The story of 989 Studios and 989 Sports is like something out of a M. Night Shayamalan film. The dawn of the Playstation 2 was fast approaching and Sony was making efforts to streamline its studios into a few in-house companies. Back in 1995, the business team of Sony Imagesoft was merged with the development branch of Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) and became Sony Interactive Studios of America (SISA). Three years later the company was renamed after the street address (989 E. Hillsdale Boulevard) at which the studio operated in Foster City, California. Thus 989 Studios was born.
Whether they were developing or publishing, 989 Studios put out some great titles in just a few short years. . The popular spy series Syphon Filter centered on Gabriel Logan, a top government agent With a mission to stop terrorists from destroying Washington D.C. with a biological weapon. Much like Metal Gear Solid, the game was played from the 3rd-person perspective and focused on using stealth tactics to your advantage. Syphon Filter was a game that many fans still prefer over the early Splinter Cell titles and even the Metal Gear games. It did not go unnoticed by the press. The game received rave reviews and several proclaimed it one of the best games of its generation. Syphon Filter took many aspects from other games and combined them into one package which was seen as a weakness by some. Reviewers, however, saw this as a positive:
“While there's something to be said for pure originality in game design, games are, more often than not, a collection of proven ideas from previous titles put together and given a new face. With one part GoldenEye, one part Metal Gear Solid, and a dash of Tomb Raider contained in its gameplay, Syphon Filter just about perfects this concept.” said Jeff Gerstmann in his review for it on Gamespot.
My personal love affair with the titles from 989 Sports is irrepressible. Long before Electronic Arts monopolized the football genre, 989 Sports developed NFL GameDay for the Playstation 1 & 2. I still can’t put my finger on why, but something about these games just appealed to me over the Madden series. The game presented a more immersive and fun football experience. What’s better than the Village People playing over the PA while Jamal Anderson did the “Dirty Bird” in the end zone at the Georgia Dome?
989 Sports published some of the toughest opposition to EA Sports and Sega’s 2K series (now 2K Sports). NHL FaceOff, NCAA GameBreaker and NBA Shootout all gave the competition a run for their money.
While 989 Studios was dissolved in 2000, 989 Sports lasted until 2005 before it kicked the bucket.Its employees went on to help make some of the best Playstation games and have worked on titles such as Resistance, Socom, Deus Ex: The Invisible War, Need for Speed Underground 2, the Gran Turismo franchise and many more. Some have also left Sony to work on Microsoft titles like Richard Ham whose credits include the Fable series and The Sims.
David Jaffe is easily the best-known developer to ever work under the 989 Studios label. David went on to create one of the greatest franchises gaming has ever seen: God of War. His brain child, Twisted Metal, is even getting a rebirth in the new generation of consoles, one that many fans of the franchise are eagerly anticipating.
989 Studios still lives on today in most every game you see for the Playstation 3, as well as for the Wii and Xbox 360. The incredible talent that once walked into the offices at 989 E. Hillsdale Boulevard still leaves their mark on the industry. However, only for a span of nearly five years did they call themselves 989 Studios employees. A five years that saw a few of the best games of the generation. Five years that helped mold Sony’s position in the gaming market. While the name is gone the hard work, ingenuity, execution and spirit of 989 Studios can still be seen every time you press start to play.