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Annapurna Pictures expands focus on games with new development studio

Annapurna Interactive this year released the critically acclaimed "If Found..."
Annapurna Interactive this year released the critically acclaimed “If Found...,” a game that explores how we handle personal relationships.
(Dreamfeel / Annapurna Interactive)

Annapurna Interactive, the video game division of the Megan Ellison-founded firm behind “Her,” “Vice,” “Sorry to Bother You” and many other prestige pictures, is increasing its focus on video games by creating an internal studio to develop and distribute its own content.

Previously, Annapurna has linked with independent developers to fund and distribute a broad range of often narrative-driven and adventurous games, including last year’s acclaimed “Outer Wilds,” a folksy sci-fi adventure from Mobius Digital, the downtown Los Angeles studio founded by Masi Oka, a lifelong gamer but also an actor best known for his role on “Heroes.”

This year amid the pandemic Annapurna has continued to release thought-provoking titles, including “If Found…,” an affecting game about how we move forward in relationships with family, friends and ourselves. The game boasts a fragile, sketch-like hand-drawn art style and was created by Ireland’s Dreamfeel. On Nov. 12 Annapurna will release “The Pathless” from local studio Giant Squid, a game of mythical environments where the act of firing a bow and arrow becomes almost relaxingly dream-like.

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Annapurna Interactive didn’t announce its first internal project, but the studio, which has long declined to grant interviews, is headed by former Sony Santa Monica creative director Nathan Gary and is actively seeking to hire a game director and senior producer, among other roles. Annapurna Interactive was founded in 2016 and began releasing games in 2017. Earlier this year, the studio announced that Nathan Vella, the former president of Capybara Games (“Below”), had joined its executive roster.

Over the years Annapurna Interactive has worked closely with a number of high-profile game designers in the independent space, including Thatgamecompany’s Jenova Chen, whom Annapurna has described as a “spiritual advisor.” Chen, whose studio released the friendly mobile hit “Sky,” helped Annapurna early on with fundraising and acting as a scout for potential projects.

“It’s about helping artists who want to do something risky but couldn’t,” Chen told The Times of his collaborations with Annapurna.


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