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Forums - Sony Discussion - Something I've noticed about Sony's direction with PlayStation Studios

It's been a little over a year now since Sony Interactive Entertainment, rebranded its software department, Worldwide Studios, as PlayStation Studios. And I've noticed something about Sony's new strategy to acquiring and running studios so far. In the past, Sony Computer Entertainment's development structure was a hybrid of the internal department structure of other Japanese game companies, and the more autonomous subsidiary structure of Western publishers.

Throughout the PlayStation 1 and 2 era's SCE gradually established their own internal software development groups, as Sony began to develop many of its first party titles in-house to compete with the in-house talent of its fellow Japanese competitors, Nintendo and Sega, as well as other Japanese publishers like Capcom or Namco. Unlike those companies however, where the majority of their internal teams were divided into small groups within the same building in Japan, SCE took a more global approach to in-house development, establishing additional internal studios in places across the globe like Santa Monica, San Diego, London, and Cambridge, as well as expanding its studio in Tokyo HQ. Nintendo and Sega toyed around with this a little in America with Nintendo having Nintendo Software Technology, and Sega's Technical Institute. But Sony made it their primary focus.

SCE Japan Studio, SCE Santa Monica Studio, SCE San Diego Studio, SCE Bend Studio, SCE London Studio, and SCE Cambridge Studio were gradually built, and helped create some of the PS1 and PS2's best games. By the end of the PS2 generation, Sony's in-house development started to become a force to be taken seriously, with games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (SCE Japan), God of War (SCE Santa Monica), and The Getaway and SingStar (SCE London). SCE established its Worldwide Studios division in 2005 in order to unite both Sony's internal teams, and its acquired studios like Naughty Dog and Incognic under a centralized umbrella. The internal software teams would also start individually overseeing games from independent developers as well, with Santa Monica Studio leading the charge with titles like Fat Princess, Flow, Flower, and Journey.

With the previous structure, SCE's development was a combination of both the worldwide subsidiary approach of western companies like EA and Microsoft Game Studios, and the more Japanese internal-department focused approach of publishers like Nintendo or Capcom.

As we move into the PlayStation 5 however, Sony has been moving in a different direction. With PlayStation Studios, SIE has focused more on buying unique, individual studios, rather than growing or expanding upon its pre-existing internal ones, moving more closer to the western publisher model than the hybrid model SCE used. I think that's part of the reason why, Sony controversially replaced Japan Studio, with Team Asobi, and why Santa Monica, London, and San Diego Studios shut down their external production groups. It was a way to move away from the more Japanese elements of the previous WWS structure such as internally named departments. The focus now is on buying out promising new developers to fill a role in PS Studios such as Firesprite or Nixxes, while any external partnerships could be handled by either Xdev, or the larger, more homogeneous functions of PS Studios.

I'm not saying one is better than the other, but I feel like the combination of Japanese and Western studio philosophies was what made Sony Computer Entertainment pretty unique as a game developer/publisher, especially a Japanese one.



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I dunno I feel like this whole Sony thing has run its course



I honestly think the shift was because such a structure was not financially viable, rather than a shift in philosophical output.



I think on the contrary their PlayStation Studios branding has been dedicated to making Sony appear more like a single unit. It really feels to me like more than ever they want PlayStation Studios to be the brand association. To the point where they really want any game they are working on or any third party they have contracted to be using that label.

They're doing a lot more than just buying new studios. They are expanding a lot of the studios they've owned/internal studios for a long while. Guerrilla is now working on multiple titles, Naughty Dog is working on multiple games, Santa Monica is working on multiple games. They're focusing on studios/teams that have either been critically successful or financially successful. Insomniac is likely working on like 4 games right now, they're going through some massive expansion.

Naughty Dog, Santa Monica, Insomniac, Guerrilla were all insanely successful last gen.

Japan Studio has largely not been as successful. They had some successes during the PS1/PS2 gen, but those were generally specific teams. The studio as a whole has also worked on tons of random stuff. During the PS3 generation, even the successful teams struggled quite a bit. Team Ico took 11 years to make a game, and their games don't sell a lot. Sony was also taking a direction on working on fewer, but bigger more profitable projects. Which didn't align well with how Japan Studio was set up.

>SCE Japan Studio, SCE Santa Monica Studio, SCE San Diego Studio, SCE Bend Studio, SCE London Studio, and SCE Cambridge Studio were gradually built, and helped create some of the PS1 and PS2's best games

Something I would point out is that most of these studios were not internally built from nothing.
Bend Studio was not internal, they were called Blank, Berlyn & Co, and then they were called Eidetic. They were acquired 7 years after already existing.
Cambridge was technically internally formed, but the people on the team were originally from another team that was acquired.
London Studio was similar, internally formed, but the team was primarily from other studios that were acquired.

>Sony controversially replaced Japan Studio, with Team Asobi, and why Santa Monica, London, and San Diego Studios shut down their external production groups. It was a way to move away from the more Japanese elements of the previous WWS structure such as internally named departments.

Team Asobi was part of Japan Studio. They are quite literally just a smaller Japan Studio under a different name.
As for the external production groups, they just have been moved under XDev's wing. Effectively merging several internal departments into one bigger one. I'm not sure what your distinction here is.



the-pi-guy said:

As for the external production groups, they just have been moved under XDev's wing. Effectively merging several internal departments into one bigger one. I'm not sure what your distinction here is.

I feel the more decentralized structure of having multiple unique teams work on games from outside developers is something that tends to be more common with Japanese publishers. Having all external production centralized under XDev rather than just external European production IMO, feels more in-line with the western model of having games from outside studios overseen by a larger, more homogeneous team. 



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To me, there's a lot of irony calling themselves PlayStation Studios when there's an MLB game on Xbox and they are releasing more games than ever to PC.
But it seems like they're taking some cue from Microsoft's approach with Xbox for the past 5+ years.
I wouldn't be surprised if PlayStation 6 is like the Xbox Series where you can get all the first-party games on PC.



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Wman1996 said:

To me, there's a lot of irony calling themselves PlayStation Studios when there's an MLB game on Xbox and they are releasing more games than ever to PC.
But it seems like they're taking some cue from Microsoft's approach with Xbox for the past 5+ years.
I wouldn't be surprised if PlayStation 6 is like the Xbox Series where you can get all the first-party games on PC.

That isn't irony. May as well bring up that MS is called MS yet they've released games on non-MS devices. 

Anyways, let's not forget that Sony used to own a PC developer.

Developed at least 2 games for the Namco Wonderswan (one being an Arc the Lad sequel).

Brought some PS1 games to android in 2011.

Had the PS Mobile service allowing simultaneous vita/ smartphone games.

Released a few PC games back in 2015 - 2018.

They've been toying with releases on other platforms since the PS1 era. Clearly MS's push has been one of the catalysts for this, but I'd argue that equally as important has been their 3rd party exclusive content which began seeing PC release clauses attached.



Wman1996 said:

To me, there's a lot of irony calling themselves PlayStation Studios when there's an MLB game on Xbox and they are releasing more games than ever to PC.
But it seems like they're taking some cue from Microsoft's approach with Xbox for the past 5+ years.
I wouldn't be surprised if PlayStation 6 is like the Xbox Series where you can get all the first-party games on PC.

Sony sees PC as more of a marketing outlet than a legit platform. Nearly all of their PC releases came out years after the original games debuted on PS4. It's very different from Microsoft's strategy which is to unify all of its gaming related products under one platform. The only reason The Show is on Xbox is because the MLB forced their hand, and the Xbox versions aren't even published by SIE.