Evan Wells, co-president of Naughty Dog, has announced that he will be retiring from the developer at the end of this year. Wells, who has been with the company for 25 years, shared the news today in a letter that was initially sent to staff, explaining how he thought this was the “perfect time” to step away and put the fate of the studio in the hands of its current leaders, which include The Last of Us director/writer Neil Druckmann. Some of Wells’ earliest projects include Crash 3, a game that he helped develop after being hired as Naughty Dog’s 14th staff member.
After 25 years at Naughty Dog, I wanted to share with all of you that I’ve decided to retire at the end of this year.
This is something that I’ve been discussing with Naughty Dog’s Studio Leadership Team for well over a year, and with Neil for even longer than that. The decision brings with it overwhelming and conflicting emotions, but I’ve come to realize that I’m content with my time at the studio and all that we’ve accomplished together over the last 25 years. I couldn’t be more confident in Neil’s ability to carry on running the studio. It’s the right time for me to provide the opportunity for him and the others on the Studio Leadership Team to steer the studio into a successful future.
I’ve been making games professionally for over 30 years, and Naughty Dog has been my home for over half my life! I’ve seen this studio grow from hire number 14 (me!) during the Crash 3 days in 1998 to over 400 Dogs today. Every major life milestone I can track with a Naughty Dog project – I met my wife during Crash Team Racing, we took our honeymoon after shipping Jak 2, had our first child E3 week when we announced Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and our second child was born right in the thick of development on The Last of Us.
Working here has been awe inspiring and I have nothing but gratitude for everything that I’ve been able to learn and be a part of. And, getting to collaborate with the passionate and driven teams at SIE and the other PlayStation Studios has been a pleasure. I’ve never taken for granted the opportunity I’ve had to be surrounded by such impressive creativity and talent and I’m thankful to all – past and present – for teaching me so much.
There’s never a perfect time to step away, but I’m incredibly confident that I’ll be leaving the studio in the best hands. Neil and the rest of the capable and dynamic Studio Leadership Team are perfectly suited to ensure Naughty Dog continues to lead the industry – not only in the games we make, but the environment in which we make them. I am positive that Naughty Dog will continue to push the industry and our medium forward.
I couldn’t be more excited about our current projects and not getting to see those games to completion is going to be hard. But we’ve never had a stronger team in place to ensure that we will deliver them in a way that will set industry standards and exceed all expectations.
Finally, to all the Dogs in the Kennel – I am humbled to see what you all have accomplished, and I am thrilled to have the honor to watch from the sidelines as you all continue to uphold the well-established development culture that has led to our good fortune and string of successful games. I have no doubt Naughty Dog will reach new heights and continue to raise the bar for the state of the art.
Thank you for what has truly been a tremendous adventure, I’m thrilled to see what the future holds for this inspiring team and I’m so proud of you all!