From PixelOpus to Naughty Dog, we’re ranking each of Sony’s first party studios and checking in on what they have brewing.
Over the last 12 months, its safe to say that the video game industry is in a bit of an arms race for talented development studios that can bolster a company’s games lineup. From Microsoft to Embracer Group to Tencent, most of the major game publishers are gobbling up development studios of all sizes. Sony, while no stranger to studio acquisitions, has slowly and quietly assembled a strong roster. Indeed, if you don’t count the recent Housemarque acquisition, Sony has only made one transaction in the last decade (Insomniac Games in 2019). Before Insomniac you’d have to go all the way back to 2011 when Sony last acquired a studio, and that was Sucker Punch. With rumors swirling that Sony might also purchase Bluepoint Games (Demon’s Souls/Shadow of the Colossus Remake), it’s a fine time to check in on all 13 official 1st party studios and see what their working on, and what the heck, let’s rank all of ’em too!
#13 – PixelOpus
PixelOpus is one of Sony’s newest and smallest teams. With only two games under their belt, 2014’s Entwined and 2019’s Concrete Genie, PixelOpus has maybe the most to prove out of all of Sony’s talent. After partnering with the team to shadow release Entwined on the E3 stage of 2014, Sony thought it wise enough to add this developer to it’s catalogue. PixelOpus is a low risk and potentially high reward kind of studio given the type of games they make. Both Entwined and Concrete Genie were thoughtful, earnest, and visually pleasing artistically. A potent combination that has propelled games such as Journey and What Remains of Edith Finch to the forefront of game of the year conversations. Even though they are last on this list, it’s not due to lack of talent. They simply need to ship more games and prove that they can hang with all of their older PS Studio siblings.
Last Game – Concrete Genie (2019)
Current Project – Unannounced PS5 game
#12 – Media Molecule
Formed back in 2006, the British based development house caught the attention of then Sony bigwig, Phil Harrison, and promptly released LittleBigPlanet for the PS3 in 2008. At the core of LittleBigPlanet’s DNA was this mantra of “Play, Create, Share”. It’s a philosophy that has permeated Media Molecule’s entire existence and drove the company to develop Dreams, the long in development and much beleaguered “build-your-own-game” game. Really, not much has worked out for Dreams. There’s no way it can be a sales success, especially given the years sunk into development. Even to this day it’s head scratching that Media Molecule continues to pour time and resources into Dreams. I don’t think I speak out of turn when I say that most gamers want Media Molecule to develop, you know, an actual game! Hopefully they will soon put Dreams to bed and get back to making complete, whole games again.
Last Game – Dreams (2020)
Current Project – TBD
#11 – Polyphony Digital
Let’s be real. Polyphony makes Gran Turismo games and they take a long time doing it. 2017’s Gran Turismo Sport was seemingly a stop gap between 2013’s GT6 and the upcoming GT7. Think about that. If Gran Turismo 7 release in 2022 as is currently planned, it will almost be a decade between two proper GT releases. That’s simply too long. To compound Polyphony’s apparent lack of concern for swift releases, they also have fallen woefully behind Microsoft’s Horizon racing series in many respects. I do enjoy myself a good Gran Turismo, but for the love of Pete, let’s crank em out!
Last Game – Gran Turismo Sport (2017)
Current Project – Gran Turismo 7 (2022)
#10 – London Studio
One of Sony’s longest tenured studios may also be one of their least known. The second UK-based studio on this list boasts quite the résumé. Mostly dabbling in Sony’s auxiliary efforts, London Studio has worked on games such as Singstar, EyeToy, Playstation Home, and the recent PSVR game, Blood & Truth. London Studio has earned their stripes and Sony has given them quite the project if rumors are to be trusted. It was once thought that London Studio was working on a major PSVR2 title based in the Horizon Zero Dawn universe, but that game might be in the hands of another team with London Studio moving on to a separate AAA VR project. Time will tell, but color us interested based on their work on Playstation VR Worlds and the aforementioned Blood & Truth.
Last Game – Blood & Truth
Current Project – Next Gen VR title
#9 – Bend Studio
Bend Studio has been in the headlines lately with rumors suggesting that Sony turned down Bend’s pitch for Days Gone 2. Apparently Sony had been giving them busy work by assigning them to assist on a Last of Us remake while they figure out what their next game would be. Not long after, Bend Studio came out on social media to squash the rumors and announce that they were working on a brand new IP. Regardless, it’s not a particularly exciting sequence of events given how troubled Days Gone’s development was and that Sony reportedly turned down a pitch for the sequel. Hopefully Bend retains the trust of Sony and they can produce a game that exceeds their work on Days Gone.
Last Game – Days Gone (2019)
Current Project – New IP for PS5
#8 – Team Asobi
Many long time PlayStation fans morned the death of Japan Studios, however they may want to dry those tears if what spawns from their wake is Team Asobi. Responsible for both Astro Bot: Rescue Mission for PSVR and the PS5 pack-in, Astro’s Playroom, Team Asobi have a bonafide console mascot on their hands. Astro himself is a likable and attractive character on his own, but the quality in which his games are delivered propel him past nearly anything Studio Japan ever produced (besides Team Ico games). Team Asobi’s official website only recently went live and the site promises that the team is “hard at work on our most ambitious game yet”. If the first two Astro games are anything to go by we should be in good hands with Team Asobi.
Last Game – Astro’s Playroom (2020)
Current Project – TBD
#7 San Diego Studio
Like Polyphony Digital, you can take it to the bank that San Diego Studio makes one game and one game only. In this case the game is MLB: The Show, the annually franchised baseball sim. And boy, do those San Diego folks know how to crank out a home run. They’ve produced great game after great game on the backs of the traditional annual release schedule. However, there’s been persisting rumors that San Diego Studio is venturing into unknown – some might even say Uncharted – territory. Yes, the long time baseball developer is rumored to have spoked off a new team which is silently toiling away on a new AAA action game for Sony and it might even be a new entry in the Uncharted series. While this could all turn out to be false, it’s not a stretch to imagine Sony using it’s San Diego resources for games that won’t show up day 1 on Xbox Game Pass.
Last Game – MLB: The Show ’21
Current Project – MLB: The Show ’22 / Unannounced PS5 title
#6 – Housemarque
As noted at the top of the article, Housemarque is the latest studio to be welcomed into the PlayStation family. Sony never really let this dev get too far away as Housemarque has been making games for PlayStation platforms for the better part of the developer’s lifespan. Ever since Super Stardust HD delivered the very first game to feature PlayStation trophies back in 2007, they’ve tightly held a grip on hardcore PlayStation fans. Even their most recent work, Returnal, is a brutally difficult sci-fi horror rogue-like that won’t easily mesh with casual gamers. Despite the niche, Housemarque has some of the very best development chops in all of gaming and is an easy fit into the PlayStation ecosystem.
Last Game – Returnal (2021)
Current Project – TBD
#5 – Guerrilla Games
Hailing from Amsterdam, Guerrilla Games has punched above it’s weight class in recent years. Long relegated to the Killzone FPS franchise, Guerrilla finally broke free in 2017 when they delivered the smash open-world hit Horizon Zero Dawn. Garnering both critical and commercial success, Sony had not only a blockbuster on it’s hands but also a rising star in Aloy. The success of Horizon Zero Dawn catapulted then studio head Hermen Hulst to become the overall head of Sony worldwide studios in late 2019. The game’s success has also allowed Guerrilla to reportedly split into a 2 game studio which has all sorts of wild and juicy implications. We know Guerrilla is hard at work on Horizon Forbidden West, but what is the other team crafting? Some have hypothesized a return to the Killzone franchise while others believe that a new game for Sony’s next gen VR headset may be the answer. Guerrilla has proven that they can tackle an entirely new genre so nothing is out of the cards for this talented team that has earned their spot among Sony’s top studios.
Last Game – Horizon Forbidden West (2022)
Current Project – Horizon: Call of the Mountain (PSVR2 title)
#4 – Sucker Punch
Personally, I’m quite proud of Sucker Punch and their trajectory historically speaking. This is a team that cut their teeth on the Sly Cooper franchise back on PlayStation 2, honed their skills with the Infamous franchise on PlayStation 3, and perfected their craft with Ghost of Tsushima on PlayStation 4. The latter was PS4’s swan song and a beautiful open-world epic that captured the essence of 13th century Japanese culture. Ghost of Tsushima was a tour de force and solidified Sucker Punch as one of Sony’s elite developers. The team recently announced Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut and a stand alone version of their Ghost of Tsushima multiplayer game, Legends, so we probably have a long wait before the inevitable Ghost of Tsushima 2.
Last Game – Ghost of Tsushima
Current Project – TBD
#3 – Santa Monica Studio
I gotta say… Sony Santa Monica is kinda like Polyphony Digital in some ways. They really only make one game and they take a long time doing it. BUT this one game is God of War. AND the most recent entry is easily one of the best games ever made, objectively, which means that there is something a little different about Santa Monica Studio, I guess. The amount of individual talent at Santa Monica is truly world class. I think this is where there is slight separation in Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, and Insomniac Games. These three studios are simply a cut above most other studios, period, not just Sony studios. The level of overall quality oozes out of everything you see and do in God of War 2018. They’ve long housed top industry talent such as David Jaffe (Twisted Metal), Cory Barlog (God of War) and Stig Asmussen (Jedi Fallen Order creative director). There’s not much surprising coming out of Santa Monica Studios, but when it’s this good. Well, I’m not complaining.
Last Game – God of War (2018)
Current Project – God of War: Ragnarok (2022) / Secret unannounced PS5 title
#2 – Naughty Dog
You might be surprised to see Naughty Dog at #2. Indeed, they’re the pinnacle of game development in many aspects. The animations in The Last of Us Part II were almost too good to be true. The facial capture and performances are top of the line, pace setting standards for the industry. But overall, when you factor in everything, Naughty Dog’s games have sort of felt the same in a lot of ways since Uncharted 1 and there’s a simplicity to the gameplay that somewhat holds their games back. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Surely the most thrilling moments in Uncharted 3 are mesmerizingly fun, but overall moment to moment gameplay often times lent itself to be cinematic over purely fun. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but when I compare Naughty Dog’s games to Insomniac’s games, I just feel like Insomniac’s games have captured the “fun factor” while also maintaining an extremely high technical level, albeit not as high as Naughty Dog. Pair this with the fact that Naughty Dog’s rate of making games isn’t quite as swift as Insomniac’s and I give the slight edge to the final studio on this list.
Last Game – The Last of Us Part II (2020)
Current Project – The Last of Us Part 1 (2022 remake) / Factions 2 (TLOU multiplayer – 2022)
#1 – Insomniac Games
Acquired in 2018 for a mere $229 million, Insomniac Games has a storied history with PlayStation. Their very first game, Disrupter, was an early PS1 first person shooter that was inspired by the original Doom. Obviously they moved on to Spyro the Dragon for PS1 and then Ratchet & Clank for PS2. The Resistance franchise dominated the PS3 era (with more Ratchet sprinkled in), but then Insomniac ventured off into several projects with different partners. Insomniac made an exclusive action game for Xbox and a VR title before Sony roped them back in for the opportunity of a lifetime. Marvel and Sony were uniquely positioned to make a brand new game in the Spider-Man franchise and what better developer could you think of than Insomniac Games? Marvel’s Spider-Man released in 2018 and was an instant smash for all parties involved. The team followed up Marvel’s Spider-Man with the PS5 launch game, Spider-Man: Miles Morales and even launched a new full-length Ratchet and Clank game in the summer of 2021. Insomniac has proven that not only can they produce memorable AAA games, but also do so at an impressive clip which is why they’ve landed at the top spot as Sony’s best and most important developer.
Last Game – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Current Project – Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 / Marvel’s Wolverine / Unannounced PSVR2 title
Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments below.