Hello, my name is Shu Yoshida, I’m a Senior Vice President of Product Development here inside SCEA, and I oversee the product development group in the US for SCE’s Worldwide Studio, headed by Phil Harrison. For a little perspective on the US portion of the Worldwide Studio group, you should know we have eight studios in six US cities reaching from Redmond, Wash. down to San Diego, Calif. We also work with some very talented developer partners like Insomniac, Factor 5 and Sucker Punch. My role is a bit unique in the industry, heading up first-party development, so hopefully in time I can provide some interesting insights to readers of this blog.
To start, I wanted to give you guys a broad view of a question I often get asked — how does a game project get started?. For a lot of people, how a game idea goes from concept to final product is a bit of a mystery, but let me try and shed some light.
The truth is, each game is unique and each publisher has its own process for getting a project approved (often called “green lighted”).
Specifically though, in our case at SCEA, we do not have a “green light” process per se. Rather, we call ours a “red light” process. A project is typically initiated by a studio, whether the idea comes from an internal team or an external developer. We almost never impose a project from “the top down,” where we say something like “We need a fantasy adventure game. Go make one.” Instead, we truly believe the best ideas come from talented individuals who are passionate about their ideas and propose them to us, thus fostering further creativity. First comes the basic idea, which is then developed into an overall concept. Only then does it get to be presented to the studio director, me, Phil Harrison, product marketing, etc., to get our initial feedback. At that point not much money has been spent, and often times the studio has multiple concepts developed as candidates.
When a concept is chosen, the next step is to develop it into a prototype. For a PS3 Blu-ray project, a prototype can take over a year and can cost $2-5 million which used to be a full budget not so many years ago, during the PS1 age. Once we have a prototype, we have an opportunity to present the new project to wider cross sections of people within SCE, ranging from product development to marketing teams around the world. We actively seek feedback on several factors including, how attractive the game is to each territory’s audience, what’s the potential market, what’s the competition, etc., so we can steer the course of development before we develop the project too far. We have this same audience review our games several more times once in full production as well (which is the final process of development after the prototype) to double check that the game is on track to be an attractive title to our market and, most importantly, to make sure the game is darn good. I’ve included a few images here that show some of the conceptual drawings and art for a title you’re probably familiar with Calling All Cars. Those familiar with the title will recognize some of the vehicles and levels from these early drawings.
So, why do we call it the “red light” process? Because any time along the way, following those meetings with people from around SCE, the game can be canceled or changed. So, rather than just “green light” a project and let it run its course, we would rather reserve the right to “red light” a project if it isn’t going to live up to our high standards. Many ideas and concepts go this route and end up canceled or put on the back burner until the market has shifted to bring it to light. When those great games end up in your living room, after years of development, there is always a development, marketing or executive team, and someone like me, eagerly awaiting those press reviews and your thoughts and comments on places like this blog.
I hope this provides you with a little bit of insight as to how we make our games here at SCEA. Within the next several months, you’re really going to see the fruits of our labor with some great game releases from both first and third party studios. I’ll check in again soon to talk more about the development process. If you have anything specific you’d like me to address, please say so in the comments and I’ll do my best. Thanks for all of the support!