Eurogamer has learned that several senior staff have left Sony Online Entertainment's Seattle studio - the developer currently making espionage MMO The Agency for PC and PS3 - including the studio head.
Studio director and executive producer Matt Wilson, art director Corey Dangel, and producer John Smith left at the start of July to form a new studio called Detonator Games, as confirmed at the Detonator Games website.
"It's true that Corey and I no longer work for SOE," Wilson told us. "This was a very hard decision to make, but it's the right decision for both us and the project. There were a variety of factors into making this decision, but we wish SOE and The Agency the best success."
Wilson and Smith were founding members of the Seattle studio, which was formed from their previous start-up, Fireant. Prior to that, they, along with several other SOE Seattle staff, worked at Microsoft on the cancelled MMO Mythica.
SOE declined to comment on their departure, saying it did not comment on personnel matters.
The move naturally raises questions about the future of The Agency, which has been in development since the formation of the SOE Seattle studio in early 2005. Sources in the Seattle game development community suggested to Eurogamer that the game will now undergo an extensive rethink and may be delayed beyond its current projected 2010 release date.
However, SOE flatly denied this, telling Eurogamer that "The Agency is not undergoing a reboot of any sorts - that is incorrect." The spokesperson added that "the team in Seattle is still working diligently on this project and we're looking forward to showing you new content in the future".
The Agency was demonstrated at E3 and as recently as the SOE Fan Faire in late June, where a friend of Eurogamer told us it was playable and "really quite good".
You can read plenty more about The Agency, and why we think it's one of the most promising MMOs in development, at The Agency gamepage.