China’s NetEase recruits Microsoft Xbox talent for new video games studio in Seattle
- The Seattle studio is headed by Jerry Hook, former head of design on Halo Infinite, a popular first-person shooting game created by Microsoft’s Xbox video game brand
- NetEase and its larger domestic rival Tencent Holdings have not secured official Chinese approval to publish any new games over the past year
NetEase, China’s second-largest video gaming company, has opened a new studio in Seattle as the company pins its hopes on the US market amid a tough regulatory environment at home.
NetEase Games, the online games division of NetEase, said in a release that its new studio in Seattle, called Jar of Spark, would focus on “narrative-driven action games”.
The operation is headed by Jerry Hook, the former head of design on Halo Infinite, a popular first-person shooting game created by Microsoft’s Xbox video game brand. Hook was also a founding member of Xbox Live, the online multiplayer gaming service established by Microsoft in 2002.
It is perhaps no surprise that the NetEase studio picked Microsoft’s headquarters city of Seattle as its own base, given that all of its founding members so far are from the US tech giant’s gaming unit.
Apart from Hook, Jar of Spark’s creative director Paul Crocker, executive producer Greg Stone and gameplay director Steve Dyck all had previous roles in Halo Infinite.
“We have built games for some of the biggest companies in gaming, and now it’s time to take a shot at putting our own personal lightning in a bottle,” said Hook, adding that NetEase has given them a “strong creative-first approach”.
The Seattle operation, the second US studio for NetEase Games, reflects a trend among Chinese gaming companies to step up overseas expansion to escape an increasingly hostile market in China.
Recognised by NetEase as a so-called AAA studio, the Seattle operation is expected to enrich the company’s offering of PC and console games such as Naraka: Bladepoint.
NetEase did not disclose the financial terms of the Seattle venture, other than to say it is a “first party” studio that will develop gaming titles in-house.
However, the title still proved to be a hit after its overseas launch in June, ranking third in global revenue for Chinese mobile games that month, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.