A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Sucker Punch Productions.
What: Sucker Punch Productions video-game studio in Bellevue
Who: Brian Fleming, co-founder, 38
Recent release: “Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves,” for the Sony PlayStation 2, shipped in September. The game comes with 3-D glasses and has won raves from GameSpot and other gaming sites.
A Microsoft history: Fleming and the other founders worked at Microsoft before starting Sucker Punch in 1997. Fleming was a program manager and Chris Zimmerman, Bruce Oberg and Darrell Plank were all developers.
Looking elsewhere: Since then, they’ve made titles only for Microsoft’s competitors. Their first release (in 1999), “Rocket: Robot on Wheels,” was for the Nintendo 64. It didn’t sell particularly well, Fleming said, but it caught Sony’s eye.
On the Sly: After that, the founders began shopping two pitches to game companies. Fleming won’t say what one was. The second was conceived as a jet-setting raccoon thief that would become the character Sly Cooper. The group thought it could do “Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus” in two years. It took three. “That was one of the hardest lessons of our company’s life, was learning how far away we were with ‘Rocket’ from having a really, really strong game,” Fleming said. “The people at Sony helped us really understand how far we had to push ourselves.”
Measures of success: The game’s creators won awards, and it would go on to sell 1 million copies after hitting stores in 2002. A sequel, “Sly 2: Band of Thieves,” came out last year and also sold more than 1 million. All three “Sly” games were exclusives for the PlayStation 2, but Sucker Punch is independent of Sony.
Staying small: Sucker Punch is one of the smallest studios Sony works with, and Fleming doesn’t want the company to get any bigger than it has to. Still, he says growth is necessary to meet the technology demands of next-generation consoles.
Early gaming: Fleming worked on games in college in the 1980s. One, Epyx’s “California Games” for the Apple II, featured an Olympic decathlon that included surfing and Hacky Sack events.
— Kim Peterson