SIE Santa Monica Studio (formerly SCE Santa Monica Studio) is a video game development company and a division of Sony Interactive Entertainment. Founded in Santa Monica, California in 1999, they are most famous for developing the God of War series, and are known for their high-production values. And they are usually Sony's go-to studio to help major projects done by third-party developers.
The studio debuted in 2001 with Kinetica, which was met with generally positive reviews. However, the studio really made their name with their Breakthrough Hit God of War, which was universally praised for its advancements in technology and video-game storytelling. God of War's massive success turned Santa Monica Studio into a household name for Sony and one of the console maker's primary developers. Their next big project, God of War II, was similarly acclaimed by critics and fans, and is generally regarded as the PlayStation 2's Swan Song.
They then moved on to complete their trilogy with 2010's God of War III, which further increased their renown. Concurrently, Santa Monica supervised and assisted other game projects led by third-part associates such as thatgamecompany and Giant Sparrow. They also co-developed spin-off games of God of War for the PlayStation Portable with Ready At Dawn Studios.
Unfortunately, the studio experienced a sudden decline following the release of their then-newest project, God of War: Ascension. Ascension served as a prequel to the trilogy that kicked-off Santa Monica's acclaim, but while the game was positively received, it both became the studio's lowest-rated main project since Kinetica and suffered from disappointing sales, a first for the franchise. From there, the studio had to lay off some of its employees after they were forced to cancel a new IP they were working on.
After several years of silence outside helping other Sony projects, Santa Monica marked its return to the spotlight with the sudden announcement of a fourth God of War title. Serving as a re-imagining and soft reboot to the franchise, God of War (PS4) was formally announced at E3 2016 and released two years later in 2018, becoming a smash hit that brought the studio from the tough place they founded themselves years ago.
The studio is currently working on at least one project, rumored to be a sequel to the 2018 God of War.
Despite still calling itself Santa Monica, the studio is no longer settled there, having moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to allow greater space for their two development groups.
Video games internally developed by this company:
- Kinetica (2001)
- God of War (2005 - current)
Tropes that apply to Santa Monica Studio and its games:
- Abusive Parents: It would be easier to list which parents in their games didn't abuse their children emotionally and especially physically.
- Artifact Title: They are still known as Santa Monica Studio, despite no longer operating there.
- Bloodier and Gorier: The original God of War was noted for being far more violent and ruthless than most titles of its time. Each game progressively became bloodier and gorier than the previous one due to advancements in visuals, and Santa Monica also included more elaborate and ruthless killing animations in their games.
- Subverted with God of War (PS4); it is still an extremely violent game and possesses more vivid visuals than its predecessors ever had, but it tones down a lot of Kratos' execution moves.
- Breakthrough Hit: God of War was theirs.
- Face of the Band: As of 2018, game director Cory Barlog became this for the studio. He was already involved with the studio since the early 2000s, even directing 2007's God of War II, but left for Crystal Dynamics in 2012. He returned a year later and directed the PS4 soft reboot, which made him one of the most noted developers at Sony as well as the face of Santa Monica.
- Jerkass Gods: A staple of their God of War titles. If there is a god, be sure that there are incredibly high chances for them to be an awful living being that will antagonize Kratos and probably get their skull bashed in afterwards.
- Press X to Not Die
- Scenery Porn: Considered one of Sony's top three developers when it comes to jaw-dropping graphics, alongside Naughty Dog and Guerrilla Games.
- Strictly Formula: Their God of War games prior to the PS4 sequel mostly adhered to the formula originated with the first game.
- What Could Have Been: Santa Monica was working on a new IP - their first since 2005 - concurrency to God of War: Ascension, but the title was cancelled a mere year after Ascension was released.