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After five years building up its film credits with such projects as Zero Dark Thirty and 20th Century Women, Annapurna Pictures has set its sights on the gaming industry.
The company run by Megan Ellison is launching an interactive division focused on producing and publishing video games.
It’s been expected for some time after a string of gaming hires from Sony — including designer Nathan Gary and three other top games executives — sparked speculation about Ellison’s next move.
Annapurna Interactive will create what it calls “personal, emotional and original games that push the boundaries of interactive content,” similar to its mission around film titles. It is starting with Gorogoa, a hand-illustrated puzzle game from developer Jason Roberts, and What Remains of Edith Finch, a series of playable short stories by Giant Sparrow, both of which will be published next spring.
The group also plans to work with San Francisco-based developer Funomena and its creative director Keita Takahashi, as well as Mountains Games and founder Ken Wong, who served as the lead designer on mobile app Monument Valley.
“I’ve had a great passion for video games for as long as I can remember,” said Ellison in a statement. “Growing up, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of my all-time favorites. My brother [David Ellison] and I ran up quite a bill calling the 1-900 numbers for tips on those games, before the internet provided game-guides.”
She continued: “The artistry and diversity of interactive storytelling is exciting, and we look forward to exploring the limitless possibilities in gaming. We want to empower artists across this medium to make Annapurna Interactive their home, and I believe we’ve assembled the perfect team to make that happen.”
Other members of the interactive team include Annapurna’s head of technologies, James Masi, and production executive Neale Hemrajani, as well as new hire Deborah Mars, formerly an executive producer at Sony. Video game designer Jenova Chen was a founding member and will serve as an adviser.
Annapurna Interactive launches in the midst of a period of expansion for Ellison’s company. Last year, Annapurna made a push into virtual reality with the launch of a division devoted to the medium. And The Hollywood Reporter has reported that there’s speculation about a move into distribution given the high-profile hiring of 20th Century Fox marketing executive Marc Weinstock and former Weinstein Co. distribution executive Erik Lomis.
This year, Annapurna Pictures released Sausage Party, Wiener-Dog and Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some. Annapurna is currently in postproduction on Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Untitled Detroit Project starring John Boyega and is developing an adaptation of Maria Semple’s novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
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