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Sony Purchases LittleBigPlanet Developer Media Molecule
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Sony Purchases LittleBigPlanet Developer Media Molecule

Sony announced yesterday, via their Sony Playstation Blog, that they have acquired Media Molecule, the development studio behind the co-op friendly and creative LittleBigPlanet, lock, stock, and sackboys/girls.  Given Sony's previous goodwill in providing LittleBigPlanet with the IP from other games they've published or released on their system, this kind of merger certainly seemed to be one of those "long-time coming" deals.  Hopefully, it will prove to be more co-operative than others.

Sony Computer Entertainment Acquires Media Molecule. Acclaimed developer of multi-million selling LittleBigPlanet™ joins Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios

London, 2nd March 2010 – Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) today announced that it had acquired leading game developer Media Molecule, creator of the multi-million selling and multi-award winning PlayStation®3 (PS3™) exclusive title, LittleBigPlanet™. Media Molecule will join as part of SCE’s global development operation, SCE Worldwide Studios (SCE WWS).

In a strategic move to continue to secure excellence in game development for current and future PlayStation® platforms, the acquisition of Media Molecule formalises the successful exclusive relationship with SCE.

Media Molecule, based in Surrey, England, is the award-winning developer of LittleBigPlanet, one of the best-selling titles for PS3, a game that introduced gamers to the unique ethos of Play, Create and Share. Having seen over 2m user generated levels created for the community to download and play for free, LittleBigPlanet has completely changed the way people interact with games, whilst revolutionising the longevity of gameplay.

Having won over 90 awards for LittleBigPlanet, including 2 BAFTAs and 8 AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards, Media Molecule brings a wealth of experience and a highly talented staff into the SCE WWS family that will further strengthen the PlayStation first party studio.

”Since they burst onto the gaming scene, Media Molecule have proved to be a truly exciting and innovative studio, who have proved their world-class credentials with the creation of the incredible LittleBigPlanet,” said Shuhei Yoshida, President, SCE Worldwide Studios. “SCE WWS is all about creating ambitious, innovative and ground breaking games, traits that Media Molecule clearly have. To bring them into our family proves our dedication to creating fantastic new experiences that we believe will cement our position as industry leaders.”

“Since Media Molecule’s inception, we’ve had a uniquely close relationship with SCE. Over the years they have consistently shown their dedication to Creative Gaming and Media Molecule, not only through their support of the company, but their willingness to take risks and embrace our often unusual approach and ideas,” said Alex Evans, co-founder of Media Molecule. “What we’ve achieved already with LittleBigPlanet has proved this to us and we’re excited by this new chapter of innovation and creative gaming, for all involved.”

Studios across SCE WWS share technology, production methodology and creative goals to build the best possible experiences for users to enjoy the most from the PlayStation family of hardware platforms and network services. With over 2,500 employees, SCE WWS combines the talents of 15 game development studios in Japan, the USA, the UK and The Netherlands.

These kinds of development studio acquisitions by a larger publisher are certainly becoming more frequent these days and usually are beneficial for the studio being bought.  After all, such a merger provides the development studio with access to more resources than they had before, whether it be a bigger budget, more staff, or more time in which a game can be developed.  However, there is also the concern that these kinds of mergers stifle a development studio's creativity and lead to the release of an unending tidal wave of derivative, unoriginal, yearly franchise games.

In the end, such concerns are both validated and invalidated by the actions of the whatever publishing company may be involved.  EA has certainly allowed many of its development studios the freedom to explore new IP and new game ideas with titles likes Dead Space and Mirror's Edge.  Others, let's just call them "Smackderision," seem to be focused on making money through the yearly release method described above.  Sony certainly seems to have a good relationship with its internal development studios, which includes Uncharted 2 dev Naughty Dog, so we can only hope this new relationship holds for Media Molecule and that we'll see a LittleBigPlanet 2 that shines over its predecessor.

What are your thoughts about these kinds of mergers?  Are they harmful or beneficial to the kinds of games we see being released?