The practically perfect Journey has received no shortage of compliments, awards and cold, hard sales. The latter, one might expect, should have ensured smooth sailing going forward at thatgamecompany, but according to thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen, speaking to Edge, "The company was at the most dangerous time when we finished Journey." The Sony salary stopped flowing and Journey royalty checks were months out -- and there was no guarantee the game would sell as well as did.
"We didn’t know where the money was coming from, and we couldn’t afford everybody from that point on until we found the money – we basically went into hibernate mode. We had vacation for everybody for a couple of weeks and then we just let go of most of the people, because we couldn’t pay salary."
Indeed, there seemed to be something of an exodus from thatgamecompany after Journey released and the three title deal with Sony formally ended, allowing team members to fly the coop, including co-founder Kellee Santiago. Chen didn't seem surprised that people would move on with different goals, calling the end of the contract, "a very good point for people to move out."
Chen ultimately found funding for the company, which is now staffed with around 12 people, half of whom worked on Journey, when venture capitalist firm Benchmark Capital invested.
thatgamecompany is working, tight lipped, on its next game. Journey designer Asher Vollmer, one of the former thatgamecompany staff that struck out to work on their own thing, raised some waves earlier this year when he talked about the studio's next game "chang[ing] the industry in a really positive way," but Chen remains humble and grounded, stating, "I can’t make guarantees like that." He won't rest on his laurels, either. "No matter how many awards we won, that’s not going to make sure the next game is going to be great," Chen said.
In the piece, Chen also gave some vague indications towards what their next game might entail, including a serious look at touch controls and a firmly consistent emphasis on unique multiplayer avenues. I'm sure it will be lovely.
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