Zen Studios

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Zen Studios Ltd.
Independent video game developer
Industry Video games
Founded 2003
Headquarters Ganz u. 16., Budapest, Hungary
Area served
Global
Key people
Zsolt Kigyossy (founder and CEO)
Products
Number of employees
50-100
Website www.zenstudios.com

Zen Studios is an international video game developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software with headquarters in Budapest, Hungary and offices in the United States. It is known for its game franchises, Pinball FX and Zen Pinball, as well as CastleStorm, a tower defense hybrid which received the Apple Store's Editor’s Choice award.[1][2] The company is considered "synonymous with licensed pinball tables," having produced dozens of tables with characters and themes from the Star Wars and Marvel universes, films like Guardians of the Galaxy, TV series like Archer, South Park, Family Guy and Bob's Burgers, and video game franchises such as Plants vs. Zombies, Portal, Street Fighter, and The Walking Dead.[3][4][5]

The company's games have been released for various game platforms including Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, iOS, Steam, Amazon and Android.[6] Zen Studios was ranked second on Metacritic's list of mid-size game publishers in 2015, ahead of publishers like Capcom and Microsoft.[7]

History[edit]

Zen Studios was founded in Budapest in 2003 by a team of four people. It started as a technology and work for hire studio, doing game engine development, middleware tools, and ports for other games.[8] The company name is based on the team's belief in Zen as a creed to follow in their work and lives, specifically with employees and fans.[9] By the time PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade arrived, the studio had gained knowledge and experience with console platforms and gaming handhelds. The company CEO Zsolt Kigyossy, a pinball fan, decided to try to make the best pinball simulation video game on the market.[8]

Its first pinball game was Pinball FX, released for Xbox 360 in 2007. It would sell more than 100,000 copies per year until 2010. Because Pinball FX was published by Microsoft, it could not appear on Sony’s PlayStation 3, leading to the development of Zen Pinball for the PS3 in 2008 (and later for iOS, the Wii U, and Android).[4][10] Zen Pinball was the top-selling PSN game in May and September 2009.[11][12]

The company made the first of its three departures from pinball when it released The Punisher: No Mercy in 2009. This first-person shooter in the style of the Punisher MAX franchise was released for Playstation 3.[11] In 2010, Zen Studios released the sequel to Pinball FX, Pinball FX 2, for Xbox 360. The sequel to its PS3 counterpart, Zen Pinball 2, would be released in 2012.[10] The company embarked on what would become its biggest media franchise cooperation yet when they teamed up with Marvel Comics and released Marvel Pinball in December 2010.[13] The cooperation has resulted in twenty-one different pinball tables based on the Marvel Universe, with more anticipated in the future.[5] Another big franchise used for Zen Studios tables is Lucasfilm's and Disney's Star Wars. In 2012, the company debuted Star Wars Pinball, the first pack to feature officially licensed digital Star Wars pinball tables.[8]

In 2013, Zen Studios released two non-pinball games. The company tackled the tower defense genre with CastleStorm for XBLA, a hybrid of traditional tower defense with real-time physics-based Angry Birds-esque catapult combat and resource management.[1] CastleStorm would go on to become a successful franchise, earning the Editor’s Choice award in the US Apple App Store, as well as an Editor’s Choice distinction from Google Play.[2] Rhythm-based martial arts game KickBeat debuted on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3.[8] On the pinball side, Zen Studios released Super League Football in 2014, where players competed by siding with their favorite European football clubs and famous players. The game was seen as a modern version of the famous pinball machine World Cup Soccer from 1994.[14] The same year saw the release of a Guardians of the Galaxy table.[15]

The company partnered with Valve in mid-2015 to create digital pinball tables based on Valve's games,[16] most notably the Portal table.[17] That year, Zen Studios' licensed tables included a table based on Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead and on the TV show South Park. The new Iron & Steel collection consisted of a table based on CastleStorm and the studio's first wholly original table in three years, Wild West Rampage.[18]

In early 2016, Zen Studios teamed up with Oculus Rift to create pinball tables in virtual reality. Pinball FX2 VR, which features three original table designs from the Zen Studios development team, was released on the Oculus Rift’s launch day, March 28, 2016.[19]

Game design[edit]

Zen Studios' pinball style has been called "cinematic".[15][20] In order to capture the mood of a game or franchise, its tables include spoken lines, animations and deep references from movies, TV or animated shows they are based on,[16][21] weaving those references into the action in a fun and interesting way.[22] Each table is a separately designed game, with distinct layouts and graphical styles.[23] One of the Star Wars-themed tables, for example, "feels inextricable from the universe, its elements combining into something truly evocative,"[24] while the Ant-Man-based table "faithfully recreates the aesthetic of the film and makes good use of the notable elements in the table design."[5] In The Walking Dead pinball game, there is no playing table. Instead, the field of play is surrounded by scale representations of the most memorable set pieces from each of the episodes contained in The Walking Dead: Season One.[25]

On the other hand, its tables have been praised for their "realism", which means that they try to create the illusion that "you're at an arcade or in your basement with your eyes peeled to the table in front", and that the ball physics make "predicting angles and opportune flipper timing as natural as possible".[26]

Microtransactions[edit]

The company's first game, Pinball FX, introduced microtransactions in the world of pinball gaming, since additional tables were available for purchase. At the launches of Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2, pinball tables could be exported for free from the previous games into the sequels. Upon release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2 respectively were ported over, and allowed owners of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions (via Cross-Buy) to import their purchased tables onto the new platform when available at no additional cost. Tables are available for purchase either individually or as part of themed packs.[4][10][27][28]

Games[edit]

Year Game Platform
2007 Pinball FX Xbox 360 (XBLA)[29]
Flipper Critters Nintendo DS[30]
2008 Rocky and Bullwinkle Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Zen Pinball iOS, PlayStation 3 (PSN), Nintendo 3DS (eShop), Android[31]
2009 Ghostbusters: The Video Game Nintendo DS
The Punisher: No Mercy PlayStation 3 (PSN)
2010 Planet Minigolf PlayStation 3 (PSN)[32]
Pinball FX 2 Xbox 360 (XBLA), Windows,[33] Xbox One, Steam
Marvel Pinball Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN), Android, 3DS (eShop), iOS, Vita (PSN), Wii U (eShop), Windows[34]
2012 3D Solitaire 3DS (eShop)[35]
Zen Pinball 2 PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), Wii U (eShop), PlayStation 4 (PSN)[36]
KickBeat PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), Windows, PlayStation 4 (PSN), Xbox One, Wii U (eShop)[37]
2013 Star Wars Pinball PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), PlayStation 4 (PSN), Wii U (eShop), Nintendo 3DS (eShop), Android, iOS, Xbox 360, Xbox One[38]
CastleStorm Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN), Steam, Wii U (eShop), PlayStation Vita (PSN), PlayStation 4 (PSN), Xbox One, iOS
2014 Super League Football PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), PlayStation 4 (PSN), iTunes, Google Play, Nintendo 3DS (eShop), Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, Amazon
The Walking Dead PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U
2015 Balls of Glory: themed on four animated TV shows: Family Guy, American Dad!, Bob's Burgers, Archer PSN, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows 10, Steam, Mac, Google Play, Amazon, iOS[21]
Portal PSN, Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Steam, Android, iOS, Amazon[39]
South Park PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox One, Steam, iOS, Android, Amazon, Wii U[40]
Secrets of the Deep, Epic Quest, Mars Oculus Rift[19]
Iron & Steel Pack PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Steam, Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon
2016 Pinball FX2 VR Oculus Rift
Aliens vs. Pinball
(announced with Fox Digital Entertainment[41])
iTunes, Google Play, PSN, XBLA, Steam

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jeffrey Matulef (20 May 2013). "Zen Studios' tower-defense/RTS hybrid CastleStorm lays siege on XBLA next week". Eurogamer. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  2. ^ a b no1phil (3 June 2015). "NetEase and Zen Studios Partner to Launch CastleStorm in Mainland China". XLC Gaming Network. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  3. ^ Ryan Winslett (January 2016). "Zen Studios' The Force Awakens Pinball Review: These Are The Tables You're Looking For". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Mark B. (15 July 2015). "Review: Zen Pinball 2: Ant-Man (Sony Playstation 3/Playstation 4/Playstation Vita)". Diehard Game Fan. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  5. ^ Nick Tylwalk (July 2015). "Ant-Man Pinball Arrives In Zen Studios Pinball This Week". Bam! Smack! Pow!. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Jason Dietz (4 February 2016). "Metacritic's 6th Annual Game Publisher Rankings". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d Dean Takahashi (23 August 2013). "How Zen Studios became a successful indie game studio and cranked out KickBeat (interview)". Venture Beat. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  8. ^ "Designing in unconventional ways - an interview with ZEN Studios". Gamesworld. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c Josh Smith. "Pinball Then... and Now". LifeZette. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Andrew Yoon (6 August 2009). "Interview: ZEN Studios' Zsolt Kigyossy". Engadget. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  11. ^ Andrew Yoon (19 October 2009). "Zen Pinball and Castle Crashers top PSN sales in September". Engadget. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  12. ^ "Zen Studios Unveils "Marvel Pinball"". Gamezone. 27 September 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  13. ^ Aldrin Calimlim (29 January 2014). "Prepare For Hard-Kicking Pinball Action In Zen Studios' Super League Football". App Advice. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Brett Zeidler (2 August 2014). "Guardians of the Galaxy Pinball may be the best table yet". Destructoid. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Ian Dransfield (29 April 2015). "Zen Studios tease Valve pinball game". PC Gamer. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  16. ^ Chris Dunlap (2 June 2015). "Portal Pinball for Zen Pinball 2, Pinball FX2 review". Gaming Age. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  17. ^ Ryan Winslett (April 2015). "South Park Pinball Review: Zen Studios Flipping Nails It". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  18. ^ a b Ozzie Mejia (16 March 2016). "Pinball FX2 VR: Eyes-on at GDC 2016". Shack News. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  19. ^ Serge Pennings (14 September 2014). "Zen Pinball 2 review: new tables – great flipper fun". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  20. ^ a b Terry Terrones (17 October 2015). "Video Game Haiku Review - "Balls of Glory Pinball"". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  21. ^ Thomas Ella (6 June 2015). "Review: Portal Pinball". Hardcore Gamer. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  22. ^ Andrew Hayward (12 September 2014). "You Should Play: Zen Pinball". Macworld. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  23. ^ Rich Stanton (5 April 2013). "Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  24. ^ Brett Zeidler (26 August 2014). "The Walking Dead Pinball is just as good as I had hoped". Destructoid. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  25. ^ Trevor Ruben (9 March 2014). "Zen Pinball 2". High-Def Digest. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  26. ^ Sammy Barker (5 September 2013). "Interview: Kickin' Back with KickBeat Developer Zen Studios". Push Square. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  27. ^ Mike Mason (1 October 2012). "Review: Zen Pinball 2". Push Square. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  28. ^ "Pinball FX Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  29. ^ "Flipper Critters Official Website". Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  30. ^ "Zen Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  31. ^ "Planet Minigolf Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  32. ^ "Pinball FX Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  33. ^ "Marvel Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  34. ^ "3D Solitaire Available on Nintendo 3DS™ eShop August 2nd!". Zen Studios Blog. Zen Studios. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  35. ^ "Zen Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  36. ^ "KickBeat Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  37. ^ Loertscher, Bobby. "Star Wars Pinball (Standalone) Hits PSN Next Week". Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  38. ^ Joe White (30 May 2015). "Zen Studios launches a new, Portal-themed pinball game on the App Store". App Advice. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  39. ^ "South Park Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  40. ^ Ethan Anderton (1 April 2016). "‘Alien’ Day Is Coming in April with Official Reeboks, Movie Screenings, Collectibles & More". Slash Film. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 

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