The head of Hangar 13 studio Hayden Blackman is leaving the creator of Mafia III after seven years of work, 2K Games announced on Wednesday. The publisher wrote in an email to employees that the former LucasArts veteran was going to “pursue his passion in a new endeavor.” Kotaku understands that this move is related to the new Mafia game, which is at a very early stage of development in Hangar 13, according to a source familiar with the plans.
“We are grateful to Hayden for his leadership in the creation of Hangar 13, the creation and unification of teams in Novato, Brighton and the Czech Republic, as well as the release of several studio—defining Mafia games and collections,” 2K wrote in an internal message shared by VentureBeat and others. “What Hayden helped build will continue to evolve and grow for many years to come. We support all our employees in their hobbies and wish him all the best in the future.”
What 2K didn’t mention in the email was that Matthew Urban, the chief operating officer of Hangar 13, has also left the studio. “What a wonderful ride on H13… let’s see what happens next,” he wrote on LinkedIn. These shifts come as Hangar 13 returns from original projects to established franchises such as Mafia, an open-world third-person shooter series that is often compared to Grand Theft Auto, except that it has more of an approach to crowd films.
Blackman is replaced by Nick Baines, currently the head of Hangar 13 Studio in Brighton, the UK office, who Kotaku understands is leading the development of the new Mafia game. Although the project is still at an early stage of development, its codename is Nero, and it is expected to be a prequel to the Mafia trilogy. It is planned to do this on Unreal Engine 5 instead of the Mafia III engine, which was recently used for remasters.
“With 30 years of industry leadership experience, Nick joined Hangar 13 in 2018 to found Hangar 13 Brighton and has spent the last four years nurturing the team, building studio capabilities and launching amazing projects like Mafia: Definitive Edition and Mafia. A trilogy,” 2K told staff on Wednesday.
Hangar 13 has been in a precarious position for many years. After releasing the ambitious Mafia III, she went through two rounds of layoffs, first in 2017 and then again in 2018. The studio had several ideas for new IP at this time and in the subsequent period. As Kotaku previously reported, one of them was a spy game revolving around musical cues, called Rhapsody. The other was a class-based cooperative game in the spirit of Destiny 2. Codenamed Volt, it was quietly shut down by Take-Two’s parent company last year after $53 million had already been spent on development. The third new IP, codenamed Mosaic, was an ARPG based on mining, and was also abandoned before it was officially introduced.
More recently, Take-Two has used the developers of Hangar 13 to help with its other published games, such as the recently released loot shooter Gearbox Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Most of them are still working remotely, and Kotaku reported that some, following Blackman and Urban, are also looking for a door.