Kena: Bridge of Spirits is perhaps a prime example of Sony’s willingness to not forget about smaller, if not mid-tier studios, but at the same time, it should not be overlooked that the company’s most significant focus is on blockbuster AAA, exclusive games.
Ember Lab (the game’s developers) told Bloomberg‘s Jason Schreier that development costs have already been recouped, and Sony is pleased with the performance.
Mike and Josh Grier, two of the founders of Ember Lab, revealed that before they signed a deal with Sony, they had caught the attention of several major publishers. Ember Lab had previously been an animation studio, so they had never worked on video games, so the Grier duo was delighted to sit down with Sony. “I think we all turned back into the kid versions of ourselves. We felt like we were at a private E3,” Josh said.
The two Griers were preparing to unveil Kena: Bridge of Spirits at the same time as PlayStation 5, in early 2020, but that’s when the coronavirus pandemic entered the picture, making a physical reveal/showcase impossible (at a time when there were no theoretically more transmissible variants, but there were no vaccines available either). So the studio had to create a video for a digital demonstration behind closed doors, in the office… and here, too, restraint was alive and well. So the person operating the camera had to wear protective clothing.
“He was in a full hazmat suit, sweating the whole time. It was professionally done but very weird,” Josh added. Still, they came up with a good result, as Kena: Bridge of Spirits caught the attention of many, and the studio was able to “jump to the forefront”. Unfortunately, it’s not yet known how many sales have been made, but Josh Grier says, “It’s hard to tell what’s a huge success. Sony’s happy. We’re not going back to commercials.” (They were making them before Kena!)
So this story has a happy ending.