Mike O’Brien is leaving ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 to form a new studio

    
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ArenaNet President Mike O’Brien announced this afternoon that he is leaving ArenaNet, the studio behind MMORPG Guild Wars 2, to “join some of [his] friends in forming a new studio” – to “go back to the beginning and make small games again.”

While MO doesn’t expressly say who, if anyone, will be taking over as company president, he does indicate that Game Director Mike Zadorojny will assume a “larger leadership role.

“Two years ago, when I transitioned away from the Guild Wars 2 game director role to focus on new product development, I asked Mike Zadorojny to take on that role. Now as he takes on a larger leadership role, I am confident that ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 are in good hands. Z is a true champion of the Guild Wars franchise and of this studio’s values; he is the best person to continue carrying the torch at the company.”

MikeZ’s statement is also included in the farewell letter from MO.

“I took over the role of Game Director on Guild Wars 2 right after we launched Path of Fire. Assuming that role made me appreciate how passionate and amazing this community is, reminding me each day how important our work is. Since then we’ve aimed at making huge strides to the quality and cadence of content we’ve been adding to the game every year. I love the fans, I love this team and we’re all very excited for you to play the upcoming chapters of The Icebrood Saga. We’ve got some really fun content on the way. I want to personally wish Mike the very best in whatever is next for him. Though he is leaving the studio, his presence and legacy will always be a part of the team, and I am going to make sure I do everything I can to keep the torch he passed me burning brightly into the future, both for the Guild Wars franchise and ArenaNet itself. I am looking forward to continuing this journey with all of you.”

MMORPG fans will recall that it’s been a bit of a rocky year for Guild Wars 2 and ArenaNet; last year, the studio was rocked by the firings of two employees who clashed with the community, while early this year the company was forced to downsize, shedding 143 employees in a mass-layoff that coincided with the cancellation of other titles. Guild Wars 2, however, carried on; most recently, it launched the first leg of its fifth season of new content.

Update
Reddit has identified the new company under MO’s command as ManaWorks – MMO players will recognize several familiar names in there, including Isaiah Cartwright, who’s more or less confirmed his involvement.
Update
We inquired with ArenaNet this afternoon about MikeZ’s title and who specifically would be replacing MO as president of ArenaNet – we’d speculated that NCsoft might be taking more of a hand in the company. We also asked who else might be leaving from the top levels of Anet. Here is the studio’s formal comment on all that:

“Mike Zadorojny will continue to oversee Guild Wars 2 at ArenaNet, while NCSOFT West Chief Development Officer Chris Corry will continue in his role managing all western development efforts at the company.”

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