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Villainous, Jurassic World and Jaws board game designers form new studio after Funko Games layoffs

Based in Seattle, Tempest Workshop's designers say they will embody "being human, creating together, and having moxie."

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Slaughterhouse board spill with a hand
Image credit: Prospero Hall/Funko

Several recently laid off Funko Games staff have founded a new board game design studio that will carry the torch beyond the massive toy and collectible maker. Tempest Workshop will be based in Seattle, Washington and will endeavour to give disaffected and cast-off designers a new home.

The studio’s three co-founder all hail from the studio formerly known as Funko Games, Prospero Hall and - before being purchased by Funko in 2019 - Forrest-Pruzan Creative. Chris Rowlands, Isaias Vallejo and Korby Sears will act as Tempest Workshops’s co-founders and directors, which did not announce any in-development projects in their press release.

Funko laid off nearly the entire staff of its tabletop design team in January after selling the name, rights and portfolio to Dutch publisher Goliath Games, which specialises in family-weight titles. Staff and designers, who helped create the massively popular Villainous franchise alongside hit board games such as Jaws, Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar and Goonies Never Say Die, did not retain the right to any published work and will effectively be starting from scratch with nothing but their reputations.

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"We’re absolutely honoured and thrilled to bring some of the folks from our team back together to continue our shared creative journey," said Rowlands in a press release. "We have a chance to build a brand new studio from the ground up that shares DNA with where we came from, but that also looks ahead with newfound vision and three core values; Being Human, Creating Together, and Having Moxie. It’s a dream come true."

“The beauty of the Prospero Hall team was our people,” said Sears. “While our previous collective experience in tabletop, mobile and AAA games were rock-solid, the Prospero Hall team was also a group of musicians, theatre folks, visual artists, novelists, and material scientists from the Maker movement…all of which informed our drive with deep narrative-rich game design.

To that end, Tempest Workshop names several collaborators who also lost their jobs at Funko Games and will now work with the team on whatever the studio publishes in the future: veteran Tyler Hill, game developers David Iezzi and Daniel Stoltenberg, artist Josh Manderville, graphic designer Thomas Ramey, project manager Estefania Rodriguez, community manager Stephanie Straw and 3D artist Ernest Ziegenfelder.

A promo image of Jurassic World: Legacy of Isla Nublar.
Image credit: Funko Games

It’s about as close to the resurrection of pre-Funko Forrest-Pruzan Creative as the tabletop industry is likely to see in the near future. Funko Games managed to overcome the assumptions that licensed board games necessarily must be low-effort cash-grabs by producing consistent surprise hits out of some of the weirdest source material (did anyone expect a Rear Window board game?). Funko’s rapid divestment of talent after an economically disastrous 2023 robbed us of some serious talent, but Tempest Workshop might allow them a second chance at stability and artistic freedom.

“I'm excited to carry on the legacy of our previous success and evolve into our new vision of a more human, inclusive, and daring studio," said Vallejo. "We're leveraging years of experience and diverse perspectives to harness our creative energy with tried and true development processes. I'm so lucky to continue this journey with amazing people that want to make the world a better place through games."

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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