6.9 C
New York
Thursday, March 30, 2023

Ex-Blizzard leaders Jen Oneal and J. Allen Brack create startup studio Magic Soup Video games

Join with prime gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this Might 22-23. Register right here.

Ex-Blizzard Leisure veterans Jen Oneal, J. Allen Brack, and John Donham introduced as we speak that they’ve teamed as much as type a brand new sport studio, Magic Soup Video games.

Now that’s an influence trio.

The three co-founders every labored on and led corporations behind a few of the most acknowledged video games and franchises on the earth, together with World of Warcraft, Star Wars, Tony Hawk, EverQuest, Diablo, Skylanders, and plenty of extra. With Magic Soup, they’ll be drawing on a long time of expertise to construct triple-A authentic video games which can be genuinely uplifting and inclusive for gamers all over the world.

“J., John, and I’ve related concepts in regards to the varieties of video games we wish to make, and we’re tightly aligned on firm objectives and rules, so this was a pure match for us,” stated Magic Soup CEO and cofounder Jen Oneal, in a press release. “We all know the standard of our video games will likely be a mirrored image of our staff tradition. We’re doing the work up entrance to verify we’re fostering creativity, absolutely distant collaboration, and a range of backgrounds.”


GamesBeat Summit 2023

Be part of the GamesBeat neighborhood in Los Angeles this Might 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds throughout the gaming business to share their updates on the most recent developments.

Register Right here

The trio funded the brand new studio themselves in an effort to protect artistic independence. It’s putting that they determined to work collectively and type a brand new studio at a time when financial doldrums have shaken the business. They usually every may have joined or led a lot greater sport growth groups.

In an e mail Q&A with GamesBeat, Brack stated, “My years at Blizzard had been dominated with Blizzard video games, so extra lately there was an entire lot throughout the business to make amends for. Taking part in video games helped encourage me, and reignited my conviction of their potential for highly effective constructive influence on the world.”

He added, “And that’s the place I discover myself as we speak – full of fireplace and power to create one thing distinctive. I’m much more dedicated to getting it proper, from the beginning, at Magic Soup. And I’m grateful for Jen and John’s partnership in that imaginative and prescient.”

In the meantime, Donham stated in an e mail Q&A, “All three of us like to construct, and there’s nothing extra fulfilling and aspirational than constructing a brand new firm from the bottom up. We’re excited to create the video games, imaginative and prescient, and tradition from the beginning, and to handpick a staff of execs who share our values.”

Rising by means of the ranks

Jen Oneal is the highest chef and CEO at Magic Soup Video games.

Oneal acquired her manufacturing begin at LucasArts within the late Nineteen Nineties engaged on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones sport franchises earlier than changing into a producer at Activision in 2003, the place she produced a number of titles within the Tony Hawk Franchise.

She later turned an govt producer at Vicarious Visions in 2008, the place she led a number of groups that
produced each owned and licensed IP video games, together with Marvel Final Alliance 2 and a number of other Skylanders and Guitar Hero titles.

In 2016, Oneal turned the studio head of Vicarious Visions. Throughout this time, she oversaw the event and manufacturing of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a number of Future 2 expansions, and Tony
Hawk Professional Skater 1 + 2. She was one of many recipients of the Nice Place to Work for All award in 2018, largely for her broad concentrate on tradition and values.

In early 2021, Vicarious Visions turned a part of Blizzard Leisure, and Oneal joined the Blizzard
management staff. There she served in a number of management roles, together with co-lead of Blizzard. She left that position after a couple of months in November 2021.

Oneal is a passionate advocate for advancing the state of range, fairness, and inclusion within the online game business. She at present serves on the board of Ladies in Gaming Worldwide in addition to the management staff of the Nationwide Coalition for Fairness Impression. She additionally served as an advisory board member for the Younger Ladies’s Management Initiative and was a board member of the Ladies Scouts of Northeast New York. She is a frequent speaker and panelist with reference to tradition and DEI.

As for doing the startup, she stated in an e mail Q&A, “There are video games on the market that I like, that encourage new concepts for video games I’d like to make. Having my very own firm helps me concentrate on precisely that. And I’m most comfortable once I’m build up a staff, serving to them get nice alternatives and fostering an setting the place they’ll succeed. I additionally really feel strongly about creating a various and inclusive firm, and it’s fulfilling to have the ability to create one thing from the bottom up the place that could be a core precept from day one.”

Massive moments at Blizzard

J. Allen Brack was at Blizzard from 2005 to 2021.

The three leaders frolicked at Blizzard throughout vital junctures within the storied firm’s historical past. I requested them about their impressions of Blizzard in a written Q&A, however they steered away from the most important controversies whereas expressing their help for sport builders, creativity and inclusiveness.

Brack has labored in video games since 1994. He began his profession at Origin Programs as a high quality assurance tester on the Wing Commander collection, probably the most well-liked area fight franchises on the time. Later he moved into manufacturing the place he labored on an unreleased MMO model of Wing Commander. In 2000, J. went to Sony On-line Leisure, the place he met John Donham. Collectively they led manufacturing for the award-winning massively multiplayer on-line role-playing sport (MMO) Star Wars Galaxies.

He joined Blizzard in 2005 and he labored on the World of Warcraft staff. Over 12 years, he served in varied roles on the staff, ultimately overseeing all features of growth and operations. Throughout this era, World of Warcraft solidified its place because the No. 1 subscription-based MMO on the earth,
reaching over 100 million gamers worldwide and common expansions that rank among the many fastest-selling PC video games of all time.

Brack additionally labored to type new groups inside Blizzard to create WoW Traditional, an acclaimed re-creation of the unique pre-expansion expertise of the sport, and the primary Warcraft cell sport, Warcraft Arclight Rumble.

In 2018, he succeeded longtime Blizzard chief Mike Morhaime as president of Blizzard. Throughout his tenure as president, Brack partnered with Oneal, then head of Vicarious Visions, to collaborate on the corporate’s Diablo II remaster, Diablo II: Resurrected.

He noticed some controversies on the time, like when the studio got here underneath hearth in 2019 after it punished a Hong Kong Hearthstone participant for voicing help of his nation’s protests towards China. 

And Brack’s tenure ended not lengthy after the corporate was sued for sexual harassment by the California Division of Truthful Employment and Housing. The company accused Blizzard of getting a “frat home tradition” and failing to guard ladies and others from unfair remedy and predatory conduct on the firm. When he left, he was changed by two leaders, Oneal and Mike Ybarra in August 2021.

Only a few months after that Oneal left the co-lead position at Blizzard, and, like Brack, she stayed underneath the radar till saying the brand new startup as we speak.

The operations chef

John Donham will be the operations chef at Magic Soup Games.
John Donham would be the operations chef at Magic Soup Video games.

Donham is a seasoned sport govt and serial know-how entrepreneur with expertise in constructing profitable startups, main online game franchises, and managing international groups and companies.

As certainly one of Magic Soup Video games’ three cofounders and head of operations, Donham works to make sure the
firm runs easily day-to-day and is well-positioned for continued stability and future progress. He began his profession in 1992 as an engineer, sport designer, and dwell operations chief making
multiplayer video games at Simutronics, together with GemStone and DragonRealms.

In 2000, Donham John joined Sony On-line Leisure, the place he met J. Allen Brack. Collectively they labored on the award-winning massively multiplayer on-line role-playing sport Star Wars Galaxies. He went on to run SOE’s San Diego studio and the EverQuest, Planetside, Untold Legends, and Area Commander franchises.

In 2006, Donham cofounded Metaplace, an early model of the metaverse. In 2009, he took over as CEO
and targeted the corporate on the multiplayer social video games Island Life and My Winery. Metaplace was
acquired by Playdom in 2010, and he turned VP of Know-how.

Playdom was then acquired by Disney, and Donham was subsequently entrusted to run all product and know-how for Disney’s social video games. In 2011, he joined Sequoia-backed startup TuneIn as CEO. Over the course of a number of years, TuneIn grew to greater than 50 million month-to-month lively dwell audio listeners all over the world.

Beneath his management, TuneIn secured unique content material offers from corporations such because the NFL, NBA, MLB, CNN, and MSNBC, and was a launch associate for well-liked shopper merchandise from Sonos, Amazon’s Alexa,
Google, and Tesla.

Donham returned to the online game business in 2019 as a part of Blizzard’s govt staff, reuniting with
then-president Brack. There he additionally met Oneal and helped with studio operations throughout the portfolio. John additionally led the corporate’s transition to a work-from-home setting originally of the pandemic. In 2020, John moved to Amazon, the place most lately he served as the pinnacle of Prime
Gaming and oversaw Sport Progress, Crown Channel, and DEI & Studying groups.

Magic Soup Video games is in Irvine, California.

Whereas all three leaders can have a hand in constructing video games and the corporate, every can even have a major space of focus.

“Jen has nice expertise as a staff builder, tradition driver, and sport maker. John and I are thrilled that she’s helming the corporate,” stated Brack. “John has a long time of expertise in each video games and startups, and can run operations. I’m excited to get up daily and concentrate on sport growth with the staff. The three of us sit up for the sorts of video games and groups we’ll construct within the coming years.”

The corporate has simply 5 individuals, and the founders consult with all of them as “cooks,” every devoted to creating superior video games from a type of artistic soup.

The studio is predicated in Irvine, California, however it should have a hybrid distant and bodily operation.

As for the title, Brack stated, “Making a sport is so much like making a soup. Each take time, each require lots of iteration and totally different components. Each require lots of tasting and testing, time and again. Every new Chef can deliver one thing new – new tasting notes, new spices, new flavors. Even then, to finish up with one thing really wonderful, nicely that takes a little bit of magic.”

And as for the sport, Oneal stated, “It’s too early to debate the small print. However the spirit is that we’ll lean on our expertise constructing triple-A video games and triple-A groups to create one thing that brings out one of the best in individuals, that celebrates the constructive energy of what this medium can specific. We’re engaged on one thing that doesn’t match neatly into any current style as we speak.”

Leaving Blizzard

J. Allen Brack is the new president of Blizzard Entertainment.
J. Allen Brack was appointed the brand new president of Blizzard Leisure in 2018.

I requested whether or not the leaders needed to undergo their very own therapeutic course of after leaving Activision Blizzard throughout a tumultuous time.

Partly, Oneal answered, “I labored at Activision for nearly twenty years. Whenever you spend that a lot time with individuals engaged on one thing you’re all so keen about, you grow to be shut mates. Whereas I’ve many good reminiscences of my time there and the nice video games I acquired the chance to work on, what I cared most about was the individuals, and it was very troublesome to depart, particularly throughout an total difficult interval.”

She added, “After leaving, I nonetheless wished to assist ladies within the business and continued my non-profit work. I’m very lively on the board with Ladies in Gaming Worldwide. I frequently take part of their mentorship packages, panels and talks. It is vitally gratifying to have the ability to work one on one with mentees and to see them succeed.”

And he or she stated, “I’m so grateful that J. and I stayed in contact. That was a part of the journey, feeling like we had been going by means of this large change collectively. We’ve bonded over our love of constructing video games and discovered that collectively we will make the corporate we at all times wished to make with the type of staff we at all times wished to work with.”

In the meantime, Brack stated, “For a while it had been clear I had variations in imaginative and prescient with Activision Blizzard. But with 16 years at Blizzard, separation was extremely troublesome, however I believed the group would heal quicker underneath somebody new.”

He added, “I’ve been reflecting an incredible deal on my position in driving cultural change. I’ve been listening to and studying many private accounts and opinions in regards to the issues that ought to have been higher. As a frontrunner and a human, it furthered my dedication to attempt for continuous enchancment. This can be a lifelong quest.”

And he stated, “I’ve additionally struggled with eager to account for the actual progress that was underway. In my time as president, Blizzard improved figuring out and addressing worker inequities, and added new company-wide insurance policies for worker security. We additionally exited a number of leaders whose behaviors weren’t aligned with these values. I nonetheless imagine Blizzard can re-emerge as a haven for creatives with a constructive tradition for all staff, and I do know there are lots of good individuals investing their power into simply that.”

GamesBeat’s creed when protecting the sport business is “the place ardour meets enterprise.” What does this imply? We wish to inform you how the information issues to you — not simply as a decision-maker at a sport studio, but in addition as a fan of video games. Whether or not you learn our articles, take heed to our podcasts, or watch our movies, GamesBeat will assist you to be taught in regards to the business and luxuriate in partaking with it. Uncover our Briefings.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles