Prideful Sloth takes AAA to slow-life gaming

26 May 2022

Prideful Sloth is an Australian studio based in Brisbane. The studio takes a micro-AAA approach to high quality game development.

The company’s second game – ‘Grow: Song of the Evertree’ – launched in November 2021 following the success of the company’s first game, ‘Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles’ in 2017. Grow: Song of the Evertree sold over 120,000 copies in its first months of release.

According to co-founder, Cheryl Vance, the game’s success demonstrates the diversity of Australian gaming expertise.

‘Our games fall into the “slow-life” or “cosy gaming” categories,’ she says. ‘It’s non-combat, explorative, relaxing. And it’s a genre that has exploded in the last few years.’

Prideful Sloth partnered with Italian video game publisher, 505 Games for its latest release.

The softer side to Australia’s gaming renaissance

Co-Founders Vance, John Northwood and Joel Styles are all veteran AAA developers who worked in the UK on mega-hits. The call of Australia proved too strong, so they made the move back and in 2015 formed Prideful Sloth. They wanted to bring the rigour of their former life into a smaller Australian studio.

‘We worked in large teams, creating high quality games,’ says Vance. ‘We had a lot of experience pushing the limits of what hardware and gaming engines can do, but we wanted to try new things in terms of game concepts and audiences.’

Thematically, Prideful Sloth focuses on player-driven narrative experiences. Their goal is to provide gamers with engaging and highly detailed worlds where they are free to create their own stories and experiences. In doing so, the studio has developed a unique style.

‘We try to capture players attention with artistry, charm and whimsy,’ says Vance.

It’s this unique style that attracted 505 Games, notable for smash hits 'Death Stranding' and the Australian-made 'Gems of War'.

‘Our ultimate goal is to take the lessons we learned in the world of AAA and put them into a smaller studio that can punch well above its weight,’ she says.

Australian talent is powering micro-AAA studios.

Vance says that innovation is the great strength of the Australian games industry. She explains that many games industry workers went overseas about 12 years ago, but talent is now returning. She also reports on Australia’s generosity of spirit.

‘The local games industry has a friendly, sharing atmosphere,’ she says. ‘We’ve had many mentors to help us through this, and we mentor in return. People are happy to both share and learn.’

Prideful Sloth consists of a close-knit team of 7 full-time employees: two programmers, two designers, two artists and one technical artist. The studio takes a reserved attitude towards expansion, intentionally staying lean and focusing on proficiency and a robust business model.

‘We are all senior and multiskilled,’ says Vance. ‘I think there’s a renaissance in the Australian games industry today; it’s just starting to blossom.’

EMDG grants support travel to overseas events

Government grants also help. Vance cites the Export Marketing Development Grants (EMDG) scheme, which is managed by Austrade.

‘EMDG helped us to launch our first game, ‘Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles,’ says Vance. ‘It helped cover the cost of marketing, public relations and travel. Grants also helped us produce trailers for the game – which are not cheap!’

Travel funding was also highly advantageous. EMDG helped cover the cost of travel to overseas gaming events, including the Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco in March 2018, and Gamescom at Cologne in Germany in August 2018.

‘We met up with the Italian publisher, 505 Games at GDC and Gamescom,’ says Vance. ‘These meetings triggered our current partnership. In 2019, 505 Games helped provide funds for our second game, ‘Grow: Song of the Evertree’. From this point, it took us just over two years to release.’

Screen Queensland grants for games developers

The Queensland Government also provides support for games development. This is a part of a recent trend in Australia for state and federal government agencies to incentivise the development of digital games.

‘The new tax benefits are amazing,’ says Vance. ‘The Digital Games Incentive from Screen Queensland can cover 15% of a salary and 5% of additional expenditure. You apply, Screen Queensland assesses your budget, you agree on milestones and then they draw up an incentives package.’

Australia: perceptions change

Prideful Sloth is now planning production for the next hit game. ‘The future is looking bright!,’ says Vance. She adds that Australian studios seem to do well with overseas investors.

‘Australian studios typically get a good reaction when they go overseas,’ she says. ‘We have a reputation for innovation and creativity.’

‘Also, I think Australians have a healthy work ethic. Traditionally we haven’t had the same state funding as elsewhere. So, there’s a recognition that here in Australia we get things done through hard work and will-power.’

Go further, faster with Austrade

International investors are buying into the Australian games industry. The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is committed to helping international investors find opportunities.

Find out why Australia is a great investment destination for digital games: Digital games | Global Australia