Sony Worldwide Studios Boss On Shutting Down Mid-Sized Studios

By Ishaan . November 12, 2013 . 12:33pm

Sony have closed a number of their game development studios these past few years, while supporting certain others in their place. While Wipeout developer Studio Liverpool was closed down in 2012, Uncharted developer Naughty Dog has thrived. While SOCOM developer Zipper Interactive no longer exists, Killzone developer Guerrilla is still around. And those are just a couple of the studios that Sony have closed this generation.

 

In an interview with Gamasutra, Sony’s Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida provides some insight as to why this is. The issue, Yoshida says, is that mid-sized console studios are facing challenges across the industry in general. Due to this, Sony have been closing down some of their studios while investing in what they view as their top teams.

 

“So we have supported some studios—Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica, and Guerilla—to become able to produce multiple projects at the same time, while we shut down mid-sized studios who were struggling to compete… that’s in reaction to the changes of the time,” Yoshida shares.

 

Getting consumers to spend $60 is hard, and the only way to do that is by offering bigger titles that far outclass those of the mid-sized titles, Yoshida feels. He goes on emphasize: “It’s been a bloodbath of medium-sized games for the last two years… the market is extremely hard for smaller, mid-sized games these days.”

 

Mid-sized studios have a serious question to ask themselves, Yoshida says: “if you are making a studio, like 40 or 50 people studio, it’s a really tough age—whether they try to grow and compete to become triple-A, or if they try to do indie-style small development. It’s really a good, critical question for many of the mid-sized studios.”


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  • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

    So their excuse for propagating the ” bigger studios,easier to control” aspect the industry has been evolving towards, is “we’re getting with the times”
    Uhuh.
    And none of those people are working on Vita games either right? Just out of a job.
    You dont need to sell 60$ games 24/7.
    Oh wait no you do, you’re broke. You also need to charge online too dont ya?

    • ronin4life

      And sell their HQs…

      But they can still afford to pay for exclusive 3rd party games and DLC.

      Hmmmmm…

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Well Sony’s in debt. Cerny-kun cant do anything to prevent them from being met with a terrible fate

  • Pheria

    Getting consumers to pay $60 is hard.

    I like the idea of lowering the budget and the price (I also really like Wipeout), but I’m not qualified enough to know if this didn’t make sense for them or not.

  • Kaetsu

    I miss Zipper already. I wish we got a sequel to MAG :(

  • Manny Being Manny

    Am I the only one who thinks that the short 6-8 hour games the “Big Budget” developers keep on putting out are closer to mid-size games than the long content filled RPGs Japan is putting out at 1/10th the budget?

    • almostautumn

      Not really when the RPG’s are just garbage. Handhelds are of course pristine, but the console JRPG’s have been extremely lackluster. Outside of Mistwalker’s 3 titles, when you look at stuff like Infinite Undiscovery, Time and Eternity, Last Remnant, Enchanted Arms, Last Rebellion and many, many more— I mean, they’re crap, dude. There’s some great stuff in-between, like Eternal Sonata, Resonance of Fate, and of course the Tales titles, but for the most part the Japanese RPG’s have been as tumultuous and dull as FPS’ (on consoles).

      I also dunno where you’re getting that “6-8″ hours from. Most Uncharted’s, God of War’s, Gears of Wars, and etc: boast more than a dozen hours, which you of course need to multiply by at least two with additional difficulty settings. Not to mention online multiplayer which is pretty standard, and tends to offer well over 25 hours additionally for those who can really chow down with it.

      • Manny Being Manny

        Its not really fair to consider a games length how long it would take to beat it twice, especially since most people only will beat a game once. I recently played the first Uncharted and it was about 7 and a half hours, so that falls into my range.

        • almostautumn

          You and Cazar are blowing my mind. Maybe I am in the minority, but I have never once played a game I enjoyed only once. I love taking down all of the difficulties, and when I find a game enjoyable I come back to it again and again.

          • Manny Being Manny

            My backlog is just far too big to ever bother with playing a game more than once. If I did that I’d never be able to get through all the games I’ve bought over the years.

          • mirumu

            Some people play JRPGs multiple times too and rack up in excess of 200+ hours on them. In both cases it’s just replaying the same content though.

            Personally there’s very few games I’ve wanted to finish more than once.

          • Tiredman

            I have played Dragon Quest 7 three times now with each save file over 100 hours. I am in the long game camp. All for cheaper graphics and more gameplay / story.

      • Cazar

        I’ve played every Uncharted and they are not 12 hours. 8 hours at BEST.

        • almostautumn

          If you play through them once, and on easy. Dunno about you, but I like to experience everything a game has to offer, which with games like Uncharted means conquering the higher difficulties. If you run n’gun your games, fine, but most people like to get more bang for their buck, and developers like Naughty Dog honor that by applying quality degrees of difficulty and A.I. ability.

          • Cazar

            I played every game on hard first playthrough. Second playthroughs do not count. You can play literally anything twice. And “higher difficulties” alone are not sufficient replayabilty. An example of a game that is both satisfactory in length and replay value would be Dark Souls.

          • almostautumn

            Ridiculous. I just recently played Killer Is Dead; if you were to judge that game by its single-player it would be 6 hours. But the game is designed on it being replayed, on higher difficulties and several sub-missions as well. The unlockables are what flesh the expereince, and so by replaying the game to earn them the game comes out upwards of 30 hours.

            There is just no way storming through a game is the proper way to gauge a game’s content. For those who play once, fine; but to say that a game is “only” 8 hours is not only ridiculous, but genuinely wrong.

          • Cazar

            You’re missing the point. If a game is so short that it depends on you to replay it to get your proper value out of it, then that is lazy game design. The defining metric is the initial playthrough, but that does not mean that the game is “done” after that playthrough. It just helps paint a picture of how much content is within the game and how long the game actually lasts on multiple playthroughs varies greatly on the player.

            Now, I’ve played Drake’s Fortune twice and I’ve platinum’ed Golden Abyss. I have a pretty good idea of what sort of replay value those games offer as they all follow the same formula, and quite frankly, it’s quite poor. There is nothing left to do other than play on Crushing difficulty and unlock the remaining trophies. The games are incredibly scripted so the experience feels largely the same on the second playthrough. And all that said you’re still only getting about 20-30 hours (depending on your initial difficulty setting) of total playtime for each title which is nothing to write home about.

            In contrast, Dark Souls is easily 60 hours on your first playthrough and the amount of time you can invest after that is truly unlimited. Dark Souls not only doesn’t need to be replayed to get more value out of it than any of the games you mentioned, but it actually makes you want to replay it, instead of just hoping that you’ll replay it so you don’t feel cheated out of your money.

            Dark Souls, after the first playthrough, has:
            - New Game + with higher difficulty (obviously) and New Game ++, +++, ++++, …and so on for as far as you want to go with increased difficulty on each playthrough
            - Multiple endings
            - More weapons, armor and spells to forge/obtain
            - Different character builds and playstyles to try
            - Additional NPC events to trigger that you likely missed the first time around
            - A LOT of additional value in online play, which is brilliantly integrated as part of the game itself instead of a tacked-on additional mode
            - Several covenants to try out which give additional sidequests and forms of online play
            - The difficulty makes every playthrough feel fresh and engaging, coupled by the non-linear game progression which is left up to the player’s choices

            I’ve invested over 150 hours in Demon’s Souls and over 200 hours in Dark Souls. I continued to play Dark Souls even after I platinum’ed it. None of that time was spent grinding, the Souls games are not the type of RPGs that you grind. These numbers are hardly uncommon for a Souls player, some people would even consider my playtime to be low. THIS is how replay value is done. Of course, I don’t expect every game to achieve this level of value but 6-10 hour $60 games that can maybe give you 20-30 hours total if you play on additional difficulty modes and go trophy hunting are not what I consider sufficient value. The problem with the current state of western AAA titles is that they are investing their resources into making their games more cinematic rather than providing more content for players.

      • DesmaX

        To be fair, I did beat most of them at 10 hours max.

        Of course, I do like to get some platinums, so I did expend more time on them, but most people just play a game once.

        Aaaand, I’d much rather not have a multiplayer than have a shitty one, like most AAA (Like the Tomb Raider one). Not saying it can’t have (Uncharted 2 MP is pretty cool), but most of the time it’s half-assed

      • taekk

        I liked Time and Eternity. Looks like most of the titles you listed are early crappy 360 titles. There are a few gems such as ni no kuni, Valkyria Chronicles, and Disgaea but looks like the JRPG market is transitioning to mobiles and handhelds. Basically all major franchises have moved to handheld/PC or worse to crappy mobage games. Parasite Eve, Sakura Taisen, BoF, SMT, Phantasy Star, Shining Force, .hack., Summon Night, Ys, Trails in the Sky, Metal Max

        If persona 5 doesn’t come out on consoles, I’m going to be officially depressed.

      • Jeremy Barnes

        I enjoyed Last Remnant quite a bit and think it was a unique and interesting experience.

        • Warboss Aohd

          i agree, i want a Last Remnant 2 to wit’ LARGER battlez.

          i want a battle Turn Based RPG dat makez me feel like i’m leadin’ a ARMY ratha den a party.

          • Tiredman

            Give Dragon Force a try. Its a strategy rpg with a focus on the strategy, but each general you have has 100 soldiers at their disposal that fight with them against another general. I miss that game, wish Japan would move the one they put for sale digitally to the west.

          • Warboss Aohd

            i’m aware o’ dat game.

          • Caleb Montoya

            Dragon Force 2 was fail. That is the big reason the series ended. I’m sure if that series went on, it would have developed into a very amazing series. I have played Dragon Force many times, it is such a great classic. Gotta love the old Saturn.

      • Tiredman

        I enjoyed Last Rebellion and I found the Last Remnant a very interesting game. Rest of them I can agree weren’t the best. I would add Star Ocean 4 to that list as well.

    • taekk

      Totally agree. I’ve stopped buying COD games because each new title becomes shorter and shorter. It’s basically just yearly shovelware that prints money now. Loved COD2 and MW. World at War and Battlefield 2 Bad Company was OK but after the extremely short MW 2 and BF3 campaign, I was done with these shovelware titles.

    • PreyMantis

      No, you’re not the only one. I think Western developers are spending too much on their games to be as realistic as possible which increases their budget; therefore, cutting some contents to not over-exceed the maximum budget.

    • charles addow

      Respect man

  • ElAbuelo69

    So that’s why SE no longer releases titles aside from FF or KH :(

    And if they do it’s for mobiles.

    Stupid market tendencies.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Its their own fault, they caused this themselves

      • ElAbuelo69

        But why did all of this actually happen? I’ve heard Nintendo say HD costs are too high.

        Is that the cause?

        http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/125716-Nintendo-Underestimated-the-Cost-of-Going-HD

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          8 years ago coming off the high of the PS2 Investors and third parties were colluding to make the video game industry grow into an easily controlled, high risk high profit business, so they pressured the console manufacturers into releasing very expensive consoles in the form of the PS3/Xbox. Which were loosing exorbitant amounts of money.They were very exotic machines, that were challenging to learn and code for. Japan was hit by this particularly hard. (No matter how bad Sony was doing you saw the third parties supporting them, contrast to Nintendo who are pretty much their antithesis. They’d rather have their market share rather than supporting Nintendo. They dont see them as viable business partners or whatever. So they will wail at them as much as it is to their own benefits) However the consequences of this horrible business strategy are grave. Particularly with employee’s who are cog in a machine that are continuously abused by the publishers who employ them.
          Nintendo has more money than they do in the bank (Sony in their entirety) and are worth 3 times more than Sony’s division.

          Nintendo’s always making money, they stay at this sort of constant no matter how their business fluctuates. So unless their booming like they were in the DS/Wii days people dont like messing with their stock.

  • Pekola

    I can’t help but think that this is such a poisonous way of thinking. Far outclass? Not everyone plays Naughty Dog games and western blockbusters.

    What happens to the rest of the crowds. Are we suddenly outclassed too by people who play AAA games?

    What do you plan to do about us, Yoshida?

    • Yause

      They’re throwing lots of support behind indie development. While mid-tier games are getting lost in the shuffle, there’s demand for $1-10 purchases. Lately, indie games have become more elaborate, and veteran developers are starting to produce their own stuff (mind you, Japanese devs have shown little interest in striking it out as independent entrepreneurs. Instead, many are joining large social game companies where they enjoy high salaries, nice bonuses, and job security).

      The free-to-play model has also opened doors for mid-sized studios, and Sony has backed several of these developments.

    • TrevHead

      I agree I love mid tier games, since they tend to be either unique or niche.

      And while it’s nice some are going to handhelds, I like my action / twitch games on a big screen. Looking forward for the Vita TV coming PAL-side. (even though the Vita’s library is rather naff compared to the 3DS)

    • tubers

      Guerrilla Cambridge and Japan Studios seem to be “mid-sized” budget affair.

      Though I wouldn’t be surprised if GC is soon to dismantle like the Liverpool, Zipper, Bluepoint, etc. after touching the VITA.

      SS, FW, Oreshika 2, GR 2 aren’t “AAA budget titles” IMO (like The Order, Infamous, KZSF), they’re likely to be closer and even lower to UCGA and KZ:M budgets.

  • Luis Camargo

    What about pricing the games around $40 and control budgets accordingly?

    Puppeteer and Ratchet are great examples of games that just came out for $40. I don’t need for every game to be AAA, I’m more happy with inovative mid-budget titles.

    • lurkingsalt

      Too bad no one bought Puppeteer and Yoshida tweeted as much about the performance sales wise. They simply don’t sell enough at a lower price point. You say adjust budget but these mid size games still easily need over ten million dollars to make. I don’t feel very confident Ratchet is going to do Insomniac any favors coming out the week of next gen consoles.

      • Luis Camargo

        Sadly, I know you are right. Puppeteer did not sold a lot of units and with this end-yead madness, I also doubt Ratchet will be sucessfull.

        Still, eventually I hope that tech evolves in order to make games easier, faster and cheaper to develop. The industry will not hold if you need millions to make a single game that must be AAA or go indie.

        Still, seeing as how some development companies keep aflot only by pushing mid-tiered games (even if they are niche), keeps my hopes up.

  • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

    I just hope that wipeout doesn’t get killed.
    Reading this article just made me worry more about the next gen. maybe this will be the gen that will made me reduce my interest in gaming. The typical AAA game don’t entertain me as much as the “mid-sized”, since the “mid-sized” tend to have more content and in-game stuff to do than the High Budget AAA.
    Maybe i’ll do just what i had ben doing in the seventh generation keep playing in handhelds more (seriously, my DS and PSP separately were more used than my PS3 and 360 combined)

  • DesmaX

    Can’t disagree with him. I do think US$60 is rather expensive (But justifiable), so I end up buying only the games that really interest me.

    The Mid-games kinda fall in that category where I’d rather just pick up an used copy. I do feel bad about it, but I can’t buy all the games I want

  • malek86

    I think it’s a bad idea. While it’s true that mid-sized studios have had it bad in the last few years, it’s also true that AAA games have had more problems lately. So things are slightly changing.

    When you hear of how games like BF and COD are starting to sell less each year, whereas smaller games can make use of lower dev costs to keep things afloat, you have to wonder if there isn’t gonna be more of a balance soon.

    Mid-sized games just need a bit more marketing to sell better. If they take the budget difference between a mid-sized game and a big-sized one, and apply it to marketing the mid-sized game, I think they could have some good results.

    • School Idol Addict

      COD ghost made 1 billions in sales on his first day, so it’s not selling less at all

      • MXC

        Um no it didn’t. First of all sales are decreasing with each release like malek stated and second the billion in sales is to retailers not consumers, IOW stores stocked up on a billion copies to sell and people didn’t buy all one billion.

      • malek86

        It did sell less than BO2, according to Activision itself, although that’s also due to the wait for the next gen consoles. But it’s not the only one. If you look at big releases (Batman, BF4, AC4… name any, really) the news always say that they had a lower debut than the previous installment.

        We have certainly hit a sort of ceiling with the old consoles. It’s not sure if the new consoles will be able to fill that gap, but somehow, it looks unlikely. I think companies would do well to stop investing so much money on many games now. Have a couple big hitters each year, and reduce the budgets for the others.

        Dismantling mid-sized studios is not the answer imho. If anything, we are just entering the point where they’ll start being useful as relief cover.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/kaishou Kaishou

        lol

      • popo123

        Ghost did not earn 1 billion in it’s first day. This was already confirmed by activision. Even their highest selling Call of Duty did not reach 1 billion in it’s first day as the highest selling Call of Duty only earned $500 million in it’s first day.

  • Altin

    You just had to add a WipEout Screenshot for this article. I’m literally crying over here :’(

    • TrevHead

      I feel Sony should have waited until the PS4 version of Wipeout was through the door before axing Studio Liverpool. Atleast there would have been one exclusive game for the PS4′s launch line up that grabbed my attention.

      The fact Sony continue to waste so much money on Team ICO make it a bad pill to swallow.

  • Scipio

    This could be remedied by not inflating budgets, having a reasonable number of sales to try to get and by advertising them more, seeing as AAA games already have an absurd amount of marketing. Help the little man out.

  • ragingmerifes

    Well, just leave everything to the indies.

  • CRUSHING

    There’s plenty of room for mid-sized developers, but they’ve always struggled on consoles due to a wide range of issues such as shelf space and public misconceptions. I assume it’s even worse in Japan. Meanwhile, on PC, there are loads of high-quality “mid-range” titles, and they do pretty well. With the increasing emphasis on the digital storefronts of consoles, I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually felt similar success there.

  • David García Abril

    Nowadays the price of video games in general has devaluated a huge deal.

    Now people are unwilling to pay 60$ in a game unless they think they’re going to receive a huge visual spectacle.

    Since most games on smartphones and tables rarely go beyond 10 bucks (and a huge percentage is free), anything that goes beyond that feels like a rip-off for a lot of people.

    And I’m not talking about the usual “60 bucks for 8 hours of play”. I’m talking about anything beyond 10 bucks for ANY number of hours.

    • ForteWily

      That is not a healthy place for the market to be stuck between the two extremes of $60 + game and $10 – game.

      If you ask me, I don’t think that will be sustainable for much longer. Assuming that mobile gets brave on the pricing or AAA-publishing pushed down cost of development and the price to the consumer.

  • Spirit Macardi

    So Sony would rather sell a few high budget games than a bunch of medium and low budget ones that can be sold for less…

    I’m sorry, but it’s that exact attitude that’s causing tripple-A games to fail and niche indie titles to flourish. Not every game needs to be a graphical tour de force, sometimes less is more.

  • Zikrayrus “Zikk” Dis Pear

    But…Wipeout…

  • divinelite

    i guess it’s simpler to move them making games for PSvita, you see, AAA games for vita is considered midgame rite?

    • Shady Shariest

      Somewhat yes…

      AAA – means that the game is developed with a humongous budget, and on top of that for popular platforms.

      Handhelds here in the West. (Were most visible AAA-making studios roam) aren’t that popular, so games will end up being a mid-range developed products. This doesn’t take out the possibility of an AAA – game made for Vita, though. But makes it slightly a mission impossible.

  • The Secret

    dudes & gals, a portion (let’s moderate) of the current “gamindustri” (nice pun!) seems to walk to the wrong direction. And this post confirms it : unfortunately some developpers/producers/designers/… from those companies saw their companies shut down and will struggle to find similar jobs (even with well known games in their CV). So if this goes on there will only be big companies on one side releasing astonishing 12h max game lifespan and on the other side video games “startups” with original but few ideas.

    And for the indie side & self publishing we’ll have two new worlds: the Xbox One and the ps4.

    Their idea may be “we let them create games but we don’t have to support them, moreover, by selling games at prices < 15$, they'll never be a threat and sink themselves. No ties, let's ride!". Halp I don't want my futures games to be only Facebook games or CoD

  • Caleb Montoya

    I think the solution lies in that Mid-tier companies need to be Mid-tier companies. They’re going to bankrupt themselves trying to budget like a AAA company, and they’re not the exact fit for what we consider “indie” gaming which is being redefined these past few years. The solution lies in not pricing, but in number of sales. Just look at the Kickstarter success of Mighty No. 9. That is an indie size studio, having great success as a Mid-tier company. Making games for the fans/players is what good game development is about. AAA studios rely on massive advertising campaigns to push sales to meet the extravagant budgets of their games. Smaller studios may not get all the money they need the first month of development, and if the game is of great quality, people will still seek to purchase the game years later. Creating great opportunity to make lots more money year after year with merchandising.

  • Corvak

    Sony has actually been leading the way with the $30-40 price point. Games like Sly 4 and Ratchet and Clank Into the Nexus. Shorter than their $60 predecessors, but still worth their sticker price.

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