PS5, PS4 exclusive Kena: Bridge of Spirits was a particularly gorgeous action platformer that we quite enjoyed, and we weren't the only ones. Developer Ember Labs had previously revealed that the game took a month to recoup its budget and become profitable, but in a new interview, brothers and co-founders Josh and Michael Grier have described the pressure of what suddenly being thrust into the PlayStation spotlight was like.
The brothers Grier got the platform holders' attention by using a strategically deployed (and stunning) Majora's Mask tribute trailer, which has some 13 million views these six years later. Sony was certainly impressed with the brother's pitch for a game, helping out with funding and marketing. But this success also put a lot of pressure on the two, who both had backgrounds in commercial advertisement, VFX, and animation and now had to deliver a game that would justify all the attention.
Speaking to GameIndustry.biz, Michael described the situation: "It was also like a huge amount of pressure that was just suddenly turned on. We're a very small team, it's an indie game, and we went from no one knowing about it to a bunch of people wanting it after the [PlayStation's Future of Gaming] show. So then it was like, 'Oh man, now we have to deliver!'"
Ember Labs wanted to create a nostalgic platformer, the kind of thing that inspired the brother's animation aesthetic in the first place, which Michael describes thusly: "We pitched an experience that was full of charm and had that nostalgia edge to it. [PS2-era games] are definitely a big influence, we weren't seeing a bunch of those games being made, so it was like, it'd be fun to play a game like that, a kind of callback to that vibe, and the simplicity of it is part of the charm. So, for better or for worse, that's what we set out to make."
It was perhaps, then, not the best foot forward to debut the game at a show called the Future of Gaming, but it did lead to some surprisingly wholesome discourse about expectations.