Sucker Punch on Sony sale

Q&A: Infamous developer's cofounder expands on joining the PlayStation family, says Sony deal will let it continue taking risks; "hard at work on stuff" but not sharing just yet.

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Earlier today, Sony announced that it had acquired Sly Cooper and InFamous developer Sucker Punch, making the Bellevue, Washington-based studio the publisher's 16th wholly owned studio.

The move came as not much of a surprise, as every game the studio has made except the Nintendo 64 game Rocket: Robot on Wheels has arrived exclusively on Sony's PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3.

Sucker Punch is now wholly owned by Sony.

In an interview with GameSpot, Sucker Punch cofounder Chris Zimmerman explained what led to the acquisition, the implications of it, and what's next for the studio.

GameSpot: On a day-to-day operating basis, what does it mean to Sucker Punch to be acquired by Sony?

Chris Zimmerman: I don't think it will have much of an effect on our day-to-day operations. Everyone that's been here for the past dozen years is still here; we still have the same goals in mind. We're still working on the same things. So the day-to-day isn't going to change, I think. We're expecting this is going to put us in a position where we can continue to work on innovative genre-defining content. That's kind of why we're doing this. And we've been in that position before, and we think we're going to continue to be in that position.

GS: Is there going to be additional pressure now that you're officially under the banner of Sony?

CZ: I don't think there's going to be a lot of change there. We've really worked hard to make high-quality games; games that are critically successful and games that are popular with consumers. And Sony's been a super partner for us in that.

They've really been supportive of us and the things we've wanted to do in our games and helped us grow as a studio in the past dozen years. They've helped us see where we needed to improve. And I think that's going to continue moving forward. I think the pressure that we have to do great games more than anything else comes internally.

We're really excited about doing games, we're excited about doing great games, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, so that's not going to change. And I don't think it will really have a big effect. We're going to continue to push forward and provide experiences for users as compelling as possible.

GS: Is it going to be geographically awkward for Sucker Punch, given that you're a Sony-owned studio residing in Microsoft country in Bellevue, Washington?

CZ: I don't think so. It's really kind of interesting because I and the other founders of Sucker Punch are ex-Microsoft guys. I worked at Microsoft for almost a decade, and when we started at Sucker Punch, it was really before Microsoft got into the console business. This was pre-Xbox; this was 1997.

When Microsoft started along that path, it was a little strange; I had friends who worked on the Xbox, and yet I was a Sony guy. I think after a decade, everyone is used to that. It's no more awkward than it has been. It's kind of funny, though, because it's not just Microsoft; it's Nintendo. We're in Bellevue, and my house in within walking distance of the Microsoft campus and the Nintendo campus. It's a little strange, but after 12 years we're pretty used to it.

Rocket: Robot on Wheels was Sucker Punch's first game.

GS: Can you describe the process leading up to the acquisition? Did it have anything to do with how you developed only for Sony's machines since the beginning?

CZ: It certainly made our long-term path obvious. We've been independent since 1997, and yet with every project we've done since the first Sly Cooper game, we've come back to Sony every time to do our next game. And the reason is we've been so happy with the relationship. Sony's been a great partner. They've been very supportive and they've also pushed us when we needed to be pushed.

And we've really enjoyed the people we work with at Sony; we enjoy the process. And we've enjoyed the support we've gotten from the corporation in terms of marketing. So every time we come back to do a new game, the decision has been obvious. We wanted to come back and do a game with our partners at Sony.

So after five games of that, we were like, "Why are we pretending that we're going to do something with someone else at some point? We should just make this a permanent arrangement." And Sony was open to that idea, and we worked out the details and here we are.

GS: You've said before that being an independent studio means you can't have a large number of projects existing at once and that there's pressure for each to succeed. Now that you've joined up with Sony, is some of this risk taken away? And does this give Sucker Punch the ability to develop multiple titles simultaneously?

CZ: The reason we do one game at a time is less about finances. We have been approached all the time with offers from other publishers to do other titles over the years, though I'm sure they'll approach us a lot less often now (laughs). And we've always turned it down. And the reason is we thought that doing one game at a time let us do better games and make more compelling experiences is it let us focus on one thing at a time.

We could put all our studio's efforts and all the best efforts of everyone here and really direct it at a single title. And in doing so, we thought we'd do better games. And the tricky bit is, as a one-project-at-time studio, it puts a lot of pressure on each game to be successful. Because, you know, we're basically betting our company every time we do a new game. We aren't spreading the risk in any way.

And we thought that, moving forward, as games continue to get more complicated and more expensive to develop, it made more sense for us to be part of an organization where that risk was spread over multiple products.

We've always been pretty aggressive about being innovative in the games we do. We haven't played it safe, even though there were financial pressures on us to play it safe, and we feel that this partnership with Sony is cementing it. It is really going to put us in a position where we can take risks and we really can be innovative. We're doing it less to be able to afford to make multiple games--we could have done that before--and more to make sure we're continuing to be in a place where can push forward on the one game at a time we intend to make.

GS:There's a new Sly Cooper game in development and you guys aren't making it. What are your thoughts on a third party making it?

Sucker Punch is not making the new Sly Cooper game, but Zimmerman says not to worry.

CZ:I think it's great. After Sly 3 was done, we started working on InFamous. And it took us a long time because we were part of the process with Sony of looking for studios that might be able to take over the Sly Cooper franchise. And it wasn't until Sony made contact with [Sly: Thieves in Time developer] Sanzaru that we knew that we've found the right fit.

They were super, super passionate about Sly Cooper. You could tell that they really got it. They knew what made it special and had their own ideas about where it ought to go. And for us that's super exciting. It's really neat to make the video games and know how many millions of people play them and enjoy them.

But to be part of the creation of something like Sly Cooper and see that it was so exciting for someone else and see that they wanted to take that and run with it…that was really neat for us. We're really excited about what they're doing with Sly Cooper.

And speaking personally, I'm really looking forward to it because I've never really been able to play a Sly Cooper game; I was always in the middle of developing it. So I knew exactly what was going to happen before it happened when I played the game, and now I actually get to play a Sly Cooper game as a consumer. And personally, I'm really looking forward to that.

GS: What are Sucker Punch's plans for the PlayStation Vita?

CZ: We haven't really announced anything about the Vita or about what are plans are after inFamous 2. We are hard at work on stuff right now. But we haven't announced anything.

Discussion

45 comments
dmdavenport
dmdavenport

Infamous 2 was a great game given a crappy score by Gamespot. If I was CZ, I would've asked why they let an idiot review it.

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

@Jack_240 LMBO! x"D ....couldn't agree more bro...only a few developers have proven they can handle multiple projects at once or even making multi-platform games.

Rovelius
Rovelius

As far as gaming goes, I have to say this : Sony FTW. With Microsoft playing it safe with their Kinect shovelware and Nintendo hiding behind lame excuses ("O SO YA IF SF64 3D IZ NOT SUCESFUL WEL FOX IS DED CUZ U NO WE MAEK MOAR $$$ WIT DUMB SOCCER MOM GAEMS DERP) I really don't see myself playing any other console than the PS3 in a very, very long time.

Jack_240
Jack_240

I hope other companies/studios do like what Sucker Punch is doing. Make only one game at time. **Yes I'm looking at you Square Enix"

MOwens9512
MOwens9512

Sony seems to have a pretty good reputation when it comes to owning studios. What's good about Sony is that they don't seem to pressure them into doing a game, or more specifically, pressure them into just churning out something just to generate quick cash these days, whether they own them or not. They seem to generally be open to let companies do their own thing and be as creative as possible. Good for them. It would have been cool had they got Insomniac, but at the same time I like how they were fine with letting them move beyond doing exclusives for them and do their own thing after Resistance 3 drops.

valcrist09
valcrist09

i totally thought Sony already owned them... Talk about a dedicated company staying with sony so long. Whelp that is just one more notch on the belt for Sonys studio power.. If i was sony id be buying up Eat sleep play, Quadiadic dreams, Insomniac studios etc

masuodgamer0899
masuodgamer0899

now inFamous 2 will com for ps vita at lunch!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ghetto_ninja
Ghetto_ninja

This is great for everyone. Now we don't have tow worry about crappy ports or a silmilar awfulness that is Insominac's new multiplatform game. Sony is very good at supporting it's first party developers and this is the reward.

Sigil-otaku
Sigil-otaku

Sony keeps getting more exclusives and buying up companies to keep them secure. I preferred 360 at the start of the gen but MS just don't bother actually securing exclusives any more. It's sad but it means I won't buy the next Xbox console until I actually see they can maintain exclusives. It'll be Wii U or PS4 as my first purchase.

bradlbauer
bradlbauer

playing an exclusive game is not inherently better than a multiplatform. It doesn't serve you as a consumer to have a game be exclusive it only helps the bottom line of the console maker. Stop acting like a different console from the one your parents bought you is your arch nemesis. I like video games not a specific console.

lamprey263
lamprey263

why, Suckerer Punch already made games exclusively for Sony at their own expense, Sony could have used that money to secure exclusivity elsewhere

franzito
franzito

Sony is just making the most of it

WeeMattyCfc
WeeMattyCfc

Good Move for sony now they can keep infamous to ourselfs and not xbox

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

Good to hear but Sony really should have purchased Insomniac (Resistance and Ratchet & Clank) and From Software (Demon's Souls and Dark Souks). Not that I think Insomniac will take those titles multiplatform but Sony really lost exclusivity of a dark horse gem with From Software. Japan still gets the exclusive deal though. Seems lessons have been learnt.

endorbr
endorbr

Smart move for Sony. Not really that big a deal in terms of anything for Sucker Punch other than further support and capital from Sony. Good for us PS3 owners to look forward to more exclusives. Hopefully an Infamous title in the works for the Vita...

XanderZane
XanderZane

Not really a surprise. They haven't made games for any other platform, so that was an easy grab for Sony. Microsoft should have been doing something like this over the past 3 years. If they had, they would have at least 8-10 new 1st party studios by now. I don't know what the hell they are waiting for. Considering how many independent developers there are for the PC platform, Microsoft literally has hundreds of choices to chose from. Most of these developers aren't making PS3 or Wii games, they are making PC games, which can easily be made on the XBox 360. Microsoft needs to hire 5-6 people to concentrate specifically on 1st party exclusives titles for the XBox 360 and future XBox system. They already have enough people concentrating on Kinect games.

AuronAXE
AuronAXE

Good for Sony, and we'll see if it's good for Sucker Punch. Based on Zimmerman's interview though it seems Sony is very open to what developers decide to do and theres no pressure, so in the end we'll probably have some great results. Go Sucker Punch!

scratchisme
scratchisme

If they screw up with Sly 4 I'm gonna get pissed

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

I swear I read a while ago that Infamous 3 was already in the works? In fact I'm positive? It was round-about the same time that Infamous 2 was released? I duno.. Anyway, great to see that these guys are so relaxed about it all, nice to know they'll be in safe hands :) It'd be good to see some behind the scenes stuff for their next project. Lightbox Studios are doing Developer Diaries as they work towards their release of Starhawk (there's a couple already up), it's a great way to see the working environment and what goes on behind closed doors. You also see some of the Sony representatives pop up now and again which is cool. Ahhhh, happy happy developers! Good times :D

gamerasi
gamerasi

Sony + Sucker Punch: AAA games

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

@OJdaLIONKing, Agreed. It seems a many other 'big' companies (in the gaming industry) could stand to learn a bit from Sony's example of how to truly treat the dev studios that work under you. Sony, unlike other companies, knows how to set back & put trust into their dev studios--all while not constantly 'hovering' over their shoulders. A relaxed & open atmosphere, in gaming industry, is what leads to the best creative work possible, and it most definitely seems to show w/ each dev that works under/with Sony.

the_requiem
the_requiem

@ash162: I'd rather say Sony really knows how to take care of developers who know how to take care of their fans.

the_requiem
the_requiem

@ash162: I'd rather say Sony really knows how to take care of developers who know how to take care of their fans.

ash162
ash162

whatever he said is the reason that there r so many different types of high quality exclusives available for the ps(heavy rain, ratchet and clank, infamous) sony really knows how to take care of the customers( barring the psn breach but i m a single player so i dont reallycare about that)

XeonForce
XeonForce

It's all about the games. Happy developers make great games, so good on Sucker-Punch and Sony for finally tying the knot. =P

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

They sound very passionate - and their games reflect this. Good work guys, and I hope this leads to many more wonderful games!

Swift_Boss_A
Swift_Boss_A

@SolidTy Wont change much, except the quality of their games will sky-rocket 8)

Super-Poke-Bros
Super-Poke-Bros

@Henrique2324 This is a different article though :P The other one today just announced the news, this one has the interview.

Maistro998
Maistro998

Great to see Sony taking over a great company again.

OJ_the_LION
OJ_the_LION

I mentioned in the first post about this about how skeptical I am when independents are bought by big publishers, but Sony seems to treat its developers well. Especially compared to EA and Activision which seem to shutter studios the second they make something that's not a blockbuster, Sony's studios seem to have a creative, relaxed atmosphere (I'm thinking specifically of Sony Santa Monica and Naughty Dog) and make really top quality games. I'm hoping for more awesome games from Sucker Punch in the future.

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

2 title switches in half a day. Great job gamespot.

gamenerd15
gamenerd15

@Gamer_4_Fun Naughty Dog was bought by Sony right before Jak 1 was released on PS2.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

great buy, does anyone know if naughty dog is Sony's studio or not?

EPaul
EPaul

excellent news

Cartr1dgeBased
Cartr1dgeBased

This was a great pickup for Sony. Though, judging from this interview, it sounds like Sucker Punch is the one who initiated this partnership which, if true, is rather surprising.

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

Oh, I thought they meant the movie, comic series, at first.

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

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