Evan Wells, Naughty Dog co-president, has announced that he is retiring at the end of 2023. He’s been at the studio for 25 years.
Evan Wells has been at Naughty Dog since 1998
Wells made his plans for retirement public on Naughty Dog’s website. He explained that he had been discussing the decision with his colleagues for over a year, but was confident of the team’s abilities to go on without him.
“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,” said Wells. “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.”
Neil Druckmann also became co-president in December 2020, which was a promotion from vice president.
Wells recounted his time at Naughty Dog after first starting on Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped in 1998 when he was the 14th hire (the studio now has over 400 people). He recalled big life events around what game the team was on at the time. He remembered meeting his wife around Crash Team Racing, going on his honeymoon after shipping Jak 2, having his first child during the E3 when Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was announced, and having his second kid in the middle of developing The Last of Us.
While Wells was at Naughty Dog for 30 years, he began his career at Sega in 1993 as a tester working on ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. He then moved over to Crystal Dynamics to work on the Gex series for a few years before landing on Naughty Dog. And even though he was mostly involved with the video game side, he was also an executive producer on the Uncharted movie and HBO’s The Last of Us series.
Wells served as a lead designer for many of the studio’s early games until Jak X: Combat Racing, which is around when he became co-president since founders Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin left in 2004. After a short stint being co-president alongside Stephen White, Wells became co-president alongside Christophe Balestra after White left. Balestra departed from Naughty Dog in 2017, which is when Wells became the sole president until Druckmann’s promotion in 2020.
Druckmann posted about the studio’s new leadership, too. He thanked Wells, wished him well on his retirement, and laid out the team’s new structure. Many are being shifted around to better manage the growing needs of a large studio, seemingly assigning more leads to specific areas of development.
Druckmann is going to be a co-head and head of creative. Alison Mori is getting promoted from vice president to studio manager and head of operations, meaning she will be more on the business and financial side. Christian Gyrling, who is currently also vice president, is slated to be head of technology in order to “continue to push [Naughty Dog] to new heights in innovation and technical solutions.” Arne Meyer, another vice president, is set to be head of culture and communications, a position meant to develop a healthy culture at the studio. Erick Pangilinan and Jeremy Yates are going to be co-heads of the art department after being art director and animation director, respectively. And finally, Anthony Newman, lead designer, will now be head of production and design.