5 developers that we wish still existed
Earlier this week, SCE Studio Liverpool became the latest in a long line of developers to unfortunately close their doors. It’s no secret that the videogame industry has been hit extremely hard by the global recession in recent years, so PS3 Attitude thought we’d take some time to remember five of our favourite development studios that are sadly no longer with us.
Studio Liverpool – WipEout series
Let’s start with the most recently closed developer, which incidentally is also the oldest on this list, founded way back in 1984 as Psygnosis. In its early days, the company was most famous as a publisher, bringing gamers classic titles such as Shadow of the Beast and Lemmings.
After the release of the original PlayStation, the studio became known for its own games, including Colony Wars and G-Police, and was eventually purchased by Sony in 2001. The PSone also saw the release of a certain futuristic racer by the name of WipEout, which would later become the developer’s signature series.
Every generation, the franchise showed just what was possible on PlayStation consoles, which culminated in the release of the glorious WipEout 2048 for PS Vita earlier this year. If you’d told us five years ago that handheld videogames could look that good, we would’ve said you were mad.
38 Studios – Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Normally when a game sells 1.2 million copies in three months, it’s time to crack open the champagne and congratulate each other on a job well done. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for the fantastic Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which needed 3 million sales to simply break even, so developer 38 Studios was subsequently bankrupted.
Kingdoms of Amalur genuinely had the potential to be a great RPG series, so we’re gutted that we’ll almost definitely never be able to play another one, rendering our subsequent time with the game as slightly bittersweet. The leaked footage of Project Copernicus (the cancelled Amalur MMO) also doesn’t make us feel any better.
However, with over 200 quests and dozens of hours of content, Reckoning still has plenty to keep gamers occupied, so we thoroughly recommend picking it up if you haven’t already done so.
Bizarre Creations – Blur, James Bond 007: Blood Stone
Originally founded as Raising Hell Software in 1988, Bizarre Creations gained critical acclaim for the Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars franchises on the Xbox 360, and later moved to multiplatform development under Activision, with Blur and James Bond 007: Blood Stone.
If you ask us, Blur is a seriously underrated arcade racer, and Blood Stone is by far the best James Bond game of this generation; yes, we know that isn’t saying much, but it really was a genuinely good game, taking the series in an interesting new direction.
It therefore came as somewhat of a surprise when Activision announced Bizarre’s closure in February 2011, as the publisher comes ever closer to becoming a two-franchise company. It often seems that if it’s not Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, Activision doesn’t want to know.
Black Rock Studio – Pure, Split/Second
Despite releasing only two games on PS3, Black Rock Studio was already amongst our favourite developers, before its untimely closure in June 2011. In its 13 year history, the company never released anything other than racing games, and Pure and Split/Second are great examples of the studio’s talent and mastery of the genre, especially considering their differing styles.
Pure is an off-road ATV racer that features photo-realistic graphics, massive jumps and insane tricks, while Split/Second is an arcade racer with bright visuals, tons of destruction and a level of difficulty on later races that could make a nun swear (or maybe that was just us).
The British videogame industry has a rich history of creating innovative arcade-style racers, so it’s both interesting and saddening to note that all three of the British developers in this list specialised in the genre. Now it looks like it’s solely up to Criterion Games to keep that tradition going.
Team Bondi – L.A. Noire
From pre-production to the day of release, L.A. Noire took seven years to create, and clearly suffered a rather troubled development cycle. That kind of turnaround may be acceptable for established companies such as Polyphony Digital, Square Enix and Team Ico, but it’s incredibly risky for a brand new studio to go down this route.
And so it proved to be for Team Bondi. Like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning a year later, L.A. Noire was far from a commercial failure, but the game’s prolonged development, coupled with allegations about subpar working conditions, meant the studio’s fate was sealed.
Let’s not dwell on that though, because L.A. Noire is still an incredible experience, and from a technical standpoint is one of the most impressive games ever made. As we slip further and further into the uncanny valley, L.A. Noire will surely be remembered as a pivotal moment for gaming.