Announced in March this year, PlayStation has now completed its acquisition of Haven Studios, a new game developer founded by Jade Raymond. GamesIndustry caught up with the studio, which has grown to 106 employees since October 2021, and learned that it’s investing more into R&D and the cloud.
Raymond said, “We already mentioned that we built the studio in a cloud and that was our vision since we started during the pandemic. We didn’t have offices at first and we thought why not innovate here and avoid people having these big machines and VPNing in?
“We had a cloud team initially that was about six people working on new ways to work. Now, we’ve just welcomed another 21 engineers to focus on long-term cloud innovation, because we really believe it’s going to be a game-changer in terms of how games are made.”
One of those new hires is Jalal El Mansouri, technical architect for Rainbow Six Siege who was also part of Google. He joined Haven two weeks ago and is now head of R&D. “He’s really going to be working with Leon [O’Reilly], our CTO, on shaping this vision. Both things that are going to be short-term critical to operating our first game more efficiently, and then also some more forward-thinking stuff that we think will pay off, which is worth investing in now.”
Haven is currently working on a live service PS5 exclusive, which means there are “additional challenges of how do we make that kind of game with that kind of delivery, but with the PlayStation-level graphics that people expect. All while allowing for those constant updates and building something that could be a living experience,” says Raymond.
“Obviously to do that without having thousands and thousands of people, you need to work differently. And even if you are going to have thousands of people on the dev team, just the amount of data that you have to push and the way that you think about those updates and keeping a game alive… there are a lot better ways to do it.
“Our initial part of ‘studio in the cloud’ was really a focus on starting-up and building tools and the general things to get people working from home really quickly. Now we’re looking at the next step: how do we innovate in terms of certain modules that the live service and engine needs, and how do we do those things in a more scalable way that will really enable us to have a more rapidly evolving game and more productive people? That’s the dream.
“When you get to teams of thousands of people and you’re dealing with a lot of these old processes where it takes a long time to just get your data and get up and running and open your editor…you sap some of the creativity out of game making, not only the reactivity but the ability for those game developers to just try things out. That’s our main objective: we want to make the dev team more efficient and able to output new ideas faster.”
Interestingly, the studio has “zero IT” with everything being automated in the cloud. This has attracted the attention of other PlayStation studios and even PS4 and PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny.
“So [Mark Cerny] is one of the main reasons we’re investing so much in R&D, and in this very senior engineering team. It’s not just tied to the cloud but also some more forward-thinking R&D. I’m not able to say too much now, but that’s one of the other things that’s been a big attractor and is exciting to our team with PlayStation. Of course, Mark Cerny is kind of like a rockstar, too, so being able to collaborate with him is really exciting. And the fact that Jalal is joining… there are a lot of bold ideas that we’re looking forward to exploring,” says Raymond.
PlayStation has been making some fairly big strides for live service titles over the past year. It acquired Destiny developer Bungie which will “support the development of future PlayStation live service titles,” as per PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan. Chief financial officer Hiroki Totoki later confirmed at least 10 live service titles coming to the PS5 by March 2026.
Two of these will arrive before April 1st, 2023 which may include Naughty Dog’s multiplayer-only title in The Last of Us universe and PlayStation London Studio’s upcoming fantasy title. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.