Respawn agent Blackley leaving CAA
Xbox designer-turned-power-player leaving Hollywood agency that represents Insomniac, Will Wright, Ken Levine, and Patrice Desilets to form game production company.
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One of the bigger behind-the-scenes players in the game industry is moving on. Variety is reporting that Seamus Blackley is stepping down as the head of the games division of Creative Artists Agency. According to the trade, he is leaving the Hollywood talent powerhouse, whose film clients include Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, to form his own game production company. His exit will be gradual, allowing for a transition through the end of the year.
Blackley leaves behind a game division at CAA that has amassed a massive client roster since he joined in 2003. Currently the agency represents Irrational Games' Ken Levine, Will Wright's Stupid Fun Club, Jenova Chen's thatgamecompany, L.A. Noire designers Team Bondi, and Grasshopper Manufacture's Shinji Mikami and Goichi Suda. CAA also represents Patrice Desilets and was presumably involved in the Assassin's Creed director's defection from Ubisoft to THQ last year.
That said, Blackley is currently most famous for his courtship of two particular clients: Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. According to court documents, Blackley was allegedly tapped by Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello to help woo away West and Zampella from Activision. A complaint filed by Activision contained numerous e-mails attributed to Blackley in which he aggressively pursued Zampella, urging him to meet with one "JR"--a person Activision claims was Riccitiello. Eventually, West and Zampella were fired from Activision for "insubordination" and went on to form the EA-aligned indie shop Respawn Entertainment, which is also a CAA client.
However, Blackley was involved in the game industry long before he joined CAA. In the early 1990s, he worked at Looking Glass Studios (then called Blue Sky Productions) on System Shock and Flight Unlimited, for which he helped design the flight physics. In 1999, he was hired by Microsoft, where he was a lead member of the team that designed the original Xbox.