Sucker Punch Productions, LLC
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
FoundedOctober 1997; 24 years ago (1997-10)
Founders
  • Brian Fleming
  • Chris Zimmerman
  • Bruce Oberg
  • Darrell Plank
  • Tom Saxton
  • Cathy Saxton
Headquarters,
United States
Key people
Products
Number of employees
160[1] (2020)
ParentPlayStation Studios (2011–present)
Websitesuckerpunch.com

Sucker Punch Productions, LLC is an American first-party video game developer based in Bellevue, Washington. It is best known for creating character action games such as Sly Cooper, Infamous, and Ghost of Tsushima for PlayStation consoles. Sony Computer Entertainment acquired the firm in 2011, making it a part of PlayStation Studios. By 2020, the company employed about 160 people.

Sucker Punch Productions was founded by Brian Fleming, Chris Zimmerman, Bruce Oberg, Darrell Plank, Tom and Cathy Saxton in 1997. The founders all worked at Microsoft before joining the video game industry. Despite having a difficult time finding a publisher to fund them, their first project, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, was released in 1999. While it did not perform well commercially, it was well-received by critics. The critical success of Robot encouraged the team to develop another platform game named Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (2002). The team approached Sony Computer Entertainment for the game's publishing. It was an unexpected commercial success and spawned a franchise with two sequels: Sly 2: Band of Thieves (2004) and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (2005).

After working on three Sly Cooper games, the team continued its partnership with Sony and pivoted to making an open world comic book-inspired superhero game titled Infamous (2009). The game was a modest success and Sucker Punch followed it up with two sequels, Infamous 2 (2011) and Infamous Second Son (2014). After the release of Infamous 2, Sony acquired Sucker Punch for an undisclosed sum. Following the release of Second Son, the studio spent six years working on their next project, Ghost of Tsushima (2020), which went on to become one of Sony's fastest selling original games for the PlayStation 4, selling more than 5 million copies.

History

Founding and Rocket

The company was founded in October 1997 by Brian Fleming, Chris Zimmerman, Bruce Oberg, Darrell Plank, Tom Saxton, and Cathy Saxton. The founders first met while working at Microsoft.[2][3] Zimmerman was "disenchanted" with his career in Microsoft and wished to do something different, and decided to approach his co-workers Fleming and Oberg to discuss his idea about starting a video game company. The brand name came as one of several proposed by the company they did not use at Microsoft due to policies. Chris Zimmerman showed the options to his wife for her opinion, but she did not care "as long as it isn't 'Sucker Punch'". The team went against her advice since the target audience for video games at that time was mostly young men.[2] After the establishment of the studio, the team began working on their first game. Seeing the huge successes of games like Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee on the PlayStation, the team felt that they did not have the necessary skills or the experience needed to compete with them. Therefore, they decided to develop their new game for Nintendo 64 instead. Codenamed Puzzle Factory, their first game was inspired by a computer game named The Incredible Machine and would have featured 3D visuals. However, the plan was scrapped. Two of the founders, Tom and Cathy Saxton, left in 1998.[2]

After purchasing a development kit from Nintendo, the founders began self-funding a platform game named Sprocket.[2] The founders pitched the project to publishers after it was half way through production as they thought it would be less risky.[4] The team pitched to publishers including Activision and Acclaim Entertainment, but most of them were not interested. The team also pitched to Sony, though it declined since Sprocket was made for the Nintendo 64, one of PlayStation's competitors. THQ nearly agreed to publish the game but the deal fell apart several weeks before E3 1999. Electronic Arts once offered to sign a deal with Sucker Punch for a PlayStation 2 title, though it required the company to cancel Sprocket. While the founders were pitching the project, development of the game progressed smoothly. A total of 17 people worked on the game. Sprocket's production was nearly completed when Ubisoft agreed to publish the game after seeing positive press reaction to it. The project, which was later renamed Rocket: Robot on Wheels following a trademark dispute, received generally positive reviews when it was released in 1999. However, it was not a commercially successful game, with Fleming describing the audience response as "tepid".[2]

Sly Cooper success

Following the critical success of Rocket, the studio wanted to work on another character action game. The project, titled Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, stars a raccoon thief as its protagonist. According to Fleming, "the sight gag of a raccoon putting on a mask somehow seemed super funny to us". Learning from the frustrating process of pitching Rocket to publishers, Sucker Punch decided to approach a publisher first. At that time, the most successful platform games were the ones released by console manufacturers. Consequently, the team approached Sony, the manufacturers of the PlayStation series of consoles, which agreed to publish the game for the PlayStation 2. Working with Sony allowed the team to streamline its development goals as there was not a need to develop and program the game for multiple platforms.[4] Since the game was developed for young players, the team initially worried that having Sly Cooper be a thief would spread the message that stealing was acceptable. The writers remedied this by introducing Sly as a master thief who only steals from other thieves. "Thievius Raccoonus" are Latin words made up by the team.[3] Plank left the studio during the game's development.[2] It was released in 2002 and was both a commercial and critical success. It sold about 1 million copies, surpassing the studio's expectations.[4]

Thievius Raccoonus' success enabled the studio to pursue a sequel.[4] Fleming said that the sequel was about Sly and his companions collaborating with each other to "pull off strings of big heists", while creative director Nate Fox said that it was inspired by Hollywood heist films. To help differentiate the game from Thievius Raccoonus, the sequel features improved gameplay and artificial intelligence, a larger cast of characters, and more open levels.[5] Sly 2: Band of Thieves was released in 2004 to generally positive reviews.[6] It was followed by a sequel, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, though its development was rushed. The team only had 11 months to complete its production.[7] Despite this, the game received generally positive reviews when it was released in 2005.[8] Sly 3 was the last game in the Sly Cooper series developed by Sucker Punch. The studio was not directly involved in the creation of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (2013), which was developed externally by Sanzaru Games.[7] Sanzaru had previously collaborated with Sucker Punch on The Sly Collection for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.[9]

Infamous and acquisition by Sony

The success of the Sly Cooper franchise elevated Sucker Punch's stature as a development studio, though the studio wanted to work on something new in order to stay relevant. Their next project, Infamous, had a development team of 60 people. Though the team could have opted to request the necessary funds from Sony to increase the team size and finish the game in two years, Fleming noted that Sucker Punch, which always only had one team with a very focused goal, worked better with a smaller team size.[10] It was initially pitched as a superhero game with gameplay that resembled Animal Crossing, though this idea was scrapped six months later, and the game pivoted to become a superhero origin story inspired by comic books such as Batman: No Man's Land and DMZ.[10][11] It was also the studio's first open world game. Development for the game lasted for three and a half years. It received generally positive reviews and was a modest commercial success when it launched in May 2009 for the PlayStation 3.

With the success of the first game, the team began working on a sequel. Infamous 2 was released in June 2011 to generally positive reviews. Sucker Punch was a second-party developer for Sony for more than a decade, and Sly and Infamous are both intellectual properties owned by Sony. It had been an independent company until August 2011 when Sony announced that it would fully acquire Sucker Punch for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition, Sucker Punch also became part of SCE Worldwide Studios.[12][13] The acquisition talks lasted for about two years. Fleming, commenting on the acquisition in 2013, added that Sucker Punch's nature as a "one-team shop", the increasing team size, and its long history of collaboration with Sony, in particular its product development team at Foster City Studio, as the key reasons why Sucker Punch agreed to Sony's acquisition.[14]

With Sony's support and funding, the studio continued to make Infamous games, releasing the standalone expansion Festival of Blood in October 2011. It quickly became PlayStation Network's fastest-selling game, until the record was later broken by Journey in 2012.[15] Following the release of Festival of Blood, the team commenced working on Infamous: Second Son, the next main game in the Infamous series. Sucker Punch elected to set the sequel in their hometown of Seattle as they could draw from their personal experiences in the open world's design. It also replaces the series protagonist Cole MacGrath with a new character named Delsin Rowe.[16] More than 110 people worked on the game, though the number was still considered to be small for a big-budget triple-A game.[17] Second Son was released for the PlayStation 4 in March 2014. The game received generally positive reviews and was a commercial success, selling more than 1 million copies in nine days.[18] Sucker Punch released a standalone expansion titled Infamous: First Light in August 2014.

Ghost of Tsushima

Following the release of Second Son, the team began brainstorming for their next game. Sucker Punch wanted to create an open world game with a large emphasis on melee combat. The team considered themes such as pirates and Scottish folk heroes, and a playable prototype named Prophecy, which was created in 2015 or 2016 and leaked in 2020, is set in a steampunk Medieval city.[19][20] The team ultimately decided that the game would be set in feudal Japan and feature a samurai as its protagonist. The art and the environment teams had a difficult time transitioning into the project as the game was a huge departure stylistically from the Infamous franchise, which has a "punk rock" aesthetic. Due to this, it had a significantly longer production time than other Sucker Punch titles, with development lasting for about six years. The game, titled Ghost of Tsushima, was released in July 2020 as one of PlayStation 4's last first-party exclusive titles.[1] It was a huge commercial success and quickly became one of Sony's fastest-selling new intellectual properties. It was reported in November 2020 that it has sold over 5 million copies.[21]

As a result of the game's success, two developers became tourism ambassadors for the island of Tsushima in 2021.[22]

Games developed

Year Title Platform(s)
1999 Rocket: Robot on Wheels Nintendo 64
2002 Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus PlayStation 2
2004 Sly 2: Band of Thieves
2005 Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
2009 Infamous PlayStation 3
2011 Infamous 2
Infamous: Festival of Blood
2014 Infamous Second Son PlayStation 4
Infamous First Light
2020 Ghost of Tsushima
2021 Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Ghost of Tsushima: Legends

References

  1. ^ a b West, Josh (July 18, 2020). "From Infamous to Ghost of Tsushima: Sucker Punch on the six-year journey it took to deliver its magnum opus". GamesRadar. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Moriarty, Colin (September 12, 2014). "Something Electric in Bellevue: The History of Sucker Punch". IGN. Retrieved January 14, 2021.[citation needed]
  3. ^ a b Zimmerman, Chris (September 25, 2017). "Looking Back on 20 Years of Sucker Punch". PlayStation Blog. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Reeves, Ben (June 9, 2010). "Sly Devils: The History of Sucker Punch Productions". Game Informer. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  5. ^ "The Making of Sly 2". YouTube. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  6. ^ "Sly 2: Band of Thieves Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on October 2, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Hanson, Ben (June 25, 2013). "Sucker Punch Talks Letting Go Of Sly Cooper". Game Informer. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  8. ^ "Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 23, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Ray Corriea, Alexa (July 19, 2012). "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is Sanzaru's love letter to the series". Polygon. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  10. ^ a b McElroy, Griffin (June 9, 2009). "Interview: Sucker Punch's Nate Fox on inFamous and inSpiration". Engadget. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Caty (September 25, 2017). "Sucker Punch's Infamous Got Its Start as a "Superhero Version of Animal Crossing"". USgamer. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  12. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (August 2, 2011). "Sony buys inFamous dev Sucker Punch". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  13. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (September 27, 2010). "Sucker Punch on inFamous 2". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  14. ^ Ruscher, Wesley (June 26, 2013). "Why Sucker Punch left Sly Cooper behind". Destructoid. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  15. ^ Yoon, Andrew (March 29, 2012). "Journey becomes PSN's fastest-selling game". Shacknews. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  16. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (June 19, 2013). "Super-powered in Seattle: inFamous Second Son preview". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
  17. ^ "Realising InFamous: Second Son's next-gen vision". MCVUK. April 16, 2014. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  18. ^ Sarker, Samit (April 10, 2014). "Infamous: Second Son sales topped 1M units in nine days". Polygon. Archived from the original on November 1, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  19. ^ Dastoor, Vaspaan (July 20, 2020). "Ghost Of Tsushima Developer Considered Making The Game About Pirates, Scottish Folk Heroes, and Even The Three Musketeers". IGN. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  20. ^ Oloman, Jordan (July 21, 2020). "Ghost of Tsushima Developer's Cancelled Project 'Prophecy' Leaks". IGN. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  21. ^ Romano, Sal (November 12, 2020). "Ghost of Tsushima sales top five million". Gematsu. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  22. ^ Scullion, Chris (March 5, 2021). "Ghost of Tsushima devs to be made permanent ambassadors of the real island". Retrieved March 8, 2021.