Sony Very Nearly Disbanded Its Entire First-Party Development Division
Posted by Sammy Barker
Sony’s internal development efforts have always been good, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the previous generation that it really started to transform its first-party products into major selling points. Titles such as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and God of War III were not just great games, they were genre defining – and they helped to transform the struggling PlayStation 3 into a must-own machine.
However, things could have been different. Speaking as part of a fascinating question and answer session with PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny, Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida revealed that the company actually considered scrapping its internal development operations shortly after the departure of former boss Phil Harrison in 2008. Apparently, internal conversations at the company were questioning the need for the division.
Yoshida didn’t agree, and so he consulted then-chairman Akira Sato, before pitching group gaffer Kaz Hirai on a scenario in which he would lead the firm’s roster of wholly owned development outfits. Whatever he said, the meeting clearly went well, because Sony's first-party division has blossomed over the past five or so years. It’s also expanded under the affable executive’s watchful eye, with teams such as Sucker Punch and Media Molecule being added to the portfolio.
Most interestingly of all, it was around this time that the platform holder started to poll its internal teams on what they would like to see in the manufacturer’s hypothetical next-gen console. Seeing as that collaboration between developers and engineers has been cited as one of the fundamental reasons behind the PlayStation 4’s success, we reckon that Yoshida and his team are owed a big bonus. As Engadget puts it, from the edge of extinction to the backbone of PlayStation is Hollywood plot material.
Update: Shuhei Yoshida has clarified on Twitter that its studios weren't quite in as much trouble as it may have originally seemed. "[The comment] was a bit misinterpreted," he said. "No one would have shut down all of the studios. My comment was about the organisational set up, not about not needing first party."