Jason Rubin to exit Naughty Dog

The outspoken Jak and Daxter cocreator is taking his manifesto to heart and striking out on his own.

Days after presenting a rousing speech at the 2004 D.I.C.E. Summit that called on developers to rise up and demand more respect from game publishers, Jason Rubin confirmed rumors he will leave his post as president of Naughty Dog after the completion of the studio's next project, Jak III. “I’m committed to seeing Jak III through completion. I’ve worked extremely hard on it and believe that it’s the best Jak game yet,” Rubin said in an interview on Tuesday. “Beyond that, I’ve made a conscious decision to leave Naughty Dog and explore other options in the gaming sector.”

Rubin’s announcement comes three years after he and Andy Gavin, his business partner for 20 years, sold Naughty Dog to Sony Computer Entertainment America for an undisclosed sum. “I have absolutely nothing but appreciation for Sony, especially the product development group,” says Rubin. “They have been an incredibly strong vehicle that has guided Naughty Dog’s and my success.” While Rubin’s speech took game publishers to task for not valuing talent, he maintains he was not singling out Sony. “The speech was directed at the industry in general, not one company,” he says. “But in the future, in order to realize the goals I outlined in my talk, I need to expand my reach outside of Naughty Dog’s parameters.”

Rubin said his decision was disclosed to Naughty Dog and Sony in advance of his D.I.C.E. presentation last week. When contacted by GameSpot, SCEA representatives declined to comment on Rubin's announcement.

The goals outlined in Rubin’s speech are rooted in his belief that game publishers have, historically, undervalued development talent. By working outside of a major game publisher, Rubin hopes to swing the balance back in favor of developers. “I want to lead by example and take a real risk. I hope other developers take my message to heart,” he says. Rubin has no immediate plans for his post-Naughty Dog days, but he does want to explore how Hollywood and the game industry can collaborate in a more meaningful way. “Instead of focusing my energy on making games under tight deadlines, I want to build relationships with people outside of this sector. That will enable the gaming industry to integrate itself into other areas that will prove to be profitable. That’s just not possible in my present situation.”

With regard to the future of Naughty Dog, Rubin says the company will continue to grow and prosper without his involvement. “The truth is that Naughty Dog is a well-oiled machine--it practically runs itself,” he says. “I now want to take on new challenges and create something new. I want to refuel my passion for the business of gaming.” Rubin says he can’t speak to the plans of his longtime partner, Andy Gavin, besides joking that “we’ve had a great relationship for 20 years. I only wish all my other relationships lasted that long.”

Rubin’s departure will likely be seen as a setback for SCEA, which has worked with Naughty Dog since the launch of the original PlayStation. (Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot became a de facto mascot for the platform and was one of the best-selling franchises of the mid-1990s.) At D.I.C.E., Rubin boasted that Naughty Dog is responsible for one out of every eight PlayStation games sold in America. The company recently finished work on Jak II--the sequel to 2001’s Jak and Daxter--and Sony is set to unveil Jak III at a press event next week in Santa Monica, California. Going forward, Rubin doesn’t rule out the possibility of continuing to create PlayStation games. And, despite rumors to the contrary, he denies having any current plans to align himself with another console manufacturer or game publisher.

Still, Rubin says one thing is for certain: He wants to continue making games, potentially even titles that tie in to Hollywood movies or other licensed properties. “I’ve seen this industry go from nothing to something. I definitely want to stick around to see it go to the next level.”

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