IN DETAIL: Sony's sixteen first-party studios

IN DETAIL: Sony's sixteen first-party studios

By Rob Crossley

August 2nd 2011 at 1:24PM

We profile the Euro, American and Japanese groups shaping PlayStation

Sony’s acquisition of Washington outfit Sucker Punch brings the PlayStation global fleet of studios to 16, with over 2,700 associated employees.

Headed up by Shuhei Yoshida, the global development group is responsible for dozens of the most acclaimed and lucrative games in the business.

Below is a rundown of each studio.

[CLICK HERE FOR DEVELOP'S PREDICTIONS ON WHICH STUDIOS SONY COULD BUY NEXT]

EUROPE


Sony Liverpool and Sony London / UK

Born as Psygnosis in 1984, the Northwest outfit has been a prolific supplier of cutting edge games for nearly three decades. Sony bought the studio in 1993, and was repaid almost immediately with the Wipeout phenomenon.

Six years later, Sony dropped the Psygnosis brand, and renamed and merged Psygnosis' London studios as Sony London.

The London team went on to build substantially successful casual games such as EyeToy to SingStar.

DID YOU KNOW? Sony Liverpool is situated in the same office as Sony’s XDEV unit, which commissions a raft of externally developed titles.

Evolution Studios, and Bigbig studios / Liverpool and Leamington Spa / UK

Motorstorm creator Evolution was founded in 1999 as one of the Ian Hetherington’s clutch of start-up projects. In 2007, following the release of its first PS3 game, Evolution was acquired by Sony along with its satellite team Bigbig Studios.

The co-founders of Evolution, Martin Kenwright and Ian Hetherington, both left the company, with former managing director Mick Hocking taking on the responsibility for Evolution, Bigbig and Sony's Liverpool Studio.

DID YOU KNOW? Evolution apparently built the idea for Motorstorm when Phil Harrison asked the team: “What five things can you do for rally on PS3”?

Guerrilla / Amsterdam / The Netherlands

With Sony in search of its own “Halo killer” for PS2, the company signed a deal to fund and publish the first Killzone game by Dutch startup Guerrilla. Sony bought the studio in 2005, and funded the studio to complete the Killzone trilogy on PS3.

DID YOU KNOW? The Dutch studio’s first game, under the Guerrilla brand, was a multiplatform military shooter called Shellshock: Nam '67, published by Eidos.

Sony Cambridge / UK

The often underappreciated Cambridge outfit is responsible for priceless research and development into PlayStation technologies such as Move and the digital TV viewer and recorder, PlayTV.

It built the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet, and is taking Killzone to PS Vita. Sony bought the group, once known as Millennium Interactive, in 1997.

DID YOU KNOW? As well as having a proven R&D unit, Cambridge houses an animation suite and audio studio.

Media Molecule / Guildford / UK

Soon after the group was founded in 2006, Media Molecule met with then-SCE Worldwide Studios boss Phil Harrison in what he describes as “the best meeting of my life”. An exclusive publishing deal for LittleBigPlanet was signed, before Sony swooped in to buy the studio in March 2010.

DID YOU KNOW? The studio – or at least Alex Evens and friends – was the first external independent developer to ship a game on Steam.

USA


Sony Santa Monica, Foster City Studio and San Diego Studio / California

Sony pushed further into the California development cluster in 1999 with a brand new Santa Monica outfit. The studio broke onto the scene with the first God Of War and has become a headline studio ever since.

Foster City, also based in California, is a co-development base that has helped numerous PlayStation projects.

Sony San Diego, meanwhile, is the Californian cluster’s go-to studio for motion capture, housing a world-leading facility used for numerous PS3 games such as Uncharted.

DID YOU KNOW? Before Microsoft even began work on Kinect, Santa Monica’s built a forgotten racer called Kinetica, which used the EyeToy camera for motion-based racing. You couldn’t make it up. [Update: As per the comments below, apparently you can make this up.]

Naughty Dog / California

Born in 1986, Naughty Dog has grown to become one of Sony’s most important in-house studios in the world, having launched several lucrative franchises. The Californian Uncharted developer was bought by Sony in 2001, and soon after launched the Jak series. Its first deal with Sony, before 1996, was to launch the Crash Bandicoot series.

DID YOU KNOW? Naughty Dog was apparently “bankrupt” when it was building the 3DO game Way of the Warrior in 1995.

Sucker Punch / Washington

Sony announced it had bought the Infamous studio in August 2011. The buyout gives Sony further access into Washington State’s talent pool, which inhabits studios PopCap, Valve and another Sony studio, Zipper Interactive.

DID YOU KNOW? Sucker Punch’s first title was a fun N64 exclusive called Rocket: Robot on Wheels which, if it were not for copyright concerns, would have been named Sprocket.

Zipper Interactive / Washington

The multiplayer-loving MAG developer broke onto the scene with the PlayStation 2 SOCOM series – one of the first online console games and bundled with a headset.

The studio was bought by Sony in 2006, and continued its push in the online space with MAG – the game that boasts online battles with up to 256 players.

DID YOU KNOW? Despite SOCOM being a multiplayer-focused title, Europeans couldn’t play the game online due to a bizarre decision to delay the release of the PS2 broadband adapter.

Bend Studio / Oregon

Founded in 1994 as Eidetic, the Oregon studio caught the eye of Sony with its Syphon Filter series. Sony bought the group in 2000 and went on to launch several Syphon Filter games for PS2. The studio has shifted focus recently to build portable games, such as the PSP game Resistance Retribution and PS Vita title Uncharted Golden Abyss.

DID YOU KNOW?
In 1997, Eidetic released a 3D version of the 16-Bit series Bubsy the bobcat. It is not clear, however, whether Sony owns the IP [See comments below].

JAPAN


Polyphony Digital / Tokyo

Initially a nameless in-house group within Sony Computer Entertainment, Polyphony Digital was established in 1998. The release of seminal racer Gran Turismo shaped the studio’s path for over ten years.

DID YOU KNOW? Gran Turismo is SCE Worldwide Studios' most successful series ever, together selling in excess of 50 million units.



Sony Japan / Tokyo


Sony’s longstanding Tokyo division has some 400 staff and has built an eclectic range of projects from numerous teams.

The group, founded in 1993, has built titles such as LocoRoco, Echochrome, Ape Escape and Patapon.

DID YOU KNOW? Sony Japan’s secret weapon is its subsidiary studio Team Ico, headed by Fumito Ueda, and developer of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus