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Kellee Santiago, one of the founding members of thatgamecompany, confirmed today she will be leaving the indie gaming studio to pursue new adventures. Santiago's announcement follows news that Journey, thatgamecompany's latest PSN exclusive, shattered SCEA's digital records to become the fastest-selling games on its online service.
“The reaction to Journey has been even more overwhelming,” wrote the studio's other co-founder, Jenova Chen, on the US PlayStation Blog. “We have received more letters from fans in the two weeks since Journey’s launch than we did for Flower over the past three years!”
In an interview with Gamasutra, Santiago said her split with Chen and the studio is amicable, explaining, “After doing these three games, I think it was a really great opportunity for all of us to look at what we've learned and what I've taken from that experience, and go forth and take it into new arenas."
Santiago started thatgamecompany with Chen in 2006 after teaming together to dabble on their first game, Cloud, during their time at the University of Southern California. Since then, the studio has produced three relatively successful games for PSN including FlOw, Flower, and Journey.
"So much of my work at Thatgamecompany was really supporting Jenova's visions for the types of games he wanted to make, and I felt like I have done everything I needed to do there, and that he's in a great place now to go on and continue with some of the other people at Thatgamecompany, to take that to a whole new height," Santiago reflected.
Sources close to the situation say other thatgamecompany employees may follow Santiago in her new venture, however none have made any official announcements. For his part, Chen said he is happy for Santiago's choice, noting, “While we want to continue the path of thatgamecompany, Kellee has found a new direction in her career. Though our path in the future may be different, as TGC begins our next project, we wish Kellee a good journey and that our paths may cross again."
It's unclear if Journey's success is the catalyst for Santiago's decision, but it sounds more like she's hoping to fly under own flag for a while. If you envisioned reading this to emotional, soul-stirring music, you'll be happy to hear Journey's soundtrack will be made available to purchase from the PS Store and iTunes on April 10, with a limited CD run to follow at a later date.
Update: Looks like Kellee isn't the only one leaving after all. Robin Hunicke, thatgamecompany's executive producer, has also announced her recognition (via Gamasutra). A 3-year staffer with the studio, Hunicke is leaving to join Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi's side at the studio Tiny Speck as "executive design wrangler". Could this be the start of a mass exodus?