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. Here is part 2 for your enjoyment
State of Play – Sony’s First Party Studios – Part 2
Their Past – Originally known as Jam software, Naughty Dog has the longest history of any of Playstations first party studios. It also is the most acclaimed, due to the incredible reception it has received for is Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter and Uncharted franchises, as well as 2013’s The Last of Us. Formed in 1984, rebranded as Naughty Dog in 1989 and acquired by Sony in 2001, Naughty Dog has a rich history and one that makes it the premiere studio in the Playstation family.
Their Present – Naughty Dog is currently hard at work wrapping up work on the highly anticipated Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which is due to arrive on April 27th. Creative Director Neil Druckmann recently declared that they were wrapping up production on the game but in order to reach the lofty standards they set for themselves the game would be delayed from its original March release to its new date; between now and then they will be polishing the game to a fine sheen ahead of the final release.
Their Future – Following the release of Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog will split to commit their time to multiple projects. Many will get right to work on the Single Player DLC that is to release sometime after the launch of the maingame, others will be working on multiplayer DLC while another group will likely be entering pre-production phases for their next project which many outsiders suggest will be a follow up to The Last of Us. Following the release of the Uncharted 4 Single Player DLC do not expect to hear much from the studio for quite a while.
North West Studio
Their Past – The North West England Studio doesn’t have one! Unless you count the forming of the studio in 2015 of course. A spokesperson for Sony declared that the studio itself is “still in the early planning phase with this studio, and are currently focused on hiring the right team,”
Their Present – 2016 will be a year of beginnings. North West Studio will by now have the large majority of its team together and will be in the earliest stages of development. A year of pre-production is what most likely lays ahead for the studio as it plans out its new VR game. The studio afterall has been built to make games exclusively for Playstation VR.
Their Future – It’s unlikely that we will see anything from the North West Studio project until 2017 given the early stages of development that the game finds itself in. Given the timing of the projects development it is hard to predict what the game will be considering that the first wave of VR titles has yet to arrive.
Their Past – Polyphony have been tightly aligned with Playstation since their first game Motor Toon Grand Prix in 1994 and it has continued ever since, with the studio being acquired by Playstation in 1998, the introduction of Gran Turismo in December of 1997. Since that day Polyphony has been known as the Gran Turismo house with twelve games emerging in the franchise since the franchises launch, they have though only released six numbered entries.
Their Present – Polyphony is hard at work on Gran Turismo Sport, a spin-off to the core franchise that will be supporting Playstation VR and is scheduled to arrive in 2016. The title was revealed at Playstation’s Paris Games Week presentation. Supporting Campaign, Sports Mode and Arcade Mode as well as on and offline play. Not a core game in the franchise but a departure for the series nonetheless, expect more from GT Sport as 2016 progresses.
Their Future – Outside of the inevitable launch of GT Sport and post-release content that will follow, it has been long discussed that Polyphony were hard at work on the next numbered entry in the GT franchise – Gran Turismo 7. Given the change of plans with GT Sport it’s reasonable to assume that GT7 is now not up for release until holiday 2017 or later.
San Diego Studio
Their Past – San Diego Studio are another one of those internal studios who’ve been happily playing second fiddle to the big guns within the Playstation portfolio. Known primarily for their work on the MLB franchise, they’ve also dabbled in a number of other genres with titles such as The Mark of Kri, Modnation Racers and LittleBigPlanet Karting.
Their Present – San Diego Studio were recently the first Sony studio to release a console free-to-play game in the December 2015 title Guns Up! This kicks off a run of Free-to-Play titles to come including the studios next big project Kill Strain and the David Jaffe produced Drawn to Death, both games are scheduled to release in 2015 alongside the latest entry in the MLB franchise which is currently scheduled to arrive in March.
Their Future – Depending on the success of these F2P titles, this current focus could become a permanent fixture for the studio. Of course we can still expect to see more MLB in the future, but it seems that SD Studio is ramping up its activity with Free-To-Play being the central focus. Expect more at E3.
Santa Monica Studio
Their Past – Founded in 1999 and one of the most renowned studios in the Playstation portfolio, Santa Monica Studio is primarily known for its work on the God of War franchise, but as one of Sony’s core X-Dev studios it has overseen or assisted in the development of numerous exclusive hit games including Journey, Twisted Metal, Fat Princess and the Pixeljunk franchise. It’s strong affiliations with independent or smaller studios make it the number one X-DEV studio at Playstation, working with the likes of ThatGameCompany, Ready at Dawn and Q-Games.
Their Present – There’s a lot of activity going on at Santa Monica presently, with Wattam, What Remains of Edith Finch, Bound and The Modern Zombie Taxi Co. all being developed by X-Dev, and (reportedly) the newest God of War title well underway. Due to a cancelled New IP Santa Monica went through layoffs in February 2014, this following a relocation a month earlier.
Their Future – It’s full steam ahead for Santa Monica in 2016 with Wattam and What Remains of Edith Finch all on track for a 2016 release. God of War will eat up the majority of the core teams time while they will continue their support of Bound and The Modern Zombie Taxi Co. Expect to hear much more from Santa Monica Studio as the year plays out in particular around E3 and PSX.
Their Past – One of the most productive studios in the Playstation family has to be Sucker Punch. The studio established itself in 1997 and quickly became tight with the Playstation brand releasing console exclusives from 2002’s Sly Cooper onwards. The studio is most known for its work on the Sly series and more recently the inFAMOUS series. Their most recent work was in 2014 with inFAMOUS: Second Son and the standalone expansion inFAMOUS: First Light.
Their Present – As with Bend, Playstation’s Shuhei Yoshida has stated that he has personally had hands on time with Suckerpunch’s newest project. It’s fair to conclude that given 18 months have passed the game is still in the earlier stages of development. Speculation has been mounting that following the release of Second Son and First Light that Sucker Punch are ready to move on to a new game, but there are contrasting reports too, so very few actually know what is in store for the studio next.
Their Future – A timeline for Sucker Punch’s next game is hard to predict because we don’t know what they’re working on. Should it be an inFAMOUS game then we should probably expect an unveiling this year due to their deep knowledge of the franchise and experience with it. If however we’re seeing a new project from Sucker Punch then the wait will be a bit longer. Their new game has had some time to gestate – hopefully we can see it and more of the studio soon.
Their Past – The funny thing about Pixelopus’ past is that they hardly have one. Formed in 2014 the studio is known only for their work on the PS3, PS4 and Vita Cross-Buy title Entwined. Announced at E3 2014 and released the same day Entwined captured imaginations but wasn’t the critical hit that Sony had hoped it would be.
Their Present/Future – It’s hard to speak to the future of Pixelopus because we’ve not heard a word about them since the release of Entwined, but given the nature of their one and only release we can assume we’re not going to get a massive AAA title from the studio. Expect to see or hear more from them as we roll into E3 or PSX – they’re due.