Naughty Dog, the developers behind The Last of Us and Uncharted, is about to undergo a pretty big shakeup in leadership. Co-president Evan Wells has announced he’ll be retiring, and co-president and Last of Us director Neil Druckmann will be the sole president of the company moving forward.
Wells wrote about his departure on the studio’s website, saying he’s retiring from the studio after 25 years, but that he’s confident in Druckmann and the rest of Naughty Dog’s current management to lead the company in his absence.
“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,” Wells wrote. “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.”
Wells has worked at Naughty Dog since 1998. After a stint at Crystal Dynamics working on the Gex series, Wells joined the studio as a lead designer on Crash Bandicoot: Warped, then worked on the Jak series, ultimately stepping into the co-president role in 2004. Meanwhile, Druckmann joined the studio in 2004 as a programmer on the Jak series, moving into writing roles on the Uncharted series before becoming a director for The Last of Us games. He stepped into the co-president role in 2020.
What’s unclear now is if Naughty Dog will have Druckmann remain as the sole president and head of creative of the company, or if it will hire or move someone to Wells’ position in the future. Wells was co-president at Naughty Dog for most of his stint at the top of the studio, though in 2017 when Christophe Balestra retired as co-president, Wells was the sole acting president until Druckmann’s promotion in 2020. So it’s not unheard of for the studio to have a single president.
Alongside whatever Naughty Dog is working on, Druckmann is currently working with Max on the Emmy-nominated Last of Us live-action TV series as director and co-writer. So he’s pretty busy these days.
Naughty Dog’s last new game was 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, after which it released a PS5 remake of the original PS3 game. It’s also working on a multiplayer game set in its post-apocalyptic universe, but has yet to show the project to the public.