Forza Horizon 5 leads depart, found new Maverick Games dream team

Racing game, and Forza Horizon, industry veterans have left Sumo Digital, Electronic Arts and Playground Games to form a new studio – Maverick Games.
Forza Horizon 5 leads depart, found new Maverick Games dream team

Several key members of Playground Games, the developers of the Forza Horizon franchise, have left the company and therefore Microsoft to form Maverick Games – a new AAA video game studio based in Leamington Spa, United Kingdom.

Founder of the new outfit is Mike Brown, former Creative Director on Forza Horizon 5 and often seen as a figurehead of the game, appearing on Forza Monthly streams and at various award shows.

Forza Horizon 5 wins three categories at The Game Awards 2021
Mike Bown, left, accepting an award for Forza Horizon 5 at the 2021 Game Awards

“I am thrilled to announce that I am now Creative Director at Maverick Games, a new, independent AAA studio in Leamington Spa,” posted Brown to social media.

“I can’t wait until I’m able to share more with you guys. Watch this space!”

“We are going to build a team where we really encourage them to take creative risks, to try new things, and really celebrates that as part of our culture,” said Brown to

Brown also worked on Horizon 2, 3 and 4, following a spell at Sony’s then Evolution Studios working on MotorStorm: Apocalypse, MotorStorm: RC and Driveclub.

Forza Horizon 5 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport 1992
Playground Games has developed five Forza Horizon games for Microsoft across the last 10 years

Harinder Sangha is a Co-founder and will be Chief Operating Officer, moving from Sumo Digital where she won both a 2020 Diversity Award and the Best Boss crown in 2021. Interestingly, Sumo did support Playground Games as external contractors in the creation of Forza Horizon 4 and 5.

“With the world where it is… [job seekers] may be slightly concerned,” Sangha told

“But there is stability here,” the publication claims that it will be making games for PC and console with funding from a London-based investor.

“It’s already been an incredible kick-off, and we have only just started. I can’t wait to grow the team, and try new creative and innovative ideas to create an engaging environment for our colleagues,” said Sangha on social media.

Tom Butcher (left) and Mike Brown (right) on a Forza Monthly stream
Tom Butcher (left) and Mike Brown (right) on a Forza Monthly stream

Tom Butcher also joins, another Playground alumnus and now Maverick Co-Founder, and was formerly seen alongside Brown during Forza Monthly streams. He last appeared on one in August 2022, while Brown’s final showing was in June.

Elly Marshall, also joins as Director of UI/UX, following an over five-year stint at Project CARS developers Slightly Mad Studios and then just over a year at Electronic Arts following its takeover of the studio under the Codemasters umbrella.

Richard Heasman starts as Principal VFX Artist, having previously worked at the former Evolution Studios during the same time as Brown, but staying with the team after it was purchased by Codemasters and then subsumed into Criterion by Electronic Arts

Richard Heasman works on Onrush

Other Playground and Forza Horizon stalwarts include Art Director Benjamin Penrose, Chief Technology Officer Matt Craven, Audio Director Fraser Strachan and Content Director Gareth Harwood.

This follows the news a year ago of Playground Games Co-founder Gavin Raeburn also leaving.

While its first title is unannounced, every single member so far has a strong background in racing game development. It’s now recruiting for new job roles to expand its reach even further.

The revised structure of the Forza Horizon team is not yet clear, with Playground Games also setting up a second team to work on the upcoming role-playing reboot Fable.

Featured Image: Maverick Games, via Forbes

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