The Last of Us Art Director, Nate Wells, Leaves Naughty Dog
If you’re a fan of Naughty Dog, whose last-gen efforts included the Uncharted trilogy and 2013 game of the year The Lastof Us, you have to be wondering what is going on in Santa Monica. The studio suffered its third high-profile departure in two months as Nate Wells has left Naughty Dog for Giant Sparrow.
Wells hasn’t been with Naughty Dog for very long prior to his departure. Wells joined up with Sony’s lead first-party studio in August of 2012 when he left Irrational Games and BioShock Infinite for 2013’s other hotly anticipated game and premiere studio, Naughty Dog and The Last of Us. He didn’t even make it 20 months before taking up a new post as art director at Giant Sparrow (of The Unfinished Swan fame) for their new project.
The interesting part of this story isn’t that Wells left or that he went to a smaller studio (Giant Sparrow reportedly has nine employees with Wells’ addition) but that he’s the latest in a string of high-profile departures from Sony’s flagship studio.
March started with Uncharted series writer and creative director, Amy Hennig, leaving and turning up at Visceral Games for their Star Wars project. Shortly thereafter, Justin Richmond, the game director of Uncharted 3 and 4, left Naughty Dog to take up an undisclosed post at Riot Games (developer of League of Legends).
With Wells’ departure, it’s the first high-profile departure from The Last of Us team. However, that team of devs also put out one of Naughty Dog’s best ever games (a considerable feat considering the developer’s history). Losing anyone on that team would be a considerable blow to any studio. Naughty Dog is having to deal with three departures of important people who helped chart a course for the studio in the span of less than eight weeks. That should be crippling. It all depends on the quality of people who step into the breach.
We don’t know how much these departures will affect Naughty Dog. I guess the true test will be how Uncharted 4 will be received. Expectations are probably going to be astronomical given the lineage and the fact that it will have to be a system seller. Given the drama surrounding it, the pressure to perform will be even higher.