After 25 years, God of War and Star Wars Jedi veteran says his new studio is a chance to make "something original to us"

Giant Skull
(Image credit: Giant Skull)

"We have arrived. You have questions. Let's begin". These are the words that will greet you if you visit the official website for Giant Skull, the new AAA studio led by former Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Survivor director Stig Asmussen. In the background, old TV monitors flicker with text and symbols, VHS tapes clump together, and cassettes unspool. I'm instantly curious to know the meaning behind each image and word and what it signifies for Giant Skull, but that's kind of the whole point. By its very design, the site has been made to awaken your curiosity; there's even a command box in the top left corner where you can type in words to try and uncover its secrets. 

Giant Skull was unveiled earlier this month, with the announcement that the team is striving to create "game-play driven, story immersed, action-adventure games set in captivating worlds''. Speaking with Asmussen, it's clear that curiosity is an operative word for the kind of experiences the team wants to craft. 

"I'm always curious, I'm always asking questions and looking for answers. It's a major part of my creative drive," Asmussen says. "And a lot of the people that have joined the studio, they're looking for the same thing. But it's more than that. When you play games, especially these types of games, you're curious, you're probing the environment, there's riddles and you're trying to find the answers. And when you do, there's something that's very satisfying about that. And that's a major point of emphasis on the games that we're going to make."

New direction  

Giant Skull website

(Image credit: Giant Skull)

I've probably spent too long typing in commands to see what will come up on Giant Skull's site, which as Asmussen says, speaks to "our vision of wanting to feed the curious mind, because you can ask a lot of questions, but that doesn't mean you're going to get a lot of answers''. It almost feels like a kind of game on its own - the team may even "feed new questions and answers into it as we're growing as a studio". Above all, it's got me wondering: what will an action-adventure from Giant Skull look like? Of course, it's still very early days, and while the team are "working right now", it'll be some time before we'll get an answer to that question.  


Red Dead Redemption 2

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

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Made up of 30 developers, including veteran names with experience on everything from God of War and the Batman Arkham series to Fortnite and League of Legends, Asmussen alone leads Giant Skull with over 25 years of experience in the games industry. Credits include work on the original God of War trilogy at Sony Santa Monica and director duties at Respawn Entertainment, working on the aforementioned Star Wars Jedi games. Asmussen speaks highly of his time at Respawn, expressing appreciation for the amount of trust he was offered from Vince Zampella when he joined what was then an independent company as the first member of the second team, which he took "from one all the way up to 200 people". While it wasn't something Asmussen was "actively looking for", the opportunity to form a new studio with people that he trusted came along during development on Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

With an experienced development team well-versed in storytelling, traversal, and combat in games like Star Wars and Batman, it's already exciting to imagine what the talent on board will cook up in the future. While it sounds as if we can look forward to a fresh IP, nothing is off the table for Giant Skull: "If a licensed game came along that was incredibly intriguing… This is something that I certainly would entertain," Asmussen says. "I mean, we are working right now, but the idea of making something that we own that's original to us, is incredibly intriguing. And I've done both. So, at the end of the day, it's a great position to be in and I'm very grateful for it." 

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

(Image credit: EA)

The kind of games the studio aims to develop certainly align with the team's strengths. With a focus on creating "gameplay driven, story-immersed, AAA action adventure games", Asmussen even says it makes sense to make games he himself enjoys and not go outside of his wheelhouse. But as descriptors go, "AAA" certainly stands out when it's coming from a smaller, recently formed studio. As Asmussen explains, it points towards some of the big goals the team have - including the level of quality they hope to deliver. 

"The word AAA gets thrown around a lot, and it's an easy bullet point when you do a press release," Asmussen says. "But what I feel that means is its premium quality, where we had the time to execute on our vision, we had the support to execute on our vision to create something that really summarizes that, and will be a well rounded and thoughtful experience for the player. That doesn't mean that you can't do that on a smaller budget, but it's more that we have like a certain degree of like, no limits. Because there's trust that we're going to be able to execute. So it's again, it's about just trying to try to be the best that we can be, the best version that we can be." 

"Another big goal is that we form a relationship, a bond, with the players with the games that we make. That's something that's really important to me, and I'll never take for granted is that, when the game goes out the door, we have this amazing opportunity, while we're making it, that we can't have any regrets. Because people are going to buy this game, they're going to play the game. And we have the potential to put a smile on their face, and bring some light into their day. So it's important that we cultivate and really respect that relationship that we have with the player." 

The people 

Giant Skull website

(Image credit: Giant Skull)

The prospect of a new game from a freshly formed studio with "no limits" is an exciting one, especially when it's coming from a smaller team with lots of talent on board already. But there's no denying that it's a very difficult time for the industry right now. In the first three months of 2024 alone, we've seen an unprecedented number of layoffs across various studios and development teams. The latest reports revealed the unfortunate news that EA had also been hit by layoffs, which has led to the cancellation of Respawn's Star Wars FPS. I take the opportunity to ask Asmussen about the number of layoffs and how challenging it's been to begin something new in the current climate.

"It's been a real gut punch. And the thing is it happened so quickly. When I started this studio back in late September, I don't even think the writing was on the wall," Asmussen says. "And then it's just one after the other. And I know so many people that have been affected and it's terrible. We're still a small studio, but there have been people that we've been able to pick up because of that. And as we grow, I see that as an opportunity. One of the things that a lot of people might not know, is when I went to Respawn, it was after I was working at Sony and I was on a cancelled game, and 40 people were laid off. But a lot of those 40 people were able to, over the years, come and join me at Respawn." 

"At the end of the day, we've got to make games, games aren't going anywhere. There's people that want to play games, and we have to build teams, and we have to find homes for the people that have been affected by this. And we're committed to helping that cause. And I think we're building a really good home with a stable foundation. I know there's a lot of studios that have started up in the last few years. And what I can say about us, and I won't comment on any other studios, but what I can say about us, is I have a really high level of confidence that we're going to succeed." 

"The bottom line is there's nothing more important than the people on the team."

Stig Asmussen

"We have a very strong group of individuals already, with a track record of getting things done and shipping and succeeding. And a lot of that is built in the leadership that we have as well. We take this opportunity very, very seriously. And part of that, too, is building a place where you feel that you're not going to get in that situation where people are going to have to be let go. You never know what's going to happen. But I'll tell you one thing, I'm going to do everything that I can to keep that from happening." 

Speaking of the team and the plans for the future, Asmussen states very firmly that "the bottom line is there's nothing more important than the people on the team" and they are "where the value of a studio really rests". While they have a very talented initial crew, the studio plans to continue looking for good people in a "pragmatic way" as they set out to create an experience that captures a sense of "curiosity, mystery, and intrigue." 

"We want to make sure that the games have that kind of hook to it so that people jump in and they want to keep on playing because there's something kind of leading them along the way. That's just intriguing." 

See what we have to look forward to with our roundup of new games for 2024 and beyond. 

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.