Jake Solomon has announced he's leaving Firaxis after over two decades, during which he helmed the excellent reboot of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and its sequel, before most recently directing Marvel's Midnight Suns (which is also excellent, if you're the kind of person who wants to take yoga classes with Blade). Firaxis announced the news with a bit of a consolation prize: A new Civilization game is on the way.
Firaxis' current COO, Heather Hazen, has also been promoted to studio head, replacing the departing Steve Martin (no, not the comedian), who'd been at Firaxis for 25 years and oversaw the launch of more than 30 titles. Hazen joined the studio in 2020 after a stint as executive producer on Fortnite, but previously worked at Popcap when Popcap was good and was involved with titles like Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled. And Hazen's wasted no time in telling folks what to expect.
"I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to carry on the studio's storied legacy, beginning with the announcement that Firaxis is in development on the next iteration of the legendary Civilization franchise," said Hazen. "I’m lucky to be working with some of the best developers in our industry, and we have plans to take the Civilization franchise to exciting new heights for our millions of players around the world. In addition, we will continue to support Marvel’s Midnight Suns with post-launch content, and explore new creative projects for our teams.”
Come on Heather: XCOM 3? A little XCOM for us in these trying times? Sadly she stops there, though the announcement includes the news that Ed Beach, a Civ veteran and lead designer on Civilization 6, will be leading the new project. There's also a seriously impressive number buried in among the bumpf: Civ 6 was the best-selling entry in the series, and altogether the games have sold over 65 million copies.
But it's no surprise that Sid Meier's Firaxis is going to make another Sid Meier's Civilization game. Solomon's departure is a huge loss to the studio, because he led the teams that brought turn-based strategy slap-bang into the modern era. The original XCOM is one of my favourite games ever made, and all I can say about the Firaxis remaster is: Amazing job. That game and the sequel are probably the best revivals of an old favourite I've ever played.
Solomon took to social media to post his own, rather lovely, tribute to his time at the studio.
All gratitude. pic.twitter.com/pqe56mVvd5February 17, 2023
"I'm a big dreamer, and I fulfilled two lifelong dreams in making XCOM (and XCOM 2, and War of the Chosen) and Marvels Midnight Suns," said Solomon. "I'm the luckiest kid who ever lived. XCOM was my favourite game growing up; it's why I'm a game developer. Marvel comics made me a dreamer, and those characters feel like my extended family.
"I'm grateful to Sid [Meier] first and foremost for teaching me. If I'm ever half as good as him I'll be twice as good as I am now. I'm grateful to my Firaxis teammates, past and present, for making dreams into reality. Genuine love and gratitude. We did some real good stuff together."
Solomon ends by saying "my brain is on fire with a new dream. Time to go chase it."
So we'll doubtless be hearing more from Solomon in the future but, sadly, it won't be that he's directing XCOM 3. Fair winds to one of the great strategy designers of our era, and I for one can't wait to see what he cooks up next.