Last week, Sony announced it had signed a deal with Deviation Games to make a brand new PlayStation IP – the second such deal Sony has announced in recent months.
Deviation Games was set up in November 2019 by former Treyarch Studios developers Dave Anthony and Jason Blundell, both of whom played a key role in the success of the Call of Duty: Black Ops series.
Blundell, one of the chief creators of Call of Duty’s popular zombies mode, left Treyarch after 13 years at the developer.
He began working on nazi zombies – the co-op bonus mode in which players fought against waves of enemies – back in 2007 for 2008’s Call of Duty World at War. World at War was the first game in Activision’s blockbuster shooter series to feature a zombies mode, although it was only playable once the campaign was completed. It would go on to gain huge popularity within Treyarch’s Black Ops games as a fully-fledged mode separate to campaign and traditional multiplayer.
Blundell, originally from Warrington, eventually became co-studio head of Treyarch in November 2016 after a stint directing the zombies modes of the various Black Ops games. Liverpudlian Dave Anthony also worked on World at War and the Black Ops games alongside Blundell as a producer and director, before leaving Treyarch in 2013.
The pair have so far said nothing about the game they’re building for Sony, and in an interview with Eurogamer, head of PlayStation Studios Hermen Hulst said it’s still “a little while out”.
But, Hulst revealed, PlayStation has been working with Deviation on this new game for over a year already.
“Obviously we’re not announcing a game, but a partnership today, which means it’s a little while out,” Hulst said.
“But at the same time we’ve been working together for a while now. It’s not like we signed the deal yesterday. We’ve been working together for about a year, a year-and-a-half. And it’s going really well. We have our guys who are actively involved in the development, that play the stuff that we’re making.”
Both Anthony and Blundell wouldn’t be drawn on the details of this new PlayStation IP – despite my questioning. It stands to reason that it would be a shooter, given the pair’s pedigree, but that remains unconfirmed for now. However, Anthony insisted it’s a major endeavor, and Hulst said it should be considered a triple-A game.
“First of all, regards the studio, we’re actually well over 100 people right now,” Anthony said.
“Make no mistake: this game is gonna be big in scope. There’s no question about it. And we’re gonna need a lot more people to make that game. Deviation Games, we’re growing at the pace we believe is responsible to rise to that challenge. Because the talent density in the team – there’s nothing more important to Jason and I than having the right talent density and having the right culture.
“So alongside what we’re doing right now that’s anything to do with the game, we’re actually building a studio. And that requires a lot of focus and effort. If you want to make the foundations strong, then that’s where a lot of our effort has been over the time so far.”
It makes sense that Deviation Games’ new title will be released for the PlayStation 5. But will it also come out on PlayStation 4? I put that question to the group.
“It’s way too early to go into specific platforms at this stage, but it is going to be a console exclusive,” is all Anthony would say, keeping his cards close to his chest. Does that mean it won’t be coming to PC as well?
“We’re not saying anything right now other than we can’t be specific about platforms,” Anthony replied. I tried!
Here’s all Hulst would say about this new IP:
“Together we’re bringing a new IP that’s bold, that stands on the shoulders of what these guys have learned over their careers that speak for themselves. And that is inevitably going to lead to a new addition in the PlayStation portfolio that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you in more detail.”
For Sony, the Deviation partnership follows what sounds like a similar deal Sony signed with Assassin’s Creed co-creator Jade Raymond’s new studio, Haven Entertainment, which is also developing a fresh IP for PlayStation.
I asked Hulst why Sony was keen on Deviation Games.
“PlayStation Studios is expanding,” he said. “SIE [Sony Interactive Entertainment] is expanding. We’re always on the lookout for incredible new experiences, no matter where they come from, big or small, whatever the genres are. If I come across a core group of people that are building a new outfit, that have gained incredible experience and matured as creatives, and then you take the shackles off, you give them a white sheet of paper, it’s just fascinating to see what they’re going to do with it.
“The creative vision they approach this with, and that we’re now developing together – but obviously they are fully autonomous creatively while taking a lot of our input on board – that coupled with a very talented team – they’ve done an incredible job of bringing some of the best industry talent into their organisation – and then that paired with the way we make games at PlayStation Studios, I think some of the appeal for a group like Deviation Games is that we focus on quality. We are committed to doing that, to taking the time, because creating new IP is very tough.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you created Black Ops before or the Zombie mode before, it’s tough for anyone. And it’s going to require patience. And you will fail and get back up again, try new things. And I love that. I love folks that step up, that are talented, but take a challenge that’s even huge for them. I’m committed to giving them the time and space. I’ll give them the resources from a PlayStation perspective – because they get access to the same world class development services as my internal teams do. Whether it’s the art groups or the game analytics or IT support, whatever it is that they need, they will get access to all of it.”
And why is Sony keen on signing these sorts of deals – those that involve securing new IP from independent developers, as opposed to splashing the cash on studio acquisitions – at least for now?
“New IP is amazing,” Hulst said. “We’re always looking to offer fresh new experiences to the audience, to the PlayStation community. It’s also an honour for me as the head of PlayStation Studios to find a group like Jason, Dave and their team to work with us. Obviously they can sign deals with whomever they want. They believe in our commitment to innovation, to quality. So it’s a matter of finding ways to bring the most innovative, the highest quality experiences to the audience. And it doesn’t really matter to me, at the end of the day, how we set it up organisationally. It’s all about, how do we get eventually the best possible experiences to our community?”
We haven’t learnt much about this new game Deviation is building for PlayStation, but clearly a huge amount is going into it, both from the studio and from Sony. Los Angeles-based Deviation is already at over 100 people, and it’s growing. My best guess is this is a new first-person shooter – and with Sony currently lacking such a thing from its first-party studios (the Killzone and Resistance series both seem shelved for now), Deviation could fill a crucial gap in the PlayStation portfolio.