Sony’s obsession with blockbusters arouses anxiety …

Sony’s obsession with blockbusters arouses anxiety …


Sony Corporation’s Visual Arts Service Group was the shadow hero of many hit PlayStation video games.

San Diego-based operations help finish games designed in other Sony-owned studios with animation, art, or other content and development. But about three years ago, a few influential figures in the Visual Arts Services Group did not support actors with popular titles such as Spider-Man and Uncharted, but rather more creative control and games. I wanted to guide the direction of.

Michael Mumbauer, who took over the command of the Visual Arts Services Group in 2007, hired a group of about 30 developers from in-house and nearby game studios to form a new development unit within Sony. Did. The idea was to extend some of the company’s most successful franchises, and the team began working on a remake of the 2013 hit The Last of Us for the PlayStation 5. However, Sony did not fully acknowledge the team’s existence or provide the necessary funding and support to succeed in the highly competitive video game market, according to people familiar with the matter.

The studio never had its own name. Instead, Sony has transferred ownership of The Last of Us’ remake to Naughty Dog, the original creator of Sony’s own studio behind many of its best-selling games and the HBO TV series under development. ..

According to an interview with eight people familiar with the operation, the leaders of the contracted small group were significantly disbanded. Many, including Mumbauer, have left the company altogether. Mumbauer declined to comment, asking others not to give names to discuss personal information. Sony representatives declined to provide comments or interviews.

The team’s failure highlights the complex hierarchy of video game development, especially Sony’s conservative approach to creating games for the PlayStation 5. The Tokyo-based conglomerate owns about 12 studios around the world as part of the PlayStation Studios label, but for years nowadays it has prioritized games made by the most successful developers. It was. Studios such as Santa Monica, California-based Naughty Dog, and Amsterdam-based Guerrilla Games are spending tens of millions of dollars on making games in the hope that their investment will pay off dramatically. And they usually do.

Hits such as God of War in 2018 and The Last of Us Part II in 2020 are dedicated to PlayStation consoles and have helped Sony sell about 114 million PS4s. Rival Microsoft Corp. Takes the opposite approach and relies on various studios to offer the Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service like Netflix. This allows users to pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to a variety of games. Sony’s focus on exclusive blockbusters comes at the expense of niche teams and studios within the PlayStation organization, resulting in high turnover and fewer player choices.

Recently, Sony has reorganized its development office in Japan. As a result, a large number of people working on lesser-known but acclaimed games, such as Gravity Rush and Everybody’s Golf, have left. Bloomberg reportedly told developers that they no longer want to make small games that only succeed in Japan.

Recently, Sony has reorganized its development office in Japan. As a result, a large number of people working on lesser-known but acclaimed games, such as Gravity Rush and Everybody’s Golf, have left. | Reuters

This insistence on the hit-producing team is causing anxiety throughout Sony’s game studio portfolio. According to people familiar with the proposal, Oregon-based Sony Bend, best known for the 2019 open-world action game Days Gone, tried to market the sequel to the year but failed. The first game was profitable, but its development took time and critics responded mixedly. As a result, Days Gone 2 was not considered a viable option.

Instead, one team in the studio was assigned to assist Naughty Dog in a multiplayer game, and a second group was assigned to work on a new Uncharted game under the supervision of Naughty Dog. Some staff, including Topreed, left with dissatisfaction with the arrangement. Bend developers were afraid they might be crazy about Naughty Dogs, and the studio leadership called for them to leave the Uncharted project. They heard their wishes last month and are now working on their own new game that will be part of a brand new franchise.

Emphasizing big hits can also be counterproductive. This is because games that start with small games can be very successful. In 2020, Sony didn’t put much marketing effort behind Dreams, a quirky video game creation system with Media Molecule owned by PlayStation in the UK. As a result, PlayStation may have missed its own version of Roblox, a similar video game. tool. Parent company Roblox Corp. Was released earlier this year and is currently worth $ 45 billion.

Mumbauer and his crew wanted to market something popular to Sony’s boss in their first solo project. Recognizing the risks and costs associated with developing a new game from scratch, they decided to focus on rebuilding the old game for the new PlayStation 5. Remakes are considered a safe bet because they are cheaper than updating and polishing old games from scratch. Scratch, and they can be sold to both nostalgic old fans and curious new fans.

The team initially planned to remake the first Uncharted game released by Naughty Dog in 2007. The idea quickly failed because it was expensive and had too much additional design work. Instead, the team settled on a remake of Naughty Dog’s 2013 melancholic zombie hit, The Last of Us.

Employees will prepare a new Sony PlayStation 5 game console for their customers on the first day of launch at the Kawasaki electronics store in November.  | AFP-JIJI
Employees will prepare a new Sony PlayStation 5 game console for their customers on the first day of launch at the Kawasaki electronics store in November. | AFP-JIJI

At the time, Naughty Dog was in the process of developing The Last of Us Part II, a sequel that introduced more faithful graphics and new gameplay features. If the Mumbauer crew recreates the first game with a similar look and feel, the two games can be packaged together for the PlayStation 5. In theory, The Last of Us is more modern, and it’s a cheaper proposal than recreating Uncharted. You don’t need to overhaul too much gameplay. Later, when the Mumbauer group was established, the first Uncharted games and other titles could be remade.

However, the original development team “has various levels of experience and success, competing with hundreds of other teams around the world,” so creating your own game from the finishing touches of other games. Conversion to is difficult. Galaxy Studios has been a support team and development studio.

“People who fund work often hate risk. Some people have to choose between the team that did it before or the one who is trying to do it for the first time. Sees why he chooses a former developer than the latter, “he said.

That’s what Sony did. The Mumbauer project, codenamed T1X, was approved during the trial period, but Sony refused to keep the team secret and budget to hire more people. Build a new studio. Still, the small team continued to work and by the spring of 2019, completed a section of the game designed to show what the rest of the team would look like.

At that time, Sony was undergoing a change of management and the new boss was not impressed. Hermenhalst, former head of Guerrilla Games, was appointed head of PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios in November 2019. According to people familiar with the matter, the remake project was considered too expensive and asked why the T1X’s planned budget was so high. Than the remakes Sony made in the past. The reason is that it used a brand new graphics engine for the PlayStation 5. Mumbauer needed to hire more people to recreate graphics with new technology and redesign the gameplay mechanics. Furst wasn’t convinced, people said.

Hits, including Spider-Man, are exclusive to the PlayStation console, helping Sony sell about 114 million PS4s. | Reuters
Hits, including Spider-Man, are exclusive to the PlayStation console, helping Sony sell about 114 million PS4s. | Reuters

Just as I wanted to start working on a remake of The Last of Us, Mumbauer’s team was asked for help when another big guy was late. The release of The Last of Us Part II was pushed from 2019 to 2020, and Naughty Dog needed a Visual Arts service group to hone it.

Most of Mumbauer’s team, along with some 200 other staff members from the Visual Arts Services Group, were assigned to support Naughty Dog and slowed the progress of their own games. After that, the role was reversed. Sony has said that after the completion of The Last of Us Part II, some people at Naughty Dog will be able to help with the T1X. The Mumbauer team considered this a deprivation of their short-lived autonomy. Dozens of Naughty Dog staff participated in the project, some actually working on the original The Last of Us, with a focus on discussing the direction of the T1X. The game was run under the budget of Naughty Dog, where Sony had more room than the Visual Arts service group.

Soon it became clear that Naughty Dog was in charge, and the dynamics returned to the state of the last decade and a half. The Visual Arts Support Group did not lead, but assisted another team of developers.

For Sony, this move makes sense. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Canterman said Naughty Dog is “one of the key studios” in Sony’s ability to sell PlayStation. “Sony’s competitive advantage has always been exclusive content to Microsoft, and more new games and remakes of classic titles from such renowned teams will help keep the PS5 in demand. . “

But those who wanted independence were disappointed. By the end of 2020, most of the top staff on the T1X team had left, including Mumbauer and game director David Hall. The T1X project is currently under development at Naughty Dog with the support of Sony’s Visual Arts Support Group. The future of the rest of Mumbauer’s team, who jokingly became known as Naughty Dog South, remains uncertain.

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