Normally when I find myself sulking endlessly in another stupid, depressed fugue state, my lousy state of mind can be traced back to one or more of the following causes:
1) A woman, and/or the lack thereof;
2) I thought I had a beer left in the fridge but I drank it the day before and forgot;
3) I woke up earlier than usual and am stuck in the “long, dark teatime of the soul”
So imagine my surprise – the horrible, crushing surprise – when I woke up this morning to discover that Sony has closed Studio Liverpool.
WipEout developer Studio Liverpool has been closed and all of its projects cancelled, Sony has confirmed. Sony has also issued a statement explaining the outfit’s closure, and has cancelled all of the studio’s projects including – according to fresh rumours – a next-gen WipEout game for PS4.
“Liverpool Studio has been an important part of SCE Worldwide Studios since the outset of PlayStation, and have contributed greatly to PlayStation over the years. Everyone connected with Liverpool Studio, past and present, can be very proud of their achievements.”
Liverpool, formerly known as Psygnosis during the halcyon days of the original Playstation, has always been my favourite of Sony’s internal developers. Regardless of whether or not The Designer’s Republic and other hangers-on were involved, Psygnosis/Liverpool had style, perhaps even swagger, innovated in every area, put forward a rare aesthetic sense across the board, and were typically the only first-party team under the Sony aegis whose projects didn’t bore me to tears on a regular basis.
The biggest part of that was WipEout, which remains one of my biggest influences in the video game space. I never cared about racing games until WipEout and to this day it remains the only futuristic racer of any relevance whatsoever. Its heavy use of licensed electronic music was more than just a unique feature, it was a formative experience for me; playing those first few games with the likes of The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy pounding out from underneath completely changed the trajectory of my musical interests, the effects of which are still strongly felt today.
Beyond the WipEout franchise, Psygnosis/Liverpool also had several other important hits: Destruction Derby, G-Police, and Colony Wars come to mind immediately. Colony Wars in particular was a huge high watermark for its time, hamstrung only by the ultimate fate of the space combat genre at large, which not even Freespace 2 and a bunch of quality Star Wars-licensed games could save. Even now, it remains very high on my list of missed franchises that I’d love to see refreshed the most.
So now I’m left wondering what’s next. The official Sony company line on the matter is full of rote PRspeak and no real answers to my most pressing questions, namely “what happens to WipEout now?” It’s still one of the strongest Playstation brands out there with nearly twenty years of history. It’s the king of its genre that not even Nintendo’s F-Zero could dethrone. At a time when Sony desperately needs all the marquee franchises it can muster, I can’t image that they’ll just sit on WipEout as they have so many other forgotten IPs of yesteryear.
If I’m wrong and Sony does toss WipEout into the vault alongside far less iconic properties like Medieval, then congratulations guys: you really didn’t know what you had. You have become Sega #2. Take a bow!