Chinese gaming giant NetEase has announced the formation of a brand new AAA studio. Jar of Sparks is a development outfit consisting of alumni from franchises like Halo and Batman: Arkham, and it's focused on creating "narrative-driven action games".
What do we know about Jar of Sparks?
Per a press release, Jar of Sparks is a new studio founded by former Halo Infinite head designer Jerry Hook. He'll lead a team consisting of industry luminaries like Batman: Arkham lead narrative director Paul Crocker, SSX design director Steve Dyck, and Doom 2016 producer Greg Stone, who will work as Jar of Sparks' executive producer. Together, this team is looking to create a "new generation of narrative-driven action games" with a triple-A budget to match.
Right now, we don't know a huge amount about the studio. The aforementioned press release states that Jar of Sparks' mission is to create "immersive worlds that will be filled with moments that gamers will want to share with each other", which isn't a particularly specific description. Jar of Sparks will prioritize developer health and work-life balance, and it will also give each studio member the "freedom to offer their input" on projects, a policy likely implemented to avoid enabling problematic figures like Ubisoft did with Serge Hascoet. As for its first project, only time will tell; it'll be a narrative-driven AAA action game, but we don't know anything beyond that just yet.
NetEase is working to be taken more seriously in the gaming space
As one of the world's biggest and most valuable gaming companies, NetEase is a well-known name, but it hasn't necessarily been synonymous with high-quality console and PC gaming experiences. It's pretty clear the company is trying to make moves to change that; it acquired Suda51's Grasshopper Manufacture back in 2021 and also has a stake in David Cage's Quantic Dream, with some rumors suggesting that the Chinese giant could be looking to acquire Cage's studio.
Despite NetEase's size and success, the company is still having something of a hard time in its native China. A recent thaw in the freeze of Beijing-approved games notably didn't include titles by NetEase or Tencent, and NetEase was one of the Chinese studios pledging greater self-regulation in the wake of a Beijing crackdown on Chinese gaming content. Time will tell whether this has an impact on Jar of Sparks' first title, but given that the studio says it has "full creative freedom", it's likely its first game won't be affected too heavily by any of NetEase's woes.