Playground Games has become one of Microsoft's biggest studios. It's still no Mojang, but you can't fault Playground for making Forza Horizon 5 perhaps the best driving game on the market. Today, however, Playground loses its leader.
Gavin Raeburn, Playground co-founder and studio director for the past 12 years, has decided to call it quits. Raeburn co-founded Playground Games along with Trevor Williams back in 2009 after working at Codemasters on such racing titles as TOCA Championship, DiRT, and GRID. Determined to do it better than Codemasters, Raeburn and Playground made Forza Horizon, a franchise that continues in its fifth iteration to this very day.
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Trevor Williams will replace Raeburn as Playground studio head. Raeburn didn't say anything about his future plans.
"After 12 years working on five award-winning Forza Horizon games, Gavin Raeburn is leaving Playground Games as studio director," said Microsoft CVP of F-named games Alan Hartman in a statement to Windows Central. "A founding member of Playground Games, we thank Gav for his leadership and contributions to the Forza franchise and wish him all the best. Co-founder Trevor Williams will transition from general manager to studio head effective immediately, as the Playground Games team focuses on updates to Forza Horizon 5 and the development of Fable."
Playground is currently working on the Fable reboot, a franchise that started with Lionhead Studios. Microsoft recently admitted that its handling of Lionhead was one of its "biggest missteps" as a game company. The studio was closed in 2016 after the Fable franchise "deviated pretty significantly from the pillars of what made Fable 1 and 2 so popular," according to former GM of games publishing Shannon Loftis.
When it came time to reboot the franchise, Playground stepped up even though it was already hard at work making Forza Horizon 5. Meanwhile, Lionhead's Mark Webley and Gary Carr went to found Two Point Studios, makers of Two Point Hospital.
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