thatgamecompany has made a series of critically acclaimed games for the Sony PlayStation 3, but with its three-title contract fulfilled, it’s now looking to produce games for other platforms independently. To do that, it’s raised $5.5 million from Benchmark Capital to help finance its bold new direction, and adding Benchmark General Partner Mitch Lasky to its board of directors.
The Santa Monica-based game studio is best known for flOw, Flower, and Journey, a series of games that aim to go beyond male-dominated shoot-em-up blockbusters and provide a whole new emotional component to gaming. The idea for TGC has always been to make games accessible to a much broader audience than the hardcore console audience, to make gaming as a form of entertainment equal to watching a movie or listening to music.
The new funding comes as the company is trying to figure out its next steps. TGC producer Robin Hunicke and co-founder Kellee Santiago decided to leave the company earlier this year. And now that its Sony deal is concluded, TGC is trying to determine which platform it will start developing for next.
TGC founder Jenova Chen told me that the studio doesn’t know whether it will build for the desktop, online, Facebook, or the iPad next. It’s looked at all those platforms in its review process. The one thing that is clear is that TGC wants to look beyond the console market, where it will be able to reach everyone, not just hardcore gamers.
Meanwhile, the startup picked Benchmark and Lasky to help it along the way. Chen told me a big reason for that is Lasky’s experience in the gaming market: Previously an executive vice president at Electronic Arts, he’s one of the few VCs out there who has actually worked at a major gaming studio and knows how real high-fidelity games get made.
The important thing for Chen, and for TGC, is that the team will be able to remain independent and develop whatever games it wants to, without having to worry about the demands of certain platforms or publishers.