The Making of a PlayStation Game

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Game Development In Progress
Hello, my name is Shu Yoshida, I’m a Senior Vice President of Product Development here inside SCEA, and I oversee the product development group in the US for SCE’s Worldwide Studio, headed by Phil Harrison. For a little perspective on the US portion of the Worldwide Studio group, you should know we have eight studios in six US cities reaching from Redmond, Wash. down to San Diego, Calif. We also work with some very talented developer partners like Insomniac, Factor 5 and Sucker Punch. My role is a bit unique in the industry, heading up first-party development, so hopefully in time I can provide some interesting insights to readers of this blog.

To start, I wanted to give you guys a broad view of a question I often get asked — how does a game project get started?. For a lot of people, how a game idea goes from concept to final product is a bit of a mystery, but let me try and shed some light.

The truth is, each game is unique and each publisher has its own process for getting a project approved (often called “green lighted”).

Specifically though, in our case at SCEA, we do not have a “green light” process per se. Rather, we call ours a “red light” process. A project is typically initiated by a studio, whether the idea comes from an internal team or an external developer. We almost never impose a project from “the top down,” where we say something like “We need a fantasy adventure game. Go make one.” Instead, we truly believe the best ideas come from talented individuals who are passionate about their ideas and propose them to us, thus fostering further creativity. First comes the basic idea, which is then developed into an overall concept. Only then does it get to be presented to the studio director, me, Phil Harrison, product marketing, etc., to get our initial feedback. At that point not much money has been spent, and often times the studio has multiple concepts developed as candidates.

When a concept is chosen, the next step is to develop it into a prototype. For a PS3 Blu-ray project, a prototype can take over a year and can cost $2-5 million which used to be a full budget not so many years ago, during the PS1 age. Once we have a prototype, we have an opportunity to present the new project to wider cross sections of people within SCE, ranging from product development to marketing teams around the world. We actively seek feedback on several factors including, how attractive the game is to each territory’s audience, what’s the potential market, what’s the competition, etc., so we can steer the course of development before we develop the project too far. We have this same audience review our games several more times once in full production as well (which is the final process of development after the prototype) to double check that the game is on track to be an attractive title to our market and, most importantly, to make sure the game is darn good. I’ve included a few images here that show some of the conceptual drawings and art for a title you’re probably familiar with Calling All Cars. Those familiar with the title will recognize some of the vehicles and levels from these early drawings.

So, why do we call it the “red light” process? Because any time along the way, following those meetings with people from around SCE, the game can be canceled or changed. So, rather than just “green light” a project and let it run its course, we would rather reserve the right to “red light” a project if it isn’t going to live up to our high standards. Many ideas and concepts go this route and end up canceled or put on the back burner until the market has shifted to bring it to light. When those great games end up in your living room, after years of development, there is always a development, marketing or executive team, and someone like me, eagerly awaiting those press reviews and your thoughts and comments on places like this blog.

I hope this provides you with a little bit of insight as to how we make our games here at SCEA. Within the next several months, you’re really going to see the fruits of our labor with some great game releases from both first and third party studios. I’ll check in again soon to talk more about the development process. If you have anything specific you’d like me to address, please say so in the comments and I’ll do my best. Thanks for all of the support!

Game Development In ProgressGame Development In ProgressGame Development In Progress

Game Development In ProgressCalling All Cars In DevelopmentGame Development In ProgressGame Development In Progress

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  • coooooooooooooool

  • Great insight, thanks for that.

  • $2-5 million? Wow lots of money!

  • Very informative, nice post!

  • Great idea for the blog. Many want to know how this is done (me included). :-)

  • Bad example using calling all cars. Game is fun but way to short, there’s usually less than 10 players online. When buying this i hoped on some new content coming but nothing yet (ever? ;( ).

    Keep does (good-great) games coming!!!

  • Nice thats something interesting but i wish you had say a little more but i guess its going to be fine for now :)
    The thing i want to know is when you buy a game for 59.99$ how the money approximetly is seperate between all the people who participated in that game…i mean like developers, publishers, retailers.. hope you can answer me thx

  • I was actually expecting it to cost more since it’s higher tech this gen.

  • Wow cool blog! I hope games don’t cross the $59.99 any time soon, that would just be wayyyy to much to spend per game.

  • BIG10
    also im coming up with ideas right now. hoping for my future to be involed with sony one day.

  • Nice this are good things to know!!
    Keep it coming!!!

  • I have a question, can any one individual suggest some ideas or introduce a new game to Sony to be placed on the PlayStation Network (PS Store)?

    If so, what would the process be for that?

  • If you guys need a good idea there ty\his game from zeropoint software called “interstellar marines” its a Fps.They were making it for PS3,360,and pc.But I’m not sure if its still being made theres been no updates in a while.They do have a trailer on game should be picked up by sony as a PS3 exclusive.It looks better than halo to me.

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  • This was a great article, it was really insightful and informative. I did not know that just making the prototype for a new ip is so expensive (2 to 5 million). Wow.

    P.S. Is there any new content coming to Calling All Cars.

  • Very nice post, Shu. A very enjoyable read.

    I’d like to know how the process differs for titles that already have most of the groundwork in place before SCE get on board. Things like flOw, Everyday Shooter, and Echochrome (which I believe is called Echo now?), all appeared in some form or another elsewhere before being associated with SCE at all. Do the developers of these titles approach Sony, or is it the other way around? Or a bit of both?

    Is the progress at that time treated as the “prototype” phase of the usual model?


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  • Making games look exciting, but hard. I just hope someone at Sony has an idea to make a Beat ’em up game.

  • Cool, an honest post about how games are acctually aimed at audiences rather than ‘We just wanna make a great game that we wanna play’ What a load of codswallop. Anyway, i loved it, keep making those great games. *Thumbs up*
    (Also nice name!)

  • Hi Shu Yoshida, thanks for the insight into the red light process. One thing which I think would help with the proto-typing process and would reduce costs considerably would be the release of a Sony backed equivalent to Microsoft’s XNA. There is already an open source project called Mono XNA, which is a a projet designed to use OpenGL instead of DirectX, but using the simplistic API that XNA provides. I can personally vouch for it’s ease of use and you can can see what other have created with it over at

    My suggestion is that Sony and Nintendo should leverage this open source project or something similar and make it the defacto standard for creating game prototypes for both the PS3 and Wii. The Mono .NET compact framework could co-exist on on both these systems with a small frootprint. This will have the added benefit of beating Microsoft at their own *garage developer* game. The key here is that it is should be easy to put together a prototype that will show the power of your system.

    If you need someone to head the project feel free to contact me as I have over 17 years in the IT industry and I have worked on commercial games in the past :).

  • Great info.

    I’m interested in how you or Sony in general approach someone like Fumito Ueda? I’d like to think that his process would be different than most internal designers.

  • So how does it feel when the reviews or comments are bad?

    I’ve worked on a reasonably sized public project, and it was pretty demoralising to the whole team to have people disparage it when a new version popped out. Usually they picked on some minor issue, but it still wasn’t very fun.

    I really feel for the LAIR devs and to some extent the Heavenly Sword team. These are passionate people who’ve poured their energies into it, not just some throw-away project like some out there.

    Reviews of anything PS3 related seem to be unreasonably harsh lately.

  • I’d like to see something like if someone has an idea for a game how they would go about getting a developer to work on it?

  • Seems like a very long process to produce any type of game these days.

  • Good writeup……I want a job in game design.

  • wow….I’d dare say it takes a lot more talent that Hollywood’s crap.

  • Thanks for the info. PlayStation blog is exciting because we have access to so many people from SCE haha.

    Here’s what I’d like to know about:

    Why are PSN games mostly like early 80’s arcade/shockwave flash/windows games folder games? Are these games profitable? I read SCEA’s PSN developers are limited to teams of 10 so I’d like to know the reasoning behind that too.

    I would buy completely new 8-bit~16-bit console style games if they were sold on the PSN. You could release the games for both PSP and PSN like Echochrome.

    Actually the greatest thing would be if you could put PSP emulation on PS3 via firmware update so we can download PSP games and play them straight on PS3. It could hurt PSP hardware sales, but could greatly boost software sales and third party PSP support (which could ultimately boost PSP hardware sales).

  • Makes all the money I put into my games worth.

  • Ey i have this beautifull idea for a Video Game, That I think is cool but I have to make my own concept i see them i have to find a place to show my concept and see if they like it, and finance it, ok interesting i’ll do it .

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  • awesome??? lol

  • Hi Shu. Thanks for the insight. What sort of criteria has to be met so a game can be made? Using a game like Manhunt 2 as an example, how do you let a developer express themselves artistically and creatively in pushing themes and content and encourage games to be viewed as more than just “for kids”. Do you have any restrictions on the content, like (violence, sex, nudity, adult and mature themes etc)?

  • Pretty interesting. I’ve got a lot of game ideas yet I doubt I’ll ever get them out.

    But thats awesome, love to see how things work on the inside.

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  • This Was a great post, thank you very much. Its fascinating to hear what happens to a game on your side of things.
    I would like to hear more.

  • Would you accept game ideas from a gamer?

  • I have to mirror the previous comments: this was a very interesting post. We see plenty of “making of” videos where you see the virtual creation of a game and those are all good, but this subject of the very, very beginning of the birth of a game has my interest piqued!

    It also gave me an idea that I think would be pretty cool: what if you were to post initial ideas here, get our feedback and have us be co-creators of sorts! :D It’d be pretty cool to see an initial silly idea, and watch it grow into a game that will eventually hit the shelves!~ :)

    Anyway, I hope to hear from you again, Shu! ;)

  • Very interesting.

  • Now this is some inside info. Nice post. I like to here things like that from companies. Also i liek what Sony is doing with media molecules, Little Big Planet. Heres a little advice for future development. Make a game with alot of detail into the amount of stuff a character can do. Interactivity with everything in the game. If you can see you can go to it. Example i like what Crytek is diong with crysis, like the detail put into the game when you shoot a car tire, it will flip over to that side, trees can be broken. stuff like that, when i walk through a game with endless open world interactivity, i really have a good time just playing around. Anyways nice post, hope to hear some more stuff like this.

  • Cheers Shu Yoshida, I’m looking at a career in game production so this really hits the spot for me.

    You stated that you nearly never say “we need an FPS, make that” however is any care taken to ensure that no particular genre is being developed by many 1st party developers at once? Surely Sony try to make sure that genres are spread out?

    Could we in future have someone from within a particular studio talk about the processes there?

  • Thanks Shu Yoshida for your comments. Is there any website where we can find the partners that are currently working for sony?
    I’d love to hear from you how do you start a career on the industry? If you would find your passion in gaming and you would like to make a living out of it, where do you start? how do you do it?

  • Interesting post, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen anyone talk about the pre-development process before. I would love to hear more details about it.

  • I remember seeing the name Shuhei Yoshida on the credits of every SCEA game I bought. Thanks for helping to make God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, et al.
    Looking forward to more great games in the future.

  • If I had one piece of advice to give to the executives overseeing Sony’s studios, it’d be this: focus more on gameplay and less on presentation.

    Beautiful games like Heavenly Sword and Lair are getting poor reviews because they failed to get the basics right.

    Heavenly Sword has no enemy variety and its gameplay gets repetitive.

    Lair controls horribly with Sixaxis.

    Please spend more time fine-tuning and playtesting these games before allowing them to ship.

  • Fuzzysquash, let me show you reviews of Heavenly Sword, other than IGNs, which is the only negative one.

    Gamesradar – 8/10
    Game Daily – 8/10
    PSW – 8/10
    Electronic Gaming Monthly – 8, 8, 9
    Game Informer – 90
    OPM Holland – 89%
    Play – 10/10
    PSX Extreme – 9/10
    Gamepro – 4.5/5
    Tilt TV – 10/10

    These are not poor reviews, but great ones. So, stop complaining and spreading misinformation about Heavenly Sword. Thanks.

  • IGN wanted a hack and slash, the guy said it in the review.

  • Cool , one Q wat is the cost of the a final “standard” game ? 2-5m€ + lots more . im gessing the final cost of a game is some 5-10m€ , so for a 3 party game thats lots of money and must sell 500k according to Namco ,500k if to break even and make some profit.
    Thats the reason most games also going “360”
    Releas a game a 3party game.
    PS3 USA installbase @ 2m (as of now) and 10% get the game in the time line of 8 weeks = 200k sold.
    EU + others installbase some 1.5m ( right now ) thats a other 150k in 8 weeks and japan over 1m but gamers in japan do not “want” (Eu/USA made games )
    so thats at best 50k in the same timeline .
    So a total of 400k sold remake the game on the 360 and sell it and thos 3party games sell atlest 100% more . So yes i understand that “most ” 3party games will be on the 360 , thats why Sony only games must be “AAA” and finaly PS3 oweners are geting AAA ps3 only games.( first out was Warhawk !!soon its Hevenly sword it has 86% on 2 AAA games in a short time line

  • That’s a great read and really gives the average PlayStation gamer a little insight.

    And as far as game ideas go, any plans for a new Colony Wars game on PS3? I’m dying for a space shooter.

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