Thursday, August 23, 2012

The untimely demise of Psygnosis

What on earth is going on in the videogaming industry? First Popcap starts cutting staff, then THQ, then OnLive gets snapped up after filing for bankruptcy – and then then there are rumours that EA might even be up for sale.

What’s gone wrong? The fact that EA – one of the world’s biggest videogame publishers – may be quietly looking for a buyer is a very worrying development. That company’s got Mass Effect, FIFA and SimCity under its belt – as well as Battlefield 3 – so what’s wrong with this picture? 

While some developers have blamed the used games industry, or online piracy, nobody seems to be able to offer a definitive answer – and if the management does not get their acts together, this could be a very slippery slope. Plus, while my experience as a top-level executive is (admittedly) limited, one has to question how a company with a massive stable of titles like EA could be in trouble... 

So, in the midst of this financial hurricane, you could be forgiven for missing that Sony Liverpool – the studio once known as Psygnosis, the makers of (most famously) WipeOut – has been shut down.

It would be easy to ignore this little bit of news, if it wasn’t Psygnosis – the company which coloured my (and many other 20-something’s) adolescent years with a raft of great titles. Remember G-Police, Colony Wars and WipeOut? How about Rollcage? Or Overboard – hell, they even did Lemmings. Lemmings! Everyone’s played Lemmings.

In fact, back in my formative years (the 90s) about 1/3 of the Playstation games I owned had Psygnosis’ little ‘owl’ symbol on the box, and they were a huge influence on the next decade’s games – so for such a stalwart development studio to fall by the wayside is a little galling.

T’was always the case, of course – the smaller studios attempt to eke out a little profit for themselves, only to find the massive corporate juggernaut of Sony, EA or Microshaft step in, offer the CEO an obscene amount of money to the management, and get taken over – then promptly get asset-stripped and abandoned when things get tough.
Monopolies don’t work – look at GAME’s nightmare earlier this year – and now the big developers and publishers could be playing the price for such perfidy. It’s just a shame that the likes of Psygnosis have to take the fall.