While Journey has been a massive critical success, according to its designer Jenova Chen, the game actually ended up bankrupting his studio. He tells Polygon that Journey was a financial disaster to make and that they had to delay the title twice to create the experience we ended up playing. Chen admits that while it was well regarded and made a good profit, it didn’t reach the huge audience that he wanted.
“I wouldn’t say that the development of Journey was a successful example of game development. We bankrupted the company,” said Chen. “I think to have a financial success, that is going to change everyone, it has to be much bigger than a game on the PlayStation platform.”
Chen made it very clear how much he appreciated the support and understanding that Sony gave them during the development of the game, and how willing the company was to delay the game. He says that had Sony been more stringent on a deadline, that the original vision for Journey would never have been realized. However, he believes that limiting the title to one platform prevented it from reaching a broader audience and larger success.
For Jenova Chen, it’s not the financial aspect that’s important, it’s the message that games like Journey can be a huge success in an industry dominated by first-person shooters, sequels, and safe ideas. He wants to prove a point, and to do that he needs the numbers to back it up. Right now he believes the industry has no place for designers like him who want to make “high quality, emotional games.”
“I run into a lot of lost and frustrated students who study games to work on great art, but then find there is no place for them,” he said. “I feel responsible for them because I showed them that is possible, but there is no place for them… My resolution is to create a big financial success.”
He’s hoping to accomplish this with the next game he and is his studio are working on. He says he’s already received plenty of funding to create it, and that it definitely won’t be exclusive to any particular platform. The new game will focus on one of the most innovative aspects of Journey: its seamless co-op multiplayer mode that brought players together. This idea of connections between strangers is still something Chen is interested in exploring.
“Journey was focused on connection,” he said. “I think we are trying to do one level above that with this game.”
He admits that its “very likely that’s impossible” to do, but regardless “this will be one level above that connection.” With how amazing Journey ended up being, I trust that Chen and thatgamecompany will be able to accomplish the impossible and deliver yet another masterpiece.
Journey ended up winning eight out of its eleven nominations at the 16th annual DICE Awards, including the coveted Game of the Year category.