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Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures Launches Video Game Division

Annapurna Pictures has created a new division devoted to producing and publishing video games. The production company has hired a staff of game-industry vets for the new Annapurna Interactive group and has several deals already in the works.

Annapurna Interactive will focus on developing “personal, emotional and original games” that will push the boundaries of interactive content, according to the production house. Megan Ellison, Annapurna’s founder and CEO, said she’s long had a passion for video games and cited Nintendo’s 1998 “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” as one of her all-time favorites.

“The artistry and diversity of interactive storytelling is exciting, and we look forward to exploring the limitless possibilities in gaming,” said Ellison, who is the daughter of Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison. “We want to empower artists across this medium to make Annapurna Interactive their home, and I believe we’ve assembled the perfect team to make that happen.”

Annapurna Interactive is set to publish two games with release dates targeted for spring 2017: Jason Roberts’ “Gorogoa,” a hand-illustrated story inside a puzzle game in which players move panels on a grid as though arranging framed drawings on a wall; and Giant Sparrow’s “What Remains of Edith Finch,” described as a playable collection of short stories, each with different art styles and gameplay mechanics centered around the cursed Finch family.

In addition, Annapurna Interactive plans to release games from industry talent including San Francisco-based developer Funomena and creative director Keita Takahashi, creator of the “Katamari Damacy” franchise, and Mountains, which is led by Ken Wong, best known for his work on puzzle game “Monument Valley.”

Annapurna Interactive is located at the company’s headquarters in West Hollywood. The division’s staff includes two execs who already worked for the company: Annapurna Pictures production exec Neale Hemrajani and head of technology James Masi.

The company also has hired four execs specifically for Annapurna Interactive: Nathan Gary and Deborah Mars, who both hail from Sony Computer Entertainment America’s PlayStation group; and Hector Sanchez, former producer at PlayStation and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; and Jeff Legaspi, previously with Santa Monica Studio. Collectively, the team’s credits include “Journey,” “God of War,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture,” “Flower” and “Fat Princess.”

Annapurna Pictures’ most recent films include Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women” starring Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup, to be released later this year by A24; Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon’s R-rated animated film “Sausage Party,” written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir and released by Sony Pictures; and Richard Linklater’s Gotham Award-nominated “Everybody Wants Some.”

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