Sony shuts Wipeout video game studio in Liverpool

Wipeout 2048 The studio's last title was Wipeout 2048, released in January of this year

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Sony has closed one of the UK's oldest video game studios following a review of its operations.

Sony Liverpool employed about 100 workers. It dated back to 1984 when it was known as Psygnosis. The Japanese company bought the developer in 1993.

Its early titles included Barbarian and Shadow of the Beast for the Amiga and Atari ST. It also published Lemmings.

It was perhaps best known for later PlayStation releases including the Wipeout racing game series.

A statement released by the company to the games site Kotaku said: "We do regular reviews to ensure that the resources we have can create and produce high quality, innovative and commercially viable projects in an increasingly competitive market place.

"It has been decided that Liverpool Studio should be closed. Liverpool Studio has been an important part of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios since the outset of PlayStation, and has contributed greatly to PlayStation over the years. Everyone connected with Liverpool Studio, past and present, can be very proud of their achievements.

Wipeout graphic This studio posted this Wipeout-inspired graphic onto its Facebook page

"However, it was felt that by focusing our investment plans on other studios that are currently working on exciting new projects, we would be in a stronger position to offer the best possible content for our consumers."

The firm said other divisions at its Liverpool campus would not be affected. But it did not mention whether the staff at the shuttered studio would be offered posts elsewhere.

The unit's last title was Wipeout 2048 for the PlayStation Vita handheld console. A message on the game's Facebook page from the team said: "Thank you for everything, Pilots. It's been an amazing journey and we'll miss you."

'Times are changing'

The founder of the independent games studio Rebellion, which also employs staff in Liverpool, said the decision reflected a wider shift within the games industry.

"It's a tragedy when an old institution like this disappears, but the times are changing and games are moving from a retail-dominated landscape to a digital download-dominated one," said Jason Kingsley.

"Arguably the power that the big publishers had, employing lots of talent, was relevant to the old model - now the advantage of being big isn't so important and smaller teams can be just as effective.

"You can liken it to a jungle environment - when a big tree falls over it creates lots of opportunities for others to grow in its space. There is still a lot of life and excitement in the UK gaming industry, and hopefully opportunities for some of Sony Liverpool's staff too."

Sony Liverpool The Liverpool studio made games for Atari and Commodore computers before being bought by Sony

Evan Narcisse, a writer at Kotaku, added that the Wipeout series had seen a decline in popularity, but said the studio left behind a strong legacy.

"Psygnosis was one of the first games studios to deliver titles that felt like they were delivering a unified, artistic vision.

"Early titles like Shadow of the Beast expanded the polish, scope and ambition of the video game medium and didn't feel quite as disposable as other contemporary titles.

"It was also notable for making the transition from home computers to consoles, riding out a shift that many companies didn't survive. I remember playing Wipeout on the first PlayStation years ago... the art direction, music and feel was like nothing I had ever experienced."

Popcap cuts

The announcement of the studio's closure came amidst news of turmoil elsewhere in the industry.

Popcap, the company behind Plants vs Zombies, has cut 50 posts at its Seattle headquarters following its takeover by Electronic Arts. It has also signalled it might close its Dublin studio with the loss of about 100 positions.

Psygnosis logo Early titles by Psygnosis included Barbarian, Ballistix, Colony Wars and Obliterator

Norwegian developer Funcom has also announced what it described as "temporary layoffs" blaming "mixed or average reviews" for its recent release The Secret World.

However, Call of Duty publisher Activision has recently opened a studio in Leeds called The Blast Furnace which is dedicated to making games for mobile devices.

Transformers Universe creator Jagex has also opened a new studio near Cambridge, while in the US Gears of War developer Epic Games is creating Impossible Studios in Hunt Valley near Baltimore, Maryland.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    I'm glad this has happened. The gaming industry has mostly gone downhill for the last 5 years. Everyone is too scared to try something new, so all we get is unimaginative sequals. Its mostly the big publishers to blame (EA especially).

    Still, the gamers decide with their money and it is showing with these sorts of development houses closing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I have to say shadow of the beast on the Amiga was a great game, one of the first I ever played. I remember the box included a t-shirt, poster and manual detail enough (big enough) to be considered a deadly weapon. (The days when you didn't just open the box for the game disc, I am so old at 29 lol) I think it was second only to Millenium/Deuteros in list of favourites from then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    SuperJase1985 169... Where to begin. I don't think anyone here has stated that Psygnosis were being innovative or original. Yes Wipeout is original but to keep making the same thing over and over again is commercial suicide. Tax breaks or not they weren't setting the world on fire (infact they weren't really doing anything. Lets not forget Codemasters have the F1 franchise now...they're British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    If you weren't there at the time it's hard to describe how revolutionary the first Wipeout was. From the Designers Republic styling to the bang-up-to-the-minute, thumping soundtrack to the incredible gameplay, the Psygnosis team reached into the ether and pulled out a vision that resonated with young people, reinvented the racing paradigm and really helped to establish the Playstation. Thank you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    A sign of the times. Studio predominantly works on one series and is closed when the host company decides it's run its course. Psygnosis originally developed a range of titles - since that name went, they've only done Wipeout and F1 games.

    Like Sega, it's been a long time since they put out anything innovative... but then, that sums up the industry in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    In all fairness Wipeout started losing its way after the original in 96 (correct?) some sequels were good but it started going downhill during the PS2 era. Seeing as that was the only game they made the one game. So their closure was inevitable

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Repeatedly rolling over, tripping my opponent (usually my elder brother) and then chopping his head off playing Barbarian is a fond childhood memory. For some reason he could never defend the move so it worked every time :) Wipeout was genius. Makes me want to get a console again..

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    @ 46. kencharman

    "The games industry has made a huge contribution to the undec performance of boys at school."

    Oh, that must be why I now have a degree in computer science and work as a software engineer in specialist machine manufacturing?

    The people that were avid footballers when they were kids can just about be trusted to sign for deliveries and carry heavy objects around the building.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Well done the Tories, getting rid of tax incentives for the gaming industry to save a few boab to give to the bankers and your rich pals was well worth it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    The original Wipeout was one of the best games I've ever played. It didn't follow the usual learning curve, getting harder as you went along, it was difficult right from the start. Only comments on forums made me persevere with it. Took guts to release such a game. Get it wrong and it takes NO prisoners. Get it right... and you're laughin'! Kudos to all involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    "Freemium" games are taking over. The public aren't playing games on consoles much these days and the industry is ruled by giant corporations such as EA and Activision who think nothing of wiping out (pun intended) established studios.

    Am I the only person who can see the hidden message in that image? It looks like they're flipping the bird to Sony, to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    A great loss but Wipeout is 20 (?) years out of date. No multimedia company survives on the reputation of work it did that long ago. If they aren't competitive against the modern market why should they expect anything else?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    @14. Hahahahaha! Brilliant spot!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Psygnosis lasted a surprisingly long time given the way the industry now works where the publishing houses buy up developers asset strip them for the I.P. of the biggest names then shut down the studio,

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    It's a terrible shame that so many of the really creative, loved developers are bought and dismantled by big companies who don't really understand them.

    I always picture a kid pulling an insect apart to try and find out what makes it work, then throwing it away when it dies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    A real pity. I loved Shadow of the Beast - great music, artwork and a sense of style, things that rarely enter into the minds of games companies now. Instead it's all about boring FPS clones or cheap, tacky throwaway games for the mobile market. Make a quick 59p, throw in a few 'in game purchases' to rip people off - that appears to be the model...

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Being in the industry I have met many people at Sony Liverpool. It saddens me deeply to see it go, its full of some amazing and talented people. Wipeout is one of my favorite franchises I remember buying it for the PS1 and have played everyone ever since.

    It seriously leaves a little hole in my heart, but I wish everyone there the best of luck for the future. (maybe one day I bloody beat Zico!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Wipeout was a key factor in the Playstation being the runaway success it was, giving it an edgy cool that a Sony product never had before and have never had since . What a poor return for the company behind it

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I would also have to agree with a number of others that rehashing the same game concept year after year probably did not do them any favours however this would have probably been something fixed by Sony themselves...

    They should take it as a clean break and go back to their roots and rely on quality R&D and create an innovative title free from the shackles of their Japanese overlords.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Very sad, Just what the region didn't need.


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