November 21, 2012
ThatGameCompany: The Pixar Of Gaming
Many of you may know the now-fabled studio known as Pixar Animation, but there is a gaming studio quietly walking in the footsteps of the classic animation house.
The studio, thatgamecompany, started in 2006 and strives to create timeless entertainment using gaming as their medium. The studio is small, headed by founder Jenova Chen and a handful of other graphic artists, programmers, and other creative people. Having a small studio doesn’t seem to affect the fans; the studio has garnered a huge following and is on the rise to becoming a major player in the gaming industry. The thing to notice here is they are crossing the same milestones as Pixar in its early days.
Let’s start off with my first point: the appeal factor. A strikingly similar trait that both of these companies share is that they both can gain a main stream, block buster like appeal and still please the critics. This appeal trait is very unique because often times a critic would recommend a silent, soulless bore fest to kill two hours of your day, which in turn leaves you questioning the integrity of his or her occupation. On the other hand, the big budget, block buster films use things like high end computer animation, sex appeal and big name actors or directors to gain attention and gain unholy amounts of profits which turn into sequels of recognizable franchises that the audience soon becomes accustomed to seeing.
This formula works for the gaming industry as well. The big name games with the graphics and promotion see the huge fan bases and financial gain but critics may recommend a game that may have slipped through the radar that either may be considered art (and we know most movie goers and gamers don’t give a damn about what’s art or not) or just has novel game mechanics but gets really old really quick. This is where the two studios meet both objectives at a happy medium. With the thatgamecompany catalog, they have given gamers who would normally be playing a realistic shooter an intense rollercoaster ride of creativity and imagination. Also, they have gotten the attention of those who otherwise don’t play games by having astounding character designs, environmental designs and eye pleasing art styles that are impossible to deny.
Now on to my second point: both parties had a larger company witness the talent and distribute their work. In the case of Pixar of course, the company had a distribution deal with Disney which led to the studio to do work without the burden of a tight budget or poor distribution. Thatgamecompany soon signed a 3 game contract deal with Sony which led them work without similar burdens and their work would be distributed on the PlayStation network where their final game of the contract, Journey became the highest selling PlayStation network game of all time.
One of the benefits and tribulations of being tangled with these larger companies is the fact that they were being ushered into properties that already had extremely loyal following, and anything that strayed from the norm was considered blasphemy. On one side there was a welcoming lineage to fall into but on the other there were huge shoes to fill. It was as if they were the punk little brothers or even yet the new members of a frat going through hazing rituals to gain respect. Time has treated these Studios well. Both companies since project one have hit the bullseye.
Finally, from humble beginnings to being under the wing of a major company, one could just simply take a look at the breathe of work of these fine studios from Toy Story to Brave and from Flower to Journey to see that all works of these studios still resonate with audiences today. Thatgamecompany may be one of the youngest studios in the game today (no pun intended) but when your journey starts to mirror that of a legendary studio like Pixar, it’s looking to be the most successful.
Image Credit: thatgamecompany