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The Sims might have another competitor from XCOM’s designer

Firaxis veteran Jake Solomon is starting his own studio, and looking to do something different with it

Jake Solomon, designer of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, seated facing the viewer at the controls of a custom arcade cabinet, holding a joystick and pressing buttons.
Jake Solomon at Firaxis in 2013, playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on an arcade cabinet.
Photo: Firaxis Games

The designer behind Firaxis Games’ highly successful XCOM reboot isn’t sure what he’s going to do next with the studio he’s starting, but he wants to try something different from the turn-based genre where he made his name.

“I found that I wasn’t that excited about doing another turn-based strategy game,” Jake Solomon explained to Simon Parkin’s My Perfect Console podcast. (Also available on Spotify.) “Not because the genre isn’t amazing — it’s where I’ve spent my life — but I felt like I didn’t have anything more to say in that area.”

A month ago, Solomon announced that he would leave Firaxis after 23 years — literally the only job he’s held since graduating college in May 2000. The news coincided with another major change at Firaxis; studio head Steve Martin left, after 25 years, though he did announce that Civilization 7 was in development on his way out.

Solomon’s farewell thanked 2K Games and Firaxis for “23 wonderful years,” and said he “loved designing tactical turn-based games, but it’s time for other, smarter people to push that space forward.”

Interestingly, in Parkin’s podcast, Solomon mentioned that Firaxis founder Sid Meier had himself started multiple studios and projects. “I thought to myself, if I’m ever going to start my own company […] I feel like I can do this, do a whole new thing and be completely in charge of it, and that was just too exciting for me,” Solomon said.

Solomon’s new studio doesn’t have a name yet — he’s still looking for funding, too. So the question of what his first game might be is up in the air, too. But prodded as to what he meant by trying new things, Solomon responded that he was interested in “something that’s more of a life simulator or simulation-style game.” EA and Maxis might be sweating at the idea of even more competition for The Sims 5, which is already facing Paradox’s Life by You and Alex Massé’s Paralives.

“I’m a creative director, but the truth is I’m actually a very in-the-weeds system designer,” said Solomon (whose degree is in computer science). “Even on Midnight Suns, I had some amazing designers, but I ended up designing individual heroes, enemies, and their abilities.”

Solomon was the lead designer for 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game-of-the-year selection for many critics. He was director of 2016’s sequel, XCOM 2, likewise a critical and commercial success. Most recently he directed Marvel’s Midnight Suns, which reviewed well but was a sales disappointment, according to an interview with the parent company’s CEO.

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