Microsoft turned plenty of heads last year at E3 2018 when Phil Spencer announced that the company had acquired several studios like Playground Games and Ninja Theory. The move was an attempt to bolster the Xbox first party lineup, which has been seen by some as not as robust as what Sony offers. The bigger surprise was that Microsoft spun up a brand new studio in Santa Monica called The Initiative, which continues to cherry pick top talent from around the gaming industry.
In this case, an eagle eyed fan noticed on LinkedIn that the now former Naughty Dog game designer Robert Ryan has recently joined on with The Initiative in Santa Monica as a Senior Systems Designer. Ryan was with Naughty Dog from 2011 to 2017 and worked on a number of major games like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, The Last of Us, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, and The Last of Us II. He then moved to EA's Motive Studio briefly on an unannounced project before jumping to Microsoft.
Ryan joins a new studio that is absolutely loaded with industry talent. The super team is led by former Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher followed by some other major names like Brian Westergaard, Drew Murray, Annie Lohr, Christian Cantamessa, Blake Fischer, Daniel Neuburger, and Lindsey McQueeny. Rockstar Games former technical director, Tom Shepherd, and God of War's senior staff level designer Chris O’Neill have also joined on with the studio in the past few months as well.
While Microsoft isn't yet saying what The Initiative is actually working on, the company has made it clear what the goal of the studio is. Intended to be a smaller studio, it has ambition to push boundaries and take risks to make games that are unique and innovative. Considering that the studio continues to hire talent, it's unlikely that what it is working on will be ready any time soon. With the current generation of consoles quickly winding down, it's a safe bet to assume that whatever the studio is working on will likely arrive on the next major Xbox hardware.