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 Journey  developer no longer tied to Sony, thanks to new funding
Journey developer no longer tied to Sony, thanks to new funding
June 14, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

June 14, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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Thatgamecompany, developer of acclaimed PlayStation Network titles like Journey, has raised $5.5 million, which it claims will allow the studio to make and release games independently.

Since opening in 2006, Thatgamecompany has developed its titles as part of a three-game partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment America. That deal limited what platforms its games could appear on, and ceded some control over its projects to the publisher.

Thatgamecompany's co-founder and creative director Jenova Chen says that with this series A round of funding, the developer can now release its games to more platforms and provide what it sees as an optimal experience to players.

VC firm Benchmark Capital provided the financing, and general partner Mitch Lasky will join Thatgamecompany's board of directors as part of the deal. He compared the studio's vision to Pixar's contributions to animation, and said Benchmark wanted to support that approach.

"The intent of the investment is to provide the resources for TGC to remain independent, so they can innovate with complete autonomy from the pressures of platforms and publishers," added Lasky in a blog post about the news.

Based in Santa Monica, Thatgamecompany has released three games published by Sony: Flow, Flower, and Journey, the last of which became the fastest-selling U.S. PSN game ever after it released in March.

The completion of Journey and the studio's deal with Sony, though, saw an exodus of several key members from Thatgamecompany's team, including co-founder and president Kellee Santiago, executive producer Robin Hunicke, producer/designer Chris Bell, and "feel engineer" John Nesky.


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Comments


Kale Menges
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Can't wait to see what comes from this;)

Ian Bogost
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On the one hand, this is great! Congrats!

On the other hand, in what way does a $5.5 million VC investment produce autonomy?

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Benjamin Quintero
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i wonder if all these deals went down before or after the exodus. hmm...

Kevin Reilly
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@ Ian - Do you consider working exclusively for PSN on a 3 game deal to be "autonomy"? I think this is a good move for Jenova because he gets an investor (and board director) who understands games (Riot, Meteor, Jamdat...) and TGC is not tied to any specific platform or big publisher. Does this mean that he will be giving up control to a "suit"? Yes, but it will also let him focus on creativity in designing games rather than shopping his next project to risk averse publishers and/or going out to beg fans for $ on Kickstarter. Seems fair to me.

E McNeill
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I don't think Ian is arguing that they had true autonomy before; rather, he was responding to the claim that the VCs would "provide the resources for TGC to remain independent, so they can innovate with complete autonomy".

I kinda wondered the same thing about the Humble Indie Bundle when it took funding.

Ian Bogost
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What E said.

Kevin Reilly
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Sorry Ian, I didn't mean to misinterpret your post. Thanks E for clarification.

I don't think game development can ever occur in a perfect vacuum and there will always be $$$ issues to consider when running a development company. Obviously developers with their own cash from sales of games have more autonomy than those that take money that comes from publishers/investors. Both of which can impact decisions regarding gameplay tremendously, especially if $$$ comes with a certain expected ROI. However, all things being equal it looks like TGC got a decent amount of money from an experienced investor in the game space, which should help TGC solidify future plans and product development. Seems like a fair trade-off to me.

Ian Bogost
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Oh, I don't disagree Kevin.

Julian Kantor
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I think this will probably mean TGC will start making games for tablets and smart phones, and I'm excited to see what they can do on those platforms. It will be nice to be able to introduce some of my "non-gamer" friends to TGC's games!

Johnny LaVie
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Out of the frying pan...

TGC is playing with the big boys now in funding. Big boys who want quick returns from their investment and a group that might not know anything about gaming.

All I can say is "Good Luck" and hopefully TGC can handle the scrutiny and profitability milestones of a VC.

Katie Chironis
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I am still concerned that they won't pull through after the mass exodus, funding or no funding. But I guess only time will tell.

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Ron Dippold
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Hoping for some success here. It makes me sad (really) that people who don't own a PS3 will never be able to play Journey or Flower. I do realize that Sony were quite supportive and generous with TGC, but platform exclusives are localized gain for global loss.

ian stansbury
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Agreed, never got to play these games myself but always wanted to. Maybe I'll get a ps3 emulator in like ten years and check em out :P

Joe McGinn
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Agree Ron ... for better or worse these are niche titles, forever without access to the mainstream gamer market.

Mikail Freitas
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They HAVE to release their new titles on PC too. I've always thought the titles they made would do so very well on platforms like Steam. It just seems like a perfect match to me.

Joe McGinn
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It makes me wonder of the wisdom of the original deal ... I mean is got their company started, so that's great, but imagine what mass market success they could have had with their games if they hadn't been limited to PSN.


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