When Xbox purchased Activision Blizzard and Sony acquired Bungie to kick off 2022, it kicked off a frenzy of speculation among industry observers. Suddenly, it seemed as if no acquisition was off the table.
In such an environment, Iron Galaxy would seem to be an ideal target for a major platform holder. Aside from being a noted work-for-hire studio, Iron Galaxy has worked on popular franchises such as Uncharted and Killer Instinct, and CEO Adam Boyes has a direct connection to PlayStation.
For now, though, Iron Galaxy seems happy to be independent.
“[S]o many doors are open and I love that,” Boyes tells IGN. “And because we’re independent, we have the ability to continue that freedom journey and check it all out and see what leans into our values as a company.”
Boyes, an energetic game developer who earned notice as Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Vice President of Publisher and Developer Relations, likens the current acquisition craze to his childhood in British Columbia, where his father was a lumberjack. In effect, he says, platform holders like Microsoft and Sony are clear-cutting the competition, in the process creating the underbrush that can attract new studios.
Iron Galaxy, he says, is in a good position. “Before we were like, we have to take this or we have to take that,” Boyes says. “We have some freedom to work on new stuff. So that part of it’s cool.”
Originally founded back in 2008, Iron Galaxy found early success sporting games like Bionic Commando and Bioshock 2 before releasing Divekick in 2013. Iron Galaxy expanded to Orlando in 2012, and is set to open its third studio in Nashville in an effort to “fish in other ponds” and attract fresh talent. Iron Galaxy co-founder Dave Lang says the studio was “mousey” in its early days, to which Chelsea Blasko, the third member of Iron Galaxy’s executive triumvirate, jokingly takes offense.
Blasko, Lang, and Boyes form a kind of comedy trio, riffing on one another’s remarks and speaking in a rapid patter on a variety of topics. Boyes jokes that he’s the optimist, Blasko’s the realist, and Lang’s the pessimist. Boyes joined the group after departing SIE in 2016, in part because he wanted to get back into active development.
While Iron Galaxy has grown considerably in the past decade, its three executives still feel far from corporate. Lang wears his familiar baseball cap and hoodie, and Boyes sports a chin curtain beard. They’re relaxed as they discuss Iron Galaxy’s recent growth, as well as originaly projects like Rumbleverse, which Boyes says was delayed in part to give it “more content, more modes, more everything…make sure everything is super polished and amazing.”
Iron Galaxy has managed to keep busy throughout the pandemic, its most recent release being Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, which was released on PS5 in January. Asked what it was like to work with Naughty Dog, the group talks about how Iron Galaxy’s programmers were “envious of how beautiful Naughty Dog’s code was.”
“The last thing I want to do is speak for Naughty Dog at all. Right? But I think looking at that code, you can see decades of work that are in that code and it’s why their games are so different,” Lang says.
“It’s craftsmanship,” Boyes agrees.
“Yeah exactly. It’s bespoke game development in a way that most aren’t, right? Doesn’t make it intrinsically better, it doesn’t make it intrinsically worse, but it’s Naughty Dog. And I think that’s my biggest appreciation for them is their dedication to this approach that they’re on is really humbling in a certain way.”
Iron Galaxy’s other recent projects include the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which it ported to PC, as well as Diablo III and Overwatch for Nintendo Switch. Iron Galaxy’s ports and remasters are workmanlike in that they rarely add unique features — though the Legacy of Thieves Collection did add some interesting DualSense functionality — but generally run well. In an industry that likes to promote studios as rock groups, Iron Galaxy are like the roadies, there to do the less glamorous work while other groups get more of the spotlight.
The challenge, Lang says, is “true financial independence.” Iron Galaxy is still dependent on finding partners and getting paid on time. That’s the price of freedom for a studio like Iron Galaxy, Lang says. But one way or another, the past decade has been good to Iron Galaxy, as evidenced by the studio’s Nashville expansion. This has empowered Iron Galaxy to go its own way even amid the ongoing frenzy of acquisitions.
“I think people think about the acquisitions one way and it’s actually very much a two-way street. Every time someone gets bought, well Microsoft still needs game pass games. Capcom needs to publish games. Everyone needs games, and now there’s fewer and fewer people that can make them, it’s actually super valuable to stay independent in a strange way that isn’t really… It’s counterintuitive, right?” Lang says.
“And so I think we’re just enjoying being the prettiest person at the ball right now. We’re really beautiful, we’re doing what we do, and we’re not really feeling any pressure to do anything. It’s pretty cool.”
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN
Source: IGN Video Games All