Making A Game Like Astro Bot Is A Huge Risk. Asobi Is Doing It Anyway

Making A Game Like Astro Bot Is A Huge Risk. Asobi Is Doing It Anyway

After the reveal of Astro Bot at PlayStation’s most recent State of Play, and after getting my hands on it for a preview, there was one major question bouncing around in my head: Why make this game now?

Astro Bot is the antithesis of the kind of game that AAA publishers are looking for in 2024. Publishers don’t just want surefire hits; they want hits that keep paying out long-term. They want live service treadmills designed to keep players spending. Astro Bot is the polar opposite: it’s an offline, single-player, all-ages character platformer with no internal monetisation. Though it may seem like an example of what video games should be, it’s hard to overstate what a risk Astro Bot is in 2024. The bar for what is considered a modern success has changed so dramatically that it’s hard not to feel like Team Asobi is taking a huge gamble.

In a group interview with Team Asobi founder and president Nicolas Doucet last week, I put the question to him. Given that making a game like Astro Bot is now a riskier business proposition than ever, why make a game like this now? Doucet feels the rush to serve older players has left a serious gap in the market for all-ages titles.

“I think Team Asobi has always looked for making games in spaces that were vacant, and that’s been true from the very beginning,” Doucet tells me. “Even VR, we made a platform game (Astro Bot: Rescue Mission) at a time when the whole world was saying VR should be first-person.” He smiles at the memory. “‘Yes! Great! Let’s try third person.’ So, I think there’s also a part of that because, as a result of what you mentioned, every other space is being crowded. And actually, what we realised is, inside the PlayStation portfolio, the All Ages category was not really being occupied too much. In fact, not much at all.”

He’s right. In the last four years, just six first-party PS5 games have been all-ages titles, and four of these were sports games. One of them was Asobi’s own Astro’s Playroom. Another was Sackboy: A Big Adventure (developed by Sumo Digital and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment). The remaining four were Gran Turismo 7 and MLB: The Show 22-24 (all-ages, but also ultra-niche). Astro Bot and the recently announced Lego Horizon Adventures, codeveloped by Guerilla and Studio Gobo, take the total to eight.

“… some gamers who grew up with PlayStation have kids today, and if you want to play something on PlayStation [with your kids], the selection is quite limited. And so we felt that this was an opportunity to reclaim a spot that we used to have. I think in the PS2 era, [the PlayStation portfolio] used to be going from Jak and Daxter all the way to God of War [that is, All Ages to Adult]. This is something that PlayStation HAS been, and I think SHOULD be, and this is why we are pushing into the space.”

He is keen to underline that it really is for All Ages and, therefore, everyone. “By the way, it’s not just a kids’ game. If you’ve noticed, it’s also a gamer’s game. But this other audience, this one that’s more mainstream and family-oriented, is one we really want to address with this game.”

Astro Bot launches exclusively for PlayStation 5 on September 6th.

Image: PlayStation, Kotaku Australia

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