Hardlight (also stylized as HARDlight or SEGA HARDlight) is a video game development studio based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, United Kingdom. It is owned by Sega as one of five studios under Sega Europe, the others being Creative Assembly, Sports Interactive, Relic Entertainment, and Amplitude Studios. As a developer, Hardlight is focused on mobile games for smartphones.
|Industry||Video game industry|
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire,
Founded by Sega employee Chris Southall, Hardlight initially began work on research and development for handheld video game consoles, but soon shifted to mobile games after being asked by Sega as part of an initiative to increase mobile game development outside of Japan. Hardlight has since developed several mobile games in the Sonic the Hedgehog and Crazy Taxi video game series. In 2019, Hardlight was more closely integrated into Sega Europe, its parent company. Several of Hardlight's games have been received well, with millions of copies downloaded.
Hardlight was founded by Chris Southall, a former Codemasters employee who also helped to found Sega Racing Studio. Afterward, Southall worked in Sega technical support areas along with a team, and served as chief technology officer for Sega Europe. According to Southall, Sega's desire for more development of mobile games led to Hardlight's foundation. Sega revealed Hardlight in January 2012. The initial studio was in Dorridge, Solihull, in the West Midlands. Shortly after its formation, Sega announced that Hardlight was in development on a PlayStation Vita action-adventure game, to be released in late 2012. Hardlight also performed some research and development work for the Nintendo 3DS. According to studio manager Sion Lenton, Hardlight employed 21 employees at this time, in addition to contracted staff, and had a goal of remaining small for the moment. By September 2012, Hardlight had completed a port of Viking: Battle for Asgard for PC.
Sega would make the decision to focus more on mobile games in the west, having had success in Japan. Hardlight was asked to shift its focus to developing games for iPhone and Android systems. Their first project was a remake of Sonic Jump, which had originally been developed for the T-Mobile Sidekick and released in 2005. Southall called development of the remake "an interesting learning process". Hardlight relocated its studio around that time to Leamington Spa, a town with a community of video game developers in the area. By the time of Sonic Jump's launch in October 2012, the studio was working on developing titles in the Sonic the Hedgehog and Crazy Taxi series. Although initially faced with difficulty deciding which to develop, Sega Sammy Holdings president and COO Haruki Satomi saw a demo of Sonic Dash and liked it so much that he insisted it be developed. Sonic Dash was initially scheduled for a Christmas 2012 release, but would not be released until March of 2013.
Subsequently, Hardlight released Crazy Taxi: City Rush and Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom, as well as Sonic Jump Fever. After these releases, all of which were casual games, Hardlight began looking at developing a more strategy-oriented game involving multiplayer. After some discussions with Sonic Team, Hardlight began working on Sonic Forces Speed Battle, to tie in with the upcoming 2017 release of Sonic Forces. While development of the game began with a small team of three or four developers, up to 28 were involved with the project as the game closed in on its release.
Hardlight's games have received numerous downloads. By June of 2015, Sonic Dash had been downloaded over 100 million times across multiple different platforms, and had 14 million players per month. By November 2017, Sonic Dash's download count was over 300 million. Within its first five days of release, Sonic Forces Speed Battle had been downloaded 1.3 million times, and reached 2 million downloads within its first two weeks. According to Southall in a November 2017 interview, Hardlight was continuing to work on updates for Sonic Dash, Sonic Dash 2, and Crazy Taxi: City Rush. Hardlight's website lists the PC version of Sonic Forces and Valkyria Chronicles 4 as its games, as well as Kingdom Conquest: Dark Empire, a mobile game announced in June 2017 that was later canceled.
In April 2019, Hardlight was integrated more closely into Sega Europe, structuring it as one of five "pillars" alongside Creative Assembly, Sports Interactive, Relic Entertainment, and Amplitude Studios. In the same announcement, Sega emphasized that Hardlight would continue its focus on mobile games. Neall Jones, formerly of Codemasters, Traveller's Tales, and Eidos, Inc. was announced to be the studio's new director; Southall and operations head Harinder Sangha departed for Sumo Digital. Hardlight is continuing to work on development of Sonic Racing, set to be released as an Apple Arcade exclusive title, with an anticipation that the studio's staff will double over time.
- Cowley, Ric (20 November 2017). "From Sonic Jump to Speed Battle: The story of Sega Hardlight". Pocketgamer.biz. Steel Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- "Interview: Sega Hardlight". MCV. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
- Cullen, Johnny (23 January 2012). "Sega Solihull studio named Hardlight". VG247. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Fletcher, JC (5 October 2012). "Mysterious 'Sonic Jump' coming to mobile devices". Joystiq. Archived from the original on 29 October 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
- Fahmy, Albaraa (20 June 2014). "Sonic Jump Fever announced for iOS and Android devices". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Archived from the original on 14 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Gera, Emily (10 June 2014). "Sonic Jump Fever is free on iOS and Android devices this summer". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
- Brightman, James (8 June 2015). "Sonic Dash passes 100 million downloads". Gamesindustry.biz. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- North, Dale (2015-06-08). "Sonic thrives on mobile: 100M Dash downloads, 14M monthly players". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on 2015-11-27. Retrieved 2015-06-08.
- Cowley, Ric (17 November 2017). "Sonic Forces: Speed Battle races past two million downloads a fortnight after launching". Pocketgamer.biz. Steel Media, Ltd. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
- "Games". hardlightstudio.com. Hardlight. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
- "Cancellation of Kingdom Conquest: Dark Empire development for iOS / Android". Sega Games Co., Ltd. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
- Batchelor, James (24 April 2019). "Sega Hardlight integrated into publisher's European pillar structure". GamesIndustry.biz. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on 9 May 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Blake, Vikki (25 April 2019). "Hardlight joins the 'Sega Europe pillar structure' as Neall Jones is promoted to studio director". MCV. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Clayton, Natalie (25 April 2019). "Sega restructures its mobile Hardlight studio to integrate directly within Sega Europe". Pocketgamer.biz. Steel Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.