You Know Your Grad School Thesis Is Good When Sony Gives It An "A"

Jenova Chen was a graduate student at USC. He wanted to design an immersive computer game that would appeal to people who don't generally consider themselves gamers. He got three indications that his game "flOw" was a great idea. First, it got 100,000 hits in a just a few weeks when posted online. Second, Sony hired his startup company to develop the game, and others, for the Playstation 3.

Eager gamers don't need to scour eBay or retail outlets to sample a game for Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3. Thanks to a graduate study on "flow theory," a prototype of a future downloadable title is already finding success on the Web. With the help of classmates at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division, 26-year-old Jenova Chen published "flOw" on the school's Web site in March. In the Flash game, players control a sea creature that must eat and evolve to attain higher levels. The browser-based game was meant to be an academic exercise, but it scored more than 100,000 hits in its first two weeks, Mr. Chen says. That was enough bait for Sony. Sony eventually struck an unusual deal with a startup company formed by Mr. Chen and classmate Kellee Santiago, 27. The company commissioned an enhanced version of flOw that will be sold through its PlayStation Network, which features an online store accessible through the next-generation console.

Third? Will Wright, the developer of the Sims franchise, has hired him away to work on his new project.

Study hard at school, okay?

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