Why Sony needs to invest in Japanese studios

  • Posted January 8th, 2013 at 09:33 EDT by

(continued from previous page) ...out the mess. Japan Studio, like Sony Santa Monica, co-produce games which other studios, as well as internally develop. Japan Studio houses Team ICO who is making The Last Guardian, which has been in development hell for some time. To put it into perspective, the last game Team ICO made was Shadow of the Colossus, which came out in 2005. That's nearly eight years without a release.

           

 The Last Guardian has been anticipated for years and is nowhere to be seen.

Another studio taking too much time to make a game is Polyphony Digital. Yes, they produced Gran Turismo, which is one of Sony's biggest franchises, but it took them far too long to make it onto shelves. Both Gran Turismo 5 and Gran Turismo PSP took much longer to release than they should have. Ideally, Gran Turismo 6 should be a launch title for the next PlayStation console. Hopefully, Gran Turismo will also see the light of day on Vita, though when quizzed on the project Polyphony head honcho Kaz Yamauchi said it was 'confidential.'

The long lead times and lack of Japanese studios must be a management issue. Sony's Worldwide Studios, which overlooks all of Sony's developers, is headed by Shuhei Yoshida (who is a nice enough chap and very approachable -- just tweet him @ysop), but I get the feeling he needs to reel the studios in a bit and knock a few heads together. It needs stronger support in Japan, whether it be through start-up studios or buying existing development houses.

Start-up studios are probably the cheaper option but it would take a while to get some results and by then it might be too late. Buying studios is surely the perfect quick fix for Sony and given its financial situation - not as dire as some make out since they bought EMI, Ericsson and Gaikai last year as well as 10 percent of Olympus – it has money to spend, but is it willing to?


The other question is who to buy? There are numerous smaller Japanese studios who support Sony but these studios would have little impact given they already develop pretty much exclusively on Sony systems anyway. Looking at the big Japanese names then you could make arguments for several of them. Capcom is a no-go, buying Monster Hunter would be an immense boost but Capcom is far from in trouble, despite Resident Evil 6 selling worse than expected. Konami is pretty much out of bounds too, since they only have Kojima Productions with Kojima who is a Sony supporter, and has little else of note. SEGA is an option as its parent company Sammy might sell given how SEGA is losing them money. Not a great sign for Sony but some of its IPs are potential earners, Sonic of course being one of them. Maybe Sony could bring the blue hedgehog back to his former 16-bit glory? It would also be funny to see the reaction of the disgruntled Dreamcast fanboys who blame Sony for SEGA's demise out of the hardware space. It was SEGA's fault it got into financial trouble in the first place. That's a terrible reason to buy a company though in truth.

Maybe there’s Atlus? Though not as well-known as some of the others, it does make a lot of games and knows its market well. Admittedly, none of them are big sellers but its library would add quite a bit of content to Sony systems if it were to be bought. Namco-Bandai is an unlikely purchase, since it doen't have massive sellers in its portfolio either. Tekken was great back in the day, but the fighting game genre isn't what it was. I'd be happy with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the Vita personally. Namco is also releasing God Eater 2 on the Vita this year, which should help, but it's also launching on the PSP so it might not have a big impact.

The most likely investment, if any, by Sony for a third-party developer is surely Square-Enix. This is simply because Sony already has shares in it, around 9 percent. That isn't enough to be a board member so it has zero influence in the decisions made. Increasing the stake would allow Sony to get onto the board and pull some strings ... (continued on next page)

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