Company |Culture | Date published: Aug 16, 2022
Studio Spotlight – Team ASOBI
Team ASOBI, developer of ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission and ASTRO’s PLAYROOM, is looking towards a bright future making games to bring happiness to family homes.
We sat down with Nicolas Doucet, Studio Head & Creative Director of Team ASOBI, who described their focus on the family audience as “a really, really important thing. We really want to be that one studio that really caters to the family market.”
Nicolas has loved video games since he was a kid, but he started his career in the industry somewhat accidentally while initially pursuing a career as an English teacher. “Back [when I was a kid] there were no translations,” he explained. “So when I would play video games, I had to pick up a dictionary to look for keywords, and I think that helped me get an interest in English and eventually drove me to want to be an English teacher.” This passion for the language led him to move to England to continue learning. While working in a cafe in England, he happened upon a job posting for a localization and QA position at Eidos and, after applying, was able to land his first job in video games. After working in similar positions at Electronic Arts and then LEGO, he was promoted to QA lead after which he joined the production team, eventually becoming a producer. Shortly after, in 2004, he was hired by PlayStation’s London studio and later transferred to Japan in 2011, where he has been ever since. “18 years later,” he added, “it is still a great company to be a part of.”
ASOBI comes from the Japanese word “Asobu” which means “to play.” Play is so important to the culture at Team ASOBI that it is one of their key values. “We have five key values that everybody has to inject in their work: Magic, Innovation, Playfulness, Universal – meaning that even though we’re in Japan, the games we make should have global appeal, and last but not least Quality – because everything that comes out of PlayStation Studios has to be high quality,” said Nicolas. “These five key values are things that people really know and whether you are an artist, programmer, audio designer or even a producer, you have to inject these values into your everyday work.” By focusing on these values, Team ASOBI focuses on creating the best possible experience not only for their audiences, but their employees as well.
“If people are happy when making it, the consumer will feel it as they play.”
“We are building a studio for the long run and we want people to want to work with us,” Nicolas said when describing his goal for the studio and some of the factors that play into the positive work environment. “We want it to be the best Japan-based studio to work in. That’s been our mission and giving quality work is fundamental. It’s all for people’s happiness and, if people are happy when making it, the consumer will feel it as they play.”
Self-responsibility is something Nicolas encourages at Team ASOBI. He aims to cultivate an environment where people are personally motivated and this effort is evident right from the start. When employees are hired, they’re given an image of a key to symbolize how they are in charge and the team trusts them to take it. This approach goes a long way to producing meaningful work, something Nicolas really cares for.
“As a game developer, you want to know whether something you’ve created has made it into the final game,” said Nicolas. “Giving meaning to people sounds a little bit philosophical, but it really is something that I truly believe in. We want to be making something that is not just to pay the bills. It has to be something that really has a rationale to it and gives us satisfaction and respect. This is something we spend a lot of time instilling into the team..”
Another way that Team ASOBI empowers their staff is by focusing on the life side of work-life balance. “We want people to spend their evenings and their weekends for themselves and blooming as human beings doing other things,” Nicolas said. “The thing we shouldn’t forget as a creative company is that, every time you give free time to somebody to do something – to go to the cinema, to have a dinner, to have a party, to travel – this is energy that actually gets reinjected into the work one way or another. It might not be directly reinjected – it’s more subliminal, but there are a lot of parts of creativity that come from these life experiences.”
Because Team ASOBI is based in Japan it is important to help foster communication among the employees, especially on a team that largely speaks two languages. Team ASOBI has a dedicated language program where Japanese employees take English lessons and every foreign employee, including Nicolas, takes Japanese lessons. Nicolas thinks this isn’t just beneficial to individuals professionally, having gained another language, but also personally as they experience an entirely different culture.
“Living in Japan is a really cool experience for a lot of people,” he said. “I think in the games industry there are tons of people that are really passionate about Japan because of what it represents in pop culture so we also want to make sure that when people come abroad to Japan that they don’t just work, they also get to experience the fun side of Japan.”
“We created ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission and ASTRO’s PLAYROOM, but Team ASOBI will be more than that.
To Nicolas, having the confidence to take risks is a huge key to success in the video games industry. Team ASOBI does this in a multitude of ways. The studio pushes the envelope with staff programs, benefits, and structure, building up a cutting edge company that the current team enjoys and outsiders are eager to join. They cultivate the belief that it is ok to take risks and listen to your inner self, a type of confidence Nicolas says he wishes he’d understood sooner. The team encourages an enthusiasm for learning, growth, and a general curiosity about the world. All of these things come together so that Team ASOBI can spark unique gameplay ideas and harness innovative hardware to deliver the content that has made them successful.
“We created ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission and ASTRO’s PLAYROOM, but Team ASOBI will be more than that,” Nicolas said about Team ASOBI’s future. “Right now we’re in the first phase of building the studio. We currently have over 60 staff and we’re building up to about 80 for our current project, but we plan to have additional teams on the side, incubating new ideas with the same kind of spirit and values, but in completely different genres. Ultimately, we want to keep making games that are really surprising.”
With a foundation that takes great care of its team and encourages a wealth of creative thinking, Team ASOBI is surely poised to do just that.
You can check the video below for a look at Team ASOBI in action!
Interested in exploring career opportunities with Team ASOBI or Sony Interactive Entertainment? Check out all of our current open roles here.