Runaway Play founder and creative director Tim Nixon is leaving his Dunedin studio to join Journey developer Thatgamecompany.

Nixon is moving to Los Angeles to take a director of online experience role at Jenova Chen's famous studio.

Emma Johansson, who has been Runaway Play's art director for eight years, will step into the role of creative director.

"Creatively, I want Runaway to continue working on the ethos we’ve built so far, creating games our players trust and feel emotionally connected to, while supporting the communities that grow around them," said Johansson.

Nixon will continue to advise and mentor the Runaway team from Los Angeles as a member of its board of directors.

"To be able to confidently pass on the mantle, knowing the vision for Runaway is in such good hands, is easily the proudest moment of my career," said Nixon.

'I can’t wait to see where [Runaway general manager] Zoe, Emma and the rest of the team go next."

Runaway started life under the wings of television station NHNZ in 2010 as its gaming division.

Its first game, a Facebook title called Flutter, proved that there was global demand for a portfolio of "games inspired by nature".

Runaway went on to develop games in partnership with National Geographic, the World Wildlife Fund, and more recently, the global mega-publisher DeNA.

Its mobile game titles Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary, Flutter: Starlight and Splash: Ocean Sanctuary are enjoyed by more than a quarter of a million players each month from the US, Europe, China, and Japan.

In 2015 the company made the move to self-publishing, bringing in-house more elements like player support and user acquisition, doubling their staff and revenue in the process.

It has a virtual reality title launching next month and a new mobile game in the works for launch mid-2018.