Gaming's Greatest Companies: Naughty Dog

By Lauren Alessandra on January 19, 2012, 7:32PM EDT

Although they haven't produced bucket loads of original IPs in their lifetime, Naughty Dog has still become a staple brand within the game industry. The IPs they've created have offered gamers the very best in terms of creativity and graphics and you'll be pushed to find someone who will disagree. With Crash Bandicoot, Jax and Daxter, and, of course, the Uncharted series under their belt, many would say Naughty Dog has got it made. In honor of the recent announcement of the Last of Us, we're taking time out to focus on what makes Naughty Dog such an excellent developer and how the brand got started.

Two men are responsible for the birth of Naughty Dog; Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin. Rubin grew up as a PC gamer and hacker and Gavin, a fan of games. As their bond grew, they began to experiment with Lisp and C++ in order to create software for the Apple II. Their first title was a skiing title called Skii Crazed and it was published by a company named Baudville. JAM Software (Jason and Andy's Magic) would end up being the pair's first name, with Naughty Dog coming much later down the line. With Baudville, they created titles like Dream Zone and Keef the Thief, but after awhile, they grew tired of being under the Baudville brand.

Their first game outside of Baudville was a Sega Genesis title in 1991 named Rings of Power, which Electronic Arts agreed to publish. They had officially changed their name to Naughty Dog at that point, as it provided them with more originality amongst the other developers at the time. Unfortunately, Rings of Power didn't do too well sales wise and Naughty Dog quickly became bankrupt as the Rubin and Gavin went off to college. It wouldn't be until their partnership with Universal Studios that the company once again saw the light of day.

Way of the Warrior was a title for the 3DO which launched Naughty Dog into the game dev spotlight and earned them a contract for 3 titles with Universal Interactive studios. They were approached by producer Mark Cerney (Sonic the Hedgehog 2) who encouraged Rubin and Gavin to look into making a 3D platformer, much like how Sonic was in 2D. It was from this that the game Crash Bandicoot was born. The production took nearly 14 months and in the beginning Crash wouldn't have been the bandicoot we all knew and loved. Originally the team were working on names for other animals and it wasn't until Gavin and Rubin sat down with an animal book that they found information on the bandicoot.

Crash went on to serve 3 sequels and has sold over 6 million copies to date making it one of the highest selling titles on the PlayStation console. Its interesting design and high end graphics made it a complete hit. It was this title that brought on the attention of Sony Computer Entertainment; a partnership that would carry them through until now.

Once Naughty Dog were focused on their new title and partnership with Sony, their partnership with Universal became redundant and so the companies parted ways. Enter Jak and Daxter. It's now 2001 and Naughty Dog have solidified their position in the games industry; something that Insomniac Games had also achieved around the same time. Actually, while the two companies worked on their next titles (Rachet and Clank for Insomniac), they helped each other to find new mechanics. Many have wished these to would collaborate on a project, however, neither company has said anything of the like as of yet.

Jak and Daxter was another successful series for Naughty Dog in the PlayStation 2 era, but sadly it would also be the last series that ND co-founder Jason Rubin would work on for the company. Rubin left the company some time in 2004 to work on the title Iron and the Maiden. What was next for Naughty Dog? Why a little series called Uncharted.

Although Drake's Fortune didn't necessarily take off as well as the game's sequels, it still was a major step forward in games as far as graphics were concerned. It also was one of the PlayStation 3's first exclusive titles and to this day, still remains a fan favorite. The brilliance of the Uncharted series comes from how much care Naughty Dog has put into it. The developers stated that with each game they had hoped to try out something new. For example, in Among Thieves, the devs challenged themselves with designing snow. In Drake's deception, the focus was shifted toward sand and fire. These escapades make many fans appreciative of the developers' hard work. Furthermore, each game has done progressively better as the series has gone on. Where the first game managed to sell 3.5 million in 2 years, Uncharted 2 sold over 3 million in just a few months. After the success of the Uncharted sequel, the highly anticipated Uncharted 3 shipped over 3 million copies globally on launch day.

One thing that's awesome about Naughty Dog is the fact that they always manage to stay relevant to the times. Though they don't have many IPs, the ones they do have are golden and remain in the hearts of gamers all over the world. Their newest title in the works, The Last of Us, will hopefully do just the same. It will also be one of the first times Naughty Dog has released a second IP on a specific console.

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