If there was one thing at Microsoft’s E3 2018 press conference that stung most for PlayStation fans, it was the announcement that Ninja Theory – the cult favourite developer of Heavenly Sword, Enslaved, and Hellblade – had become part of Microsoft Studios. Despite over a decade of games on Sony hardware, this undoubtedly means the studio will no longer be releasing games on PlayStation consoles.
In the aftermath of the announcement, many voiced their disappointment, calling the developer a “traitor” that has abandoned its own independence. The studio has, after all, been outspoken about its fondness for independence in the past, despite the financial hurdles that entails.
Despite our own disappointment at losing a beloved studio, however, we should perhaps take a step back. There are always two sides to every story, and Ninja Theory is keen to voice the reasons behind its decision.
In the video above, the developer outlines why it decided to sell itself to Microsoft. Those in the know might remember in 2013 the rumour that the developer was abandoning console gaming in favour of the blossoming mobile market. Those rumours thankfully turned out to be false as the studio went on to develop one of our favourite games of 2017, Hellblade. But perhaps there was some spark to that rumour, after all, as co-founder and chief “Ninja” of the studio, Tameem Antoniades, explains that the studio almost disappeared entirely four years ago.
It’s worth remembering the number of studios that have closed down in recent years, a figure in the hundreds that include Pandemic and Team Bondi to name just two, and while Ninja Theory’s games have been consistently good over the years, they’ve never really set the sales charts alight.
It is perhaps understandable, then, that, when Microsoft comes in with an open chequebook promising both creative independence and access to a significant marketing team and budget, the studio would listen.
Critics may argue that Microsoft’s track record is against it; we all saw what happened to the once great British studio Rare, after all. But in the current gaming climate where even powerhouse studios such as Visceral – working with the Star Wars license and led by former Uncharted director Amy Hennig, for Pete’s sake – are being shuttered, financial and creative security is paramount.
So, give the video a watch and remember the good times. Thank the studio for all its great work and remember that, in a wider context, even if we may never again receive their games on PlayStation, we’re all better off if the firm sticks around. As PlayStation fans, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but we wish the comapny all the best.