thatgamecompany has long been a bit of an indie gaming icon, despite having been signed to one of the largest publishers in the world. Now though, following the release of flOw, Flower and Journey, the studio has completed its contract with Sony and has organised funding to guarantee it will now be a truly independent studio.
Founded in 2006, thatgamecompany set out to make “meaningful, enriching interactive experiences in a broadly accessible, artistically crafted way”. While flOw and Flower enjoyed great critical – and commercial – success, it wasn’t until this year’s Journey that many felt the studio found its feet, bridging the gap between experimental and accessible gaming. Journey quickly became the fastest-selling title in PSN history, sparking discussions across the world on the nature of gaming.
And then came the news that thatgamecompany was leaving Sony and pursuing its own path. Suddenly, the notion of these creative, experimental games arriving on different platforms was something to get excited about, and the studio’s Jenova Chen has now confirmed that he is one step closer to making it a reality.
Today I am pleased to announce thatgamecompany has raised funding to develop and release our games independently. This enables us to bring our games to more platforms and provide our players the highest quality experience at every point of contact.
The funding – US$5.5 million – is coming from Benchmark Capital, an investment company that also backs Dropbox, eBay, Gaikai, Jamba Juice, Red 5 Studios, Red Hat, Silicon Gaming, Twitter and Yelp (among many others).
Working closely with Chen and the team at thatgamecompany is Mitch Lasky – who might be working in finance now, but back in the day was involved in video gaming in a much more hands-on manner.
I first encountered Flow seven years ago as a PC game Jenova made when he was a student at USC. At that time, the company I worked for was trying to figure out how to make a mobile version of EA’s Spore, and we were struggling with the design. The simplicity, logic and depth of Jenova’s game just shamed us. It was beautiful — meditative but tense in the perfect way.
It’s interesting, looking at some of the documentation, commentary and conversations that have sprung up around the investment – watching people “explaining” video game developers and their place in the bigger picture. While it may be frustrating to have to go through these steps time and again, one comparison keeps shining through: thatgamecompany may just be the Pixar of interactive entertainment.