Consider this a public service announcement big enough for Flint, Gung-Ho, and Alpine to host: G.I. Joe, one of the United States’ longest-running comic and cartoon series, appears to finally be on the verge of returning to console video games in a major way.
Magic: The Gathering creators Wizards of the Coast are making a new game in the franchise with ex-WB Games developers—the first project for a new, as-yet-unnamed triple-A studio. As listed in multiple job posts on its career page, the company is looking to fill positions at the development house, currently called “New Raleigh-Durham Studio,” for a multiplatform third-person action game set “in the G.I. Joe universe.”
Wizards, a division of Hasbro (which also owns the G.I. Joee brand), states the developer is being headed by experienced ex-staffers from WB Games and other major studios, though the listings suggest it’s still recruiting for some senior positions, including lead game designer and art director.
While none of the listings gets too far into specifics, the lead-game-designer ad does mention that candidates need experience with Unreal Engine, while—perhaps more interestingly—the art-director page mentions “the opportunity to help redefine a beloved IP.”
One reason to have any optimism for this teased G.I. Joe game comes from Wizards’ recent efforts to branch into the triple-A space with its own properties. The company released Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance earlier this year, which was met with middling reviews but showed promise in its design and production value chops rather than feeling like a cheap mobile port.
Hasbro announced its intentions to develop digital games for a number of its properties at an investor event in February. This, combined with opening a new triple-A studio scale, points to the company taking the G.I. Joe name more seriously than it has been in some time—which should be a no-brainer to fill gaming’s relative void of E-10-rated action games.
Real American zero?
The G.I. Joe brand could also use a reset given its latest media failures. This summer’s theatrical spinoff Snake Eyes tanked at the pandemic-troubled box office. Meanwhile, last year’s third-person shooter G.I. Joe Operation Blackout, which sported a cel-shaded, Fortnite-esque look, didn’t fare much better. The beloved comic and cartoon series has been relegated mostly to smartphone game tie-ins over the past decade, with Operation Blackout being the first G.I. Joe console release of any kind since 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra movie tie-in. (Before that, the last time the Joes had much of presence in games at all was 1992, in a self-titled arcade game from Konami and the NES’ G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor.)
Reading between the lines, Wizards bringing on former WB Games developers to apparently head its Raleigh-Durham studio may offer some clues into the status of the games division at Warner Bros.
Questions have been circling Warner Bros.’ development arm—which is currently working on games like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League and Harry Potter spin-off Hogwarts Legacy—since WarnerMedia (formerly Time-Warner Inc.) was bought by AT&T in 2018. The media firm was then hit with mass layoffs as part of a corporate restructuring in August 2020, leading to industry speculation that Warner Bros. Interactive might be sold.
AT&T announced in May it would spin off WarnerMedia as a separate company in a merger with Discovery. Meanwhile, WB’s roster of big-budget triple-A games was almost entirely missing from the company’s E3 announcements in June. Instead, the company only offered an update on the upcoming game Back 4 Blood. (Mortal Kombat‘s NetherRealm and Shadow of Mordor‘s Monolith have been similarly mum for some time.)
In a statement during its restructuring, AT&T did say WB Interactive was staying in the family. But gleaning concrete information on the current status of either its studios or projects in-development has been difficult since then. All of which is to say, this new studio highlighting former WB Games heads as part of its leadership could have larger implications.