Amy Hennig leaves EA, starts own indie studio

The Uncharted director and champion of narrative games has split from EA and their Star Wars project, and is striking out on her own

Eurogamer reported yesterday that Amy Hennig has finally publicly confirmed her departure from EA in the wake of their cancelled Star Wars game. She’s also starting an indie studio.

Hennig, famous for developing the Uncharted series, came up as an artist and animator. She’s shown a willingness to adapt and learn that has kept her in the games industry for almost 30 years, and lately she has talked a lot about her strong belief in narrative and the promising future of games. This clashed with the badly kept secret that her EA Star Wars project was floundering and soft cancelled after EA closed Visceral Games, which had clocked almost 20 years of genre-specific work for EA.

Last week at E3, Hennig appeared on the Future of Narrative panel alongside fellow triple-A rogue Sam Barlow, whose work on U.K. Silent Hill games gave him a comparison point for his subsequent indie work on Her Story and its upcoming sequel with Annapurna. The panel’s moderator, games journalist Howard Goldberg, talked about Hennig’s Star Wars project as though it were already cancelled.

I’m speculating that Hennig wasn’t allowed to discuss her official break with EA, which she’s now confirmed was in January, until after their presentation at E3. Since January, she and EA have maintained an implausible “we’re in talks about Amy’s future” Stepford line that the industry is glad to no longer need to repeat. EA still insists the Star Wars project exists, now under EA Vancouver, where it’s being retooled and has no official timeframe for release.

In the meantime, Hennig is the first woman ever to receive Gamelab’s Honor Award. She talked with Game Reactor in an interview from Gamelab Barcelona where she spoke admiringly about game “experiences that rival film” and “a cinematic result when we’re thinking about storytelling and narrative.” This was a motif of her E3 panel as well: how technology has started to move games beyond the uncanny valley.

With an upcoming all-online Fallout game on one end of the spectrum and Hennig’s professed love for more linear, cinematic storytelling on the other, it seems not only that first-person gaming is alive and well; big players like Barlow and Hennig will continue to make their own paths out of triple-A and into the projects of their dreams. In fact, at the E3 panel, Hennig made a critical comment about the number of hours asked of triple-A gaming in 2018 and looked to her panelmates as though for confirmation. If only she’d been able to talk frankly about her own plans at the time.

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About Caroline Delbert

Caroline Delbert is a writer, book editor, grad student, researcher, and avid reader who lives in Chicago. She's also an enthusiast of just about everything.
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