E3: Sony's Rohde - LBP And Mod Nation Are Just The Beginning
Sony's Jack Tretton introduced user-generated content-based racer Mod Nation Racers with a segue from LittleBigPlanet for a reason -- the company's aiming to build and own a genre, and these two titles are just the beginning of a multi-phase strategy.
"Mod Nation Racers was in development before we even shipped LBP," Sony's Worldwide Studios North America head Scott Rohde told Gamasutra. "It wasn't just, 'hey, we see the success of LBP, let's go scramble and build something else. We knew we had something special on our hands."
Sony believes that games built on user contributions are "absolutely the future of games... it's something that's a long-term strategy for Sony," Rohde says.
Vancouver-based United Front Games -- which has a strong constituency of former EA Black Box racig vets -- is developing Mod Nation, and Rohde says they he first began discussing the idea with the core team about two and a half years ago.
"We kind of collaborated on the idea, and they're a very sharp developer," he says. "[United Front] just has a really good vision for this type of product," he says.
LittleBigPlanet was about halfway finished at the time, says Rohde, and the United Front team "had some similar ideas." The team also met with Media Molecule to learn about what the LBP team had learned through several iterations on various game aspects, like the user interface.
"One of the first things we did was get Alex and a couple guys from [Media Molecule] to sit down and talk with the guys at UF Games and say here's what we learned, love your idea, how can we apply all those learnings to make sure ModNation is great and a good extension?"
In fact, Rohde says few people are aware of just how collaborative Sony's internal studios are. All told, the internal development team is about 2500 staff strong, and while the number of individual studios is often evolving, Rohde estimates something like 15-20.
Teams share technology and ideas regularly, he says, and Rohde says it's "very easy" to collaborate across different geographic locations and cultures thanks to the leadership of Worldwide Studios head Shu Yoshida.
The company still believes strongly in the power of first-party exclusives to drive platform sales -- Rohde says Sony has 35 exclusives from its internal studios planned for the coming year.
"That's absolutely our strategy," says Rohde. "A lot of publishers may put their money into other places, but we believe firmly that the first long-term strategy is to bring titles that you can't play anywhere else."
"The point is these are franchises," says Rohde. "These are not one-offs, they're must-haves, and we're very proud of that."