- Dec 9, 2012
From chasing high scores to leading PlayStation Studios, Hermen Hulst just loves games.
THE FUTURE OF JAPAN STUDIOJapan Studio, responsible for gems like Gravity Rush, The Last Guardian, and Ape Escape, went through a restructuring just this past April that re-centered the studio around Team Asobi, developer of Astro’s Playroom. As Head of PlayStation Studios, Hermen Hulst says that Japanese games are core to Sony’s identity, despite rumors of the contrary.“I will say that we are in some ways very much a Japanese company still,” says Hulst. “That’s our heritage. That’s still part of who we are. We love our Japanese games.”
When asked what the restructuring of Japan Studio means for the future, Hulst was enthusiastic about continuing to move forward in the Japanese development scene. “We’re building out Team Asobi under Nicolas Doucet, so we’re actually investing in that team. People forget sometimes that we have Polyphony Digital, which is a team in two locations. We are investing in our external development group out of Tokyo as well, and that’s a team that has obviously worked with the likes of From Software and Kojima Productions. So we are very invested in Japanese development and Japanese development is something that we love ... I think it’s such a core part of the PlayStation identity that I can’t ever see us shy away from Japanese or even Asian development.”
Hulst says that while PlayStation games have had great success on PC, the console versions still are the priority and games will hit there first. “Typically, there have been about two years between the release on our platform and the PC platform,” he says. “But you can rely on us to continue to create platform-defining exclusive content for PlayStation – that's part of the reason why we exist. It’s really important for us to squeeze the maximum out of the platform, to build showcases for the platform, and really let the audience see what these great features are contributing to the overall experience.”
CRUNCH AND COMPANY CULTUREAs head of PlayStation Studios, Hermen Hulst’s job has him constantly interacting with developers, searching for new talent, and finding new ways to innovate in the game space. However, Hulst also takes his job of ensuring the members of PlayStation Studios are happy and healthy just as seriously.
When asked about crunch specifically, Hulst didn’t hold back, saying there’s so much more to the issue that needs to be done. “I read quite a bit of coverage on the topic of crunch and crunch culture,” says Hulst. “And to me, I always think that’s such a simplification of everything you need to do. I could easily say, ‘We don’t do crunch,’ and ‘I don’t like crunch one bit.’ But that’s not enough.”
Hulst speaks to a slew of issues facing developers and the different layers to them. “It can be just as stressful for a developer to be underutilized as it is to be working too many hours, or to work on something that is not clear. Or for a developer to join a studio and feel unseen, like [they’re] at home and nobody knows what [they’re] doing. There’s so many problems and so many issues that impact the well-being of our staff.”
Team Asobi experienced firsthand Hulst’s care for members’ well-being. “Hermen was there for us in the early days of Team Asobi as a careful mentor, making sure we struck a good balance between work and personal time,” says studio and creative director Nicolas Doucet. “I think he takes great consideration towards the well-being of his people.”