Aug. 2, 2011 at 3:09 AM ET
It seems Sony is quite pleased with the work development studio Sucker Punch did with its recently launched "inFamous 2" game for the PlayStation 3. Pleased enough, in fact, Sony has bought the company outright.
Sony Computer Entertainment just announced that it acquired Sucker Punch Productions — the developer behind both "inFamous" and "inFamous 2" as well as the Sly Cooper games. The acquisition makes Sucker Punch the 16th internally-owned studio at SCE's Worldwide Studios.
Sony did not disclose the financial terms of the acquisition.
"Worldwide Studios puts a really high value on groups like Sucker Punch that can successfully develop new intellectual property," Scott Rohde, senior vice president at Sony Computer Entertainment's Worldwide Studios America, told me during an interview Monday. "It's something that's been the strategy of Worldwide Studios from the get go – making sure that we're able to build a high volume of exclusive first-party content. Sucker Punch is a group we're excited to acquire because they have proven with both Sly Cooper and most recently with the inFamous franchise that they can develop that new IP and they are very adept at doing so."
Ever since it was founded in 1997 (by former Microsoft employees no less), Sucker Punch has been an independent development company. But the Bellevue, Wash., studio has spent the last 10 years and five projects making games exclusively for Sony consoles. There is no "inFamous" for Xbox 360 owners, only PS3 owners. And the Sly Cooper games were created for the PlayStation 2.
Meanwhile, "InFamous 2" — an open-world game that drops players into the shoes of average-guy-turned-super-hero Cole MacGrath — has raked in accolades and top sales since launching in June for the PlayStation 3. It currently holds an impressive score of 83 out of 100 on critic aggregation site Metacritic.com. The first "inFamous" game, which launched back in 2009, was equally lauded.
So why did Sony go to the trouble of buying a company that was already making games exclusively for their machines?
"I'd be lying if I said other groups weren't interested in a group like Sucker Punch," Rohde said. "The bottom line is, when you've got a group that's been as successful as Sucker Punch, we want to ensure that we keep them in the fold. It's that simple. It's hard to find high quality developers like these guys."
Indeed, Sony Computer Entertainment has a history of buying up hot independent game houses that have created successful new properties for Sony machines. In March last year, Sony bought Media Molecule — the developers behind the highly original "LittleBigPlanet" games for the PS3 — for an undisclosed sum of money. In 2007, they acquired Evolution Studios and Bigbig Studios — the developers behind the MotorStorm and Pursuit Force games. And In 2006, SCE snapped up Zipper Interactive, the developers who created the SOCOM games.
Brian Fleming, managing partner at Sucker Punch, said that the fact they've spent 10 years making games exclusively for Sony consoles just goes to show how successful the relationship has been — and that made selling to Sony make sense.
"It's just been such a productive and enjoyable relationship for us that I think in all of our discussions the only group we really seriously entertained doing this kind of a transaction with was Sony," Fleming said.
He also said that their decision to sell Sucker Punch into the larger Sony machine "reflects the realities of the increasing budgets of video games."
"We're very committed to being a focused studio, so we don't have three or four or five projects going on at once," Fleming said. "And that ends up being a fairly high risk game. If you want to be an independent studio and you only have one thing going on and that game doesn't happen to be a hit — we've been very successful and very fortunate, but at some point your tolerance for risk gets exceeded by the budget of your next title."
Ultimately, the acquisition will have little or no affect on gamers themselves, both Sony and Sucker Punch executives insist. The company's day-to-day operations will continue to be run by the Sucker Punch founders and current management team in conjunction with Sony Computer Entertainment's Foster City Studio.
"For all the people who like our products and are huge fans of our products, we're not going anywhere," Fleming said. "We're even more committed than ever to the platforms and properties and continuing to do what it is we do."
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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+. And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.