Sega has announced the opening of a brand new “boutique studio” in the UK, confirming its first game as a Vita action adventure. Sega West dev boss Gary Dunn tells Johnny Cullen the new outfit’s story.
Sega UK is expanding, with today’s announcement coming in addition to the recent Creative Assembly Alien upgrade.
After publishing four of its titles in a previous deal – including Bayonetta, Madworld and Vanquish – it’ll again publish Platinum’s Anarchy Reigns.
Three key action titles coming from the company within the first six months of next year: Anarchy Reigns, Aliens: Colonial Marines and Binary Domain.
Sega UK is on the up. Merely a month after confirming a large-scale expansion plan for Creative Assembly and its upcoming Alien game, the publisher said today it’s hiring for a new, unnamed “boutique” British developer, a studio “set up to focus its production resources exclusively for next generation platforms.”
The new outfit will sit alongside Sega’s internal technology experimentation unit in Solihull in the West Midlands of England.
If the location sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same location as Sega Racing Studio before it was closed and sold off to Codemasters three years ago. When Sega made the sale, however, it kept hold of six staffers to help form a division Sega calls its Technology Group (STG).
Since being formed 18 months ago, STG has helped other Sega studios gain a knowledge on PS3 and 360 and has experimented with prototypes for new systems such as 3DS, Move, Kinect, Vita and Wii U.
STG was the first unit within Sega West to get dev kits for these platforms, according to Gary Dunn, VP of product development for Sega West, speaking to VG247 on the phone yesterday.
“We wanted them to generate innovative prototypes that really used the hardware’s feature-set to its max. To cut a long story short, we were pretty blown away with one of the prototypes,” Dunn said.
“We put it through our greenlight process, and the studio we’re opening today is co-located with that technology group in Solihull to make the game of the prototype the tech group discovered.”
The game will be, according to the press release, a “unique action adventure experience” coming out in late 2012. Platforms weren’t specified in the PR, but Dunn did confirm on the phone that it’ll be on Vita.
“I can say the first game we’re putting into production is starting out on PlayStation Vita, so we’ll work on a new platform. That’s not to say it’ll be the only platform, but it’s certainly the platform we’re starting out this project with,” he said.
You’re not going to be hearing anything much about the project for another six months.
“In terms of the game, I guess it’ll be the New Year before we announce anything specific,” said Dunn.
“It may just be before that; I’d like to see how pre-production goes first. But I do anticipate it’ll certainly be this coming winter when we start talking about the game.”
The game will begin with “six or seven people” from STG working on pre-production, with another 15 people to come from recruitment.
Sega will “flex the production team out” with “a wide network throughout our various studios and through the technology group.” As recruitment ramps up, the STG staffers will go back to “innovating on everything new and shiny that comes across their desks,” according to Dunn.
The studio itself will be headed up by 16-year design and production vet Chris Southall.
“I can say the first game we’re putting into production is starting out on PlayStation Vita, so we’ll work on a new platform.”
Dunn is of the belief that the UK games development industry is one of the best in the world, and he’s keen to talk to those made redundant by THQ from Juiced developer THQ Digital Warrington this week.
“We are obviously looking for high-quality talent,” he said. “I know the guys that came from Juice Games [the old name for THQ Warrington] from way back. Colin [Bell, now ex-managing director] and I have known each other for years. If there’s any great talent looking for work out there, we’re more than interested to hear from them in becoming part of the Sega story.”
Today’s news will only add to the impression that Sega’s UK development effort is flourishing. As well as the continued success from Sports interactive and Football Manager, the publisher announced last month a brand new studio for The Creative Assembly to work on a new Alien game for consoles.
“We’re really pleased with game development in the UK. It’s our primary hub of games development in Sega West, I think it’s fair to say, in terms of our two key studios in Creative Assembly and Sports Interactive,” said Dunn.
“We’re supporting UK games development. We’ve got a strong and favourable pound for game development to be cost effective in the UK, and great talent, so we see no reason why. It seems the obvious place to invest. But the lead reason for starting the studio where we started it is to co-locate it with the Technology Group in Solihull.”
And the creation of both new studios has come simply at “the correct time.”
“We’re seeing new games, new hardware, we’re seeing diversification in the games market and we want a studio that can be agile, that allows us to sit with our innovation and Technology Group to be able to quickly put prototypes into action and let them see the shelves, be them virtual or otherwise,” said Dunn.