Naughty Dog co-founders Jason Rubin (top) and Andy Gavin (middle) are joining with former HBO executive Jason Kay (bottom) to create Monkey Gods , a three-person firm that will produce casual games made by contractors. They’re starting with an iPhone version of the puzzle game Snood, which was developed by Dream Hive .
In an interview, Rubin said the Los Angeles-based company will work with many former members of the Naughty Dog team that made legendary hits such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. Full told, the games Rubin and Gavin worked on sold at least 35 million units and, by now, with iPhone game versions etc., the total may be more like 50 million.
Naughty Dog was founded in 1986, and Sony bought it in 2001. After a huge run of successful games, Rubin left in 2004 to work on a four-part comic book series, Iron and the Maiden. But Rubin felt that was more like a side project, a creative outlet after he left the game industry. He’s got another comic book in the works now.
Rubin also co-founded Flektor with Gavin and Kay in 2006. That company created a technology that let users transform their photos and videos in interactive presentations and video mash-ups. They launched in April, 2007, and then in May, 2007, they sold the company to Fox Interactive Media, a division of News Corp. Rubin and company left around July 2008.
He said they missed the game industry and they formed the new company in January. But rather than building up a big team, the self-funded company will assemble talent on a project-by-project basis, much the way Hollywood producers operate.
“We put talented people together with money and distribution and then manage in the middle,” Rubin said. “We see a need for this kind of company as the video game industry broadens.”
Beyond Snood, Monkey Gods is also working on Monkwerks, a text-based word game that is in a beta test on Facebook. There are more unnamed titles in the works. While the first projects are small, Rubin said he wouldn’t rule out anything. In the future, it’s quite possible the company could make console games.
Rubin was a controversial figure in games. He made a speech in 2004 at the annual Dice Summit in which he criticized game publishers for failing to give proper respect and credit to game creators. He promises that he will always give proper credit to game contractors working on Monkey Gods games.
“Some of these people have been working with us for up to 15 years, and one of the reasons is we continue to give them credit,” he said.