A 30th Anniversary documentary was released for Naughty Dog to celebrate the company's rise and continued success over the years. The video highlights the scrappy, indie-start of the company as it rose through the ranks to become one of the most recognized entertainment studios the world around. Check it out below.
A quick rundown for those who don't have an hour to spare watching the video: Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin were the original co-founders of Naughty Dog.
Andy did the programming since he knew assembly code and Jason did the art, since his coding skills resulted in games crashing quite often. After making a game and selling it under a Baudeville publishing studio, they contacted the front desk of EA and wanted to make games with them (this was honest EA, before the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco, Scrabble fiasco, NHL cash shop fiasco, SimCity fiasco and Online Passes).
The duo originally started with the name JAM Software, short for Jason and Andy's Magic. It was the title they used while having their software published under Baudeville. However, with the EA contract they needed a new name since JAM Software was already taken... and they needed one fast. They only had 24 hours to come up with something, and lo and behold they ended up evolving into Naughty Dog. Neither Andy nor Jason know exactly where Naughty Dog Software came from, but I'm pretty sure they're glad they switched to it.
It was pretty cool because while they were going through the EA offices they saw a debug Genesis unit and Jason mentions in the video that EA quickly had them sign an NDA – all the meanwhile they were thinking that maybe they should start making games for the Sega Genesis, and EA agreed. Hence, Rings of Power was born and went on to sell approximately nearly a hundred thousand copies.
In a fascinating twist, EA sold out of the cartridges for Rings of Power and couldn't print more because they allocated all their resources in trying to keep Madden NFL stocked.
Naughty Dog achieved a level of independence following the Rings of Power debacle by making Way of the Warrior. Here's where things kick into high gear... Andy and Jason didn't have a publisher at the time and a bidding war started over the unsigned project(s) and Universal won out, granting the duo their own studio where they began working on... Crash Bandicoot.
With a team of seven and a budget of nearly $2 million, Crash Bandicoot became Sony's first major unofficial mascot thanks to Naughty Dog.
According to Jason Rubin, one in 20 Sony PlayStation games sold was a Crash Bandicoot title.
Naughty Dog eventually evolved once again, going from the scrappy two-man team into a “hire big, think big” mentality that helped them become a major market force in the industry, leading into the success of the Jak & Daxter games.
Eventually Andy and Jason took leave from the company when the crunch times became overwhelming and life took a backseat to nonstop work. Naughty Dog's management was handed over to Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, who were put in charge to manage the team.
Naughty Dog struggled in the early years of the PS3 with Uncharted and shift tools, but by the time Uncharted 2 came around the studio regained their footing. They hit a real stride by the time Uncharted 3 came along and then came The Last of Us.
I've always said that the future of the games industry will be dependent on the success of indie studios today. A lot of people tend to forget that just about every major studio that gained monumental success in the industry started indie, from id Software to Epic Games to Naughty Dog. It's nice to see that Universal and Sony saw a nice spark in Naughty Dog to give them the baton and see how far they could run with it. Makes me curious to see what studios will hit their stride during eighth gen to become the future Naughty Dog.
Sony's first party studio has big things on the horizon, as they'll be taking 2015 by storm with Uncharted 4.