Interview: Aaron Grommesh of thatgamecompany On Being Independently Funded

Last week, thatgamecompany, the developer behind PS3 exclusives flOw, Flower and the bestselling Journey announced that they’d raised $5 million from Benchmark Captial, thus allowing the nine-person developer to go completely independent now that their three game contract with Sony has ended. Keep in mind, this deal doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing Journey on your iPad, but it does open up the possibility for thatgamecompany to work on other platforms for future releases.

Now, the company is at a crossroads—with all of that money, what kind of shape will their next game take? Will they be going multiplatform? What’s the mood like inside of thatgamecompany?

While the team isn’t talking too much about what’s next (contrary to some reports, they have nothing to announce about what platform their next project will appear although going multiplatform is an option), Social Media Director answered a few questions by e-mail about what this funding means for thatgamecompany.

MTV Multiplayer: Why was now the right time to move away from exclusivity?

Aaron Grommesh: We just finished up our three-game contract with Sony, so it was the perfect time to explore opportunities for reaching a broader audience. Self-publishing looks like the best route.

Multiplayer: After all this time being exclusive to Sony, what were you able to learn or take away from your relationship with them?

Grommesh: When we started thatgamecompany, we were students fresh out of college, and we never developed on a console before, so Sony helped us figure out the architecture of the PlayStation 3. Some of the most important things we learned were to program as much of the game in-house as possible, that game development always takes longer than planned, and what it truly means to polish a video game.

Multiplayer: Besides the obvious reach of a wider audience, what are some of the other advantages your team sees in working across platforms?

Grommesh: We haven’t announced if we are indeed going multiplatform – it’s just an option at this point. Going multiplatform would allow us to take advantage of the different aspects of each platform.

Multiplayer: With the influx of cash, can we expect larger projects than what thatgamecompany has developed in the past?

Grommesh: The key thing about the funding is it allows us to remain autonomous, not necessarily to make bigger projects. We’re going to make a game that fits the platform(s) and, most importantly, the idea of the game itself.

Multiplayer: Are you looking strictly at more work on the major consoles or at handhelds, mobile, and PCs for future development?

We can’t comment on what platform(s) we’ll be releasing our games on until we actually make the announcement.

Multiplayer: Your studio has long had its own idiosyncratic vision of what to make and how to conduct itself. As you make this big move, are there any independently published studios you’re looking at for guidance or point of reference?

Grommesh: Tale of Tales, Capybara Games, Jason Rohrer, Phil Fish, Daniel Benmergui, Jonathan Blow, and pretty much all other indie developers that are also making really cool, creative titles.

Multiplayer: Some key staff decided to walk away prior to this move. Could you talk at all about the change in makeup of TGC and what that means for the company’s future?

Grommesh: The makeup of the company has changed, but the core philosophy and drive of thatgamecompany, and the innovative spirit of our past games will remain the same.

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