A new video game studio in Montreal and Toronto is developing a franchise and hopes to change the way studios are set up and run.

China-based NetEase Games launched Bad Brain Game Studios in the two cities to develop a new AAA "open world, multi-platform experience built with Unreal Engine 5 and is inspired by cult 1980s movies, mixing elements of adventure and horror."

The studio is currently trying to recruit talent from Montreal, Toronto and beyond with the goal of having established brick-and-mortar premises in the two major Canadian gaming hubs by the end of 2023.

"If you look at Montreal, it's one of the biggest gaming hubs on the planet, period," said studio head Sean Crooks.

"The plethora of talent there that we can encourage to join the studio there is phenomenal. It's a great opportunity, and not being there would be a mistake."

Crooks said the team knows the gaming industry is competitive and tough but is confident with the team he's surrounded by, including creative director Guillaume Apesteguy, game director Danny Belanger, narrative director Kyle Francis and production designer Anthony Straub.

"We've all worked on massive open-world games such as the Driver series, Just Dance, Watch Dogs, etcetera, even Splinter Cell," he told CTV News. "The team, in general, has a very deep background of knowledge about video games."

In addition to their video game expertise, the team wants to create a unique studio culture that avoids the remote work, disconnected teams trend Crooks has seen develop, especially during the pandemic.

"Being small at the start means we can really craft how we want to develop games, how we want the culture of the studio to be," said Crooks.

"Studio culture has been a massively important thing to me. We've seen a growth as of late in a lot of people who kind of feel like they work for hire, and we don't want that. We want a family. We want a group of people that want to support each other."

Bad Brain Game Studios


Crooks said that NetEase asked him when approaching the team to make a game: "What game do you want to make?"

"I've not had that question very often, if at all, in my career," said Crooks. "When that was put to us -- the group -- that was the dream question for a developer."

Though he, like all in the gaming industry, wouldn't give away too many details about the game in development, Crooks said it taps into the teams' love of 80s music and popular culture.

"Let's think: Stephen King meets Stephen Spielberg," he said, as Ghostbusters proton pack leaned against a wall behind him on the Zoom interview.

"The 80s has moved into the realm of almost mystical to the modern generation. For our generation, it's nostalgic, [and] for the new generation, it's, 'Ooo. What's that?'"

He said NetEase's support and the team's experience mitigates the risk of developing a game in the high-stakes industry.

The Bad Brains team is entirely gamers that understand what works in the industry, Crooks said.

"They all know the type of games they like, and they play," said Crooks.

Crooks confirmed that the name Bad Brains did not come from the hardcore punk band formed in the mid-1970s, but from the basis of many great ideas.

"We started saying things like, 'Hey, this might be a bad idea, but...' When you throw that out there to the team, they work on it, and some of the best ideas, some of the most creative outputs from some of our projects have come from that really basic statement," said Crooks.

"We kind of said, 'you know what. When all of these ideas for video games come from left field, from kind of rogue ideas, why don't we base the studio name around that.'"