who has been with Sony for 19 years.
Meanwhile, Rymer confirmed he has taken on the role of Lead Combat Designer at inXile Entertainment and is working on an unannounced game. He thinks that "everyone will love it." The only game that we know inXile Entertainment is working on right now is Wasteland 3, which comes out on May 19, but Rymer's tweets confirm that the studio already has another game in the works.
Considering it has the input of a former God of War combat designer, could it possibly be a departure from the top-down RPGs we've come to expect from the studio? Microsoft has also been poaching Sony Santa Monica talent for The Initiative, one of its brand new studios, so the God of War team has lost some good talent since the title's release in 2018.
The Inverse Analysis
While God of War likely didn't suffer a massive change in direction because Barlog is still attached and has a pretty clear idea of what he wants to do, the departure of several key members at Sony Santa Monica will have a trickle-down effect. Still, with Barlog and much of the original team still there, God of War 2 will likely turn out well.
However, these moves indicate we're likely to see new, innovative riffs on the God of War model from Stadia and Xbox in the years to come. Both Google and Microsoft have a blind spot when it comes to first-party action-adventure games like God of War, but these new hires should hopefully change that. Perhaps one of these new IPs will eventually beat Santa Monica Studio at their own game, but that remains to be seen.
God of War 2 will likely be released for PS5.