The Playstation family is perhaps the furthest reaching of all the three console manufacturers. Boasting 13 first party studios, scattered throughout Europe, Japan and the United States, there is an extraordinary amount of talent working among Sony’s First Party Studios. The question a lot of gamers have leading as we kick off 2016 is “What are they all doing?” A great number of studios have been radio silent for quite some time, with events coming and going and nothing emerging from them. In this piece I will look at each of these studios, discuss their past, their present and what we know of their future.
State of Play – Sony’s First Party Studios – Part 1
Their Past – Originally founded in 1994 as Eidetic, Bend created its first Playstation game, and one of the worst games of all time – Bubsy 3D. Since then though the studio has been a quiet achiever having delivered hit after hit with the Syphon Filter series, Resistance Retribution and Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The studio was purchased by Sony in 2000 where it was renamed as Bend Studio because of where it is located – Bend, Oregon in the United States.
Their Present – One of Playstation’s head honchos – Shuhei Yoshida – has on numerous occasions declared that he has seen (and played) the new PS4 game from Bend, but as of yet the game has not surfaced for public consumption. In 2016 it is heavily rumoured that the game will emerge at Sony’s E3 2016 Press Conference with the game being a late omission from their PSX 2015 showing.
Their Future – 2016 and (most likely) 2017 are poised to be breakout years for Bend. With the announcement of their new game likely to occur in 2016, one can imagine that the game will eventually release in 2017. Hopefully it arrives sooner but there’s been a few murmurings from Playstation execs (including Shuhei) that this game could be something truly special, with it being the game that elevates Bend into the same eschelon that Naughty Dog and Santa Monica Studio currently occupy. One can hope.
Their Past – Born in 1999 but not acquired by Sony until 2007 Evolution Studios is most renowned for their work on the Motorstorm franchise on the PS3 and most recently on their work with Driveclub for PS4. Located in the UK Evolution really stamped itself as a presence with Motorstorm, but honed its craft with the PS2’s World Rally Championship series.
Their Present – Their most recent release was the motorbike DLC for Driveclub, with Driveclub itself releasing in late 2014 after a tumultuous development. Initially broken on launch Evolution have been hard at work throughout 2015 fixing the online and providing players with countless new cars, bikes, tracks and more.
Their Future – For the foreseeable future Evolution will be working on post-release support for Driveclub. The studio has teased more tracks on the way for 2016 but you can be rest assured that the vast majority of the team has already shifted its focus to their next big project. Whether that is a follow up to Driveclub, Motorstorm or something completely different remains unknown but it’s likely that we will not hear from Evolution again until 2017.
Their Past – Founded in 2000 Guerrilla Games are most known for their work on the Killzone franchise, a series which kicked off with the first title for the PS2 in 2004 and continued right through to Killzone Shadow Fall in 2013 as a PS4 Launch title. The studio is based in The Netherlands and as been a key player in the PS2/PS3 era as it established the Killzone franchise as the Playstations killer exclusive FPS.
Their Present – Feeling fatigued from a decade of Killzone, Guerrilla has changed their tone a bit as they are currently working on the hotly anticipated Horizon: Zero Dawn. An open world, action/RPG Horizon stars a strong female protagonist (Aloy) and pits her against monstrous mechanical dinosaurs in a beautiful post-apocalyptic setting. Meanwhile Guerrilla Cambridge (Formerly SCE Cambridge) is currently hard at work on RIGS: Mechanised Combat League for the Playstation VR headset.
Their Future – Though surely planning out their next movement, Horizon is the primary focus of the studio as they are currently targeting a 2016 release for the PS4 exclusive game. RIGS is also targeting release for 2016 to go alongside the impending launch of Playstation VR.
Their Past – The oldest of all Sony’s internal studios, Japan Studio was founded in 1993 and is the Japanese Development and Production arm of Sony Computer Entertainment. Renowned in the early days for franchises such as Ape Escape and The Legend of Dragoon, the studio grew in scale to the point where we saw the likes of ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Patapon and 2015’s Bloodborne.
Their Present – Fresh off the release of Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters DLC, Japan Studio, and it’s other internal studios (Team ICO, Team Gravity) find themselves knees deep in long gestating works. Team ICO has locked in 2016 as the year that The Last Guardian finally arrives, while Team Gravity is also eyeing off 2016 for a release of Gravity Rush 2 for PS4.
Their Future – Japan Studio currently have four publicly revealed games deep into development: The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush 2, Q-Games’ The Tomorrow Children and Deep Down with Capcom. The first three are all on track for a 2016 release while Deep Down has been in development limbo since its existence was revealed in 2013. Japan Studio undoubtedly have much more in the works and are likely assisting in the development of many more, and we’re likely to hear of some of these as they year progresses. Watch this space because Japan Studio has a big year ahead of it.
Their Past – London Studio was formed in 1993 as SCE Internal Development Team before being renamed in 2002. The studio is most known for its work on products that support Playstation peripherals such as Eyetoy, Singstar and Wonderbook. The studio has developed two titles for the PS4 with them being Playstation Eye software The Playroom and Singstar: Ultimate Party.
Their Present – London’s next big focus is on the massively anticipated Playstation VR headset. Several demos from London Studio have emerged including Street Luge and London Heist, the latter which has garnered quite a lot of positive buzz. Still hard at work polishing these experiences their current work involves getting both titles ready for the launch of Playstation VR later in 2016.
Their Future – Future works from London Studio likely depends on the success or failure of the VR platform. Sure, we can safely assume that there will be more Singstar titles to come, but their key pillars of the future will stem from the market size for VR. They will have more projects in the pipeline, but as of yet we know nothing.
Their Past – One of the new kids on the block within Sony’s stable of First Party Playstation studios, Media Molecule was born in 2006 and in 2010 was acquired by Playstation. 2008 saw the birth of LittlebigPlanet, LittlebigPlanet 2 in 2010 and then Tearaway in 2013. Media Molecule have been known for their quirky sense of humour, stylings and artistic vision which has made them a unique face in the Playstation Portfolio
Their Present – Media Molecule’s next project is the PS4 exclusive Dreams. As with LittleBigPlanet before it, the emphasis of the project is on the “Play, Create and Share” mantra that Media Molecule holds so dearly. Players will control an imp through a series of artfully designed levels that befuddle as much as they visually stun. Of course you can also create your own levels, share them and play those from others as well – the typical Media Molecule fare.
Their Future – Talk is that Dreams will be available in Beta form during 2016, but the full release won’t surface until 2017 so expect to be seeing quite a bit more of Media Molecule and Dreams over the course of 2016. Amongst gamers there appears to be some confusion surrounding what the game actually is, so both the studio and Sony will be eager to reinforce the message to maximise buzz around the title.