An audience with Sony Worldwide Studios' Michael Denny
Sony Worldwide Studios Europe's vice president Michael Denny took the stage at Gamescom to present a bunch of new titles including the Michel Ancel developed Wild, the revamped Until Dawn, Media Molecule's Tearaway and Housemarque's Alienation to name a few announcements. We had an opportunity to sit down with the executive to learn more about the plans of Worldwide Studios and their strategy moving forward.
Looking at the press conference and what Sony showcased Denny outlined the strategy in play as follows; "We wanted to show with PlayStation, with PlayStation 4, how much new and exciting content we still have coming to the platform. We've already announced a lot of great exclusive titles and also in the opening of the show we showed four of our AAA titles with Bloodborne, The Order, Little Big Planet 3, the new standalone content for Infamous: First Light. So then we concentrated in the rest of the show trying to give a flavour of some new titles that are coming so it was great to unveil games like Wild and games like Tearaway coming to PlayStation 4, updates on Rime, the unveil of The Tomorrow Children, and Until Dawn coming to PlayStation 4. Particularly Alienation as well from Housemarque. So the idea of the show is to go in there and keep things fresh, keep things exciting and make sure when we come to Gamescom we're not just repeating E3."
We noted the variation on hand during the conference and Denny agreed it was a point they wanted to get across, "With PlayStation and PlayStation 4 we set up the console for game creators and it's great to see a variety of game creators coming on board and that gives you a breadth of experiences, but also some new and innovative experiences well in that range of experiences you talk about."
Asking about where Sony came into the picture with Michel Ancel's new studio and the Sony published Wild Denny didn't really offer any real insights into how it came to be.
"Michel's still very much involved with Ubisoft, but he also had a desire to do something independent as well and something original with a great team of talented devs that joined him. All our role was again to facilitate that, help it happen, and bring it to PlayStation 4."
Another game that was highlighted during the show was Supermassive Games' Until Dawn - first shown at Gamescom 2012 - the game went from a camp horror title with PlayStation Move support to something a whole lot more moody on PlayStation 4.
"I think it epitomises some of the things we do in Worldwide Studios that we often start games off, concepts off, that have a certain flavour, a certain direction, but we're always throughout prototyping and reacting to new platforms coming out, to stop and look at them and think is that the right direction for this concept?"
"Does that concept suit that platform? Where is the audience going for our platform. Until Dawn was an interesting one cause we all loved the concept. But as you say [perhaps in reference to our remark about the original unveiling being a bit camp], we thought there were things in there that if we did move it to PlayStation 4 that was the real decision we made - the concept is great and PlayStation 4 is the place for it to be - what do we need to change? And the reality is we needed to start again, other than that core concept of the 8 friends trying to survive until dawn. We went for the darker story, it had to be rewritten for to make the best of PlayStation, and of course for DualShock 4 controller as well."
The fact that Media Molecule was working on a port of PS Vita's Tearaway for PlayStation 4 came as a bit of a surprise as we fully thought they were working on something wholly original.
"The truth is Tearaway was such a fantastic game, and fantastic game on Vita. We looked at it - could we do something on PlayStation 4? And the initial reaction was 'no, we don't think so - the game was built for Vita'. So it was from that process we just talked and said 'why don't we prototype a few things, see what could happen?' We left those guys to it. Months went by. Nothing. A few more months went by. And then we started to get a bit of reaction. A bit of passion that they thought they've found something. They thought they'd found an angle that could really work. And from there it grew into real excitement. And it's great when a project comes together like that. There was nobody really saying we had to make anything happen there and it just... I can't wait for people to get their hands on it, but when you get to play it, it just works so well now. And it looks beautiful on PlayStation 4."
One aspect of Sony's Gamescom presser that received criticism was the apparent lack of PS Vita support, and Denny offered little in the way of assurances to Vita owners hoping for increased support from Worldwide Studios.
"For us Vita's still the best handheld dedicated gaming device out there. If you want quality handheld gaming, the Vita's for you, and there's a large array of content already out there for it, and more digital content that's coming. I mean Borderlands 2 is still to come to the platform..."
We didn't want to be the ones to break it to him that the game is already out, so we let him continue.
"You marry that with the remote play experience that people can get on PlayStation 4, I think it's really still a great system for people. In terms of the focus of Worldwide Studios, I think you've clearly seen that's going to be more in terms of PlayStation 4 going forward now."
Pressing a little harder for an answer of what to expect this is what Denny replied:
"So, as you said, there'll be cross-play titles, there'll be titles that are going cross-platform as well. There's some big third-party titles still coming, and there's lots of great, innovative new indie titles coming digitally to the platform."
While Sony have given us a peak at one potential future of PlayStation 4 with the Project Morpheus prototype, Denny had little news to share about just how much of Worldwide Studios is focused on virtual reality at the moment.
"Two of the demos that we show, with the Luge and with The Deep, are from Worldwide Studios, our London studio and it's super exciting to be working on Morpheus. It is a new experience, it is something that's going to take the experience forward and that's all we want to do at PlayStation. If there is something new and exciting out there we want to be in it and make it work great for PlayStation to the highest quality that we can and give that to the fans."
We also asked Denny about the Shadow of the Beast reboot that was announced at Gamescom last year, but he simply had "No update on that".
In summary Denny gave his views on the upcoming six months for PlayStation.
"Over the next six months some massive titles coming out for us, you know when we're talking about Bloodborne, The Order, Driveclub, Singstar, Little Big Planet 3, and again looking into next year I think we've announced 7-8 exclusive titles with Uncharted 4 coming next year as well so some massive titles. And again if you buy into PlayStation 4 you can just see from what we showed at the press conference last night [last week] that we're not only getting the big titles, but that there's going to be lots of innovation as well."
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