Sony Interactive Entertainment use to be a creative hub not even 10 years ago. Partnerships via external development as well as just pure creativity inside of the Worldwide Studios ran throughout the world of exclusives.
We saw the likes of Santa Monica Studio partner with insane talent from thatgamecompany to make Flower and Journey, while also working with Giant Sparrow for The Unfinished Swan. Then you take a trip to Japan Studio and you can see them work on games like Puppeteer and Tokyo Jungle which we’re so different from what we saw from most other studios. The magic of creativity however has essentially halted. We no longer have externally developed games from Santa Monica Studio, hell, they even lost a game from Giant Sparrow called What Remains of Edith Finch which many consider to be a sleeper hit and an indie masterpiece. Japan Studio is a ruin of its old self, only doing mature AAA games now outside of collaborations with Clap Hanz for Everybody’s Golf. Just feels so drained and empty. Finally, flash forward to 2019. There is next to nothing that has that indie-like glow from Sony’s first party. Yes, there is Dreams, but there is another that truly captures that spark I have been craving, PixelOpus’ Concrete Genie.
Formed in 2014, this San Mateo based studio was announced at E3 2014 and at the same time they released their first game Entwined for PS4 and soon after PS3 and PS Vita. The team was comprised of college graduates and remains the smallest Sony developer to date. That made me interested, not really in Entwined, but with proper funding and time, what came next. Enter Concrete Genie, announced in 2017 at PlayStation Experince, our first look at the game seemed to be a lower graphically intense version of Delsin Rowe from Sucker Punch Productions’ 2014 title inFamous: Second Son. It showed a kid in a beanie painting across a wall, similar to the graffiti we saw Delsin so in Seattle. But this was a little different, magical in a sense. The drawings came to life, helping to cleanse the fictional town of Denska from the evil that has been brought to the area.
It’s not that the concept is something groundbreaking, it is just wonderful to see a company known for AAA games is letting a studio of theirs work on something so diverse compared to the rest of the lineup. You can’t even imagine the pure excitement on my face once I first saw that PixelOpus logo when this game was announced. I quickly fell in love and since have been a massive follower of said title. When the previews came out alongside the release date, I got a glimpse into the world. Outlets were giving such praise to the yet to be released game and I decided to write this, not as a post to give PixelOpus some more praise, but to essentially say, “look, PixelOpus is making something special, bring this back to PlayStation”. We are what, maybe a year and a few months away from the launch of PlayStation 5, we need more than just AAA 3rd person games to fill the lineup.
This is coming from a person who gave Journey, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Astro Bot Rescue Mission (the only other glimpse of hope for smaller Sony titles than Dreams and Concrete Genie) my personal 2012, 2017, and 2018 Game of the Year to respectively. So needless to say, I love a good story with creative graphical styles along with interesting concepts. Sure, I love Uncharted and God of War and all of the rest of them, but there is so much that we can enjoy by branching out a bit and showing the world there is more than big budget games to aim for. PlayStation VR already has an amazing slew of small titles like Astro Bot Rescue Mission and Moss that are just so refreshing that PS4 is missing from Sony.
I just wish SOMEONE at Sony can see this… rant, plead, whatever it might be and bring up the fact that there is an insanely large gap missing that Sony once had. Santa Monica’s creative division is gone, same could possibly be said for Japan Studio as well. We need a resurrection of fun, goofy, and artistic games. Hopefully Concrete Genie could be the wake-up call the PlayStation giant needs to bring back the glory days of yesteryear.