Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ill Winds

This is a blog not a news site but since I got started on the whole SOE/PSS1 thing I may as well carry on.

BBC Technology News (which is more than half-decent at picking up game-related stories) had a piece about the closure of Sony's game development studio in Liverpool, England.

I'd completely forgotten that Sony even had a games studio in the UK but on reading the piece it came somewhat vaguely back to me that there'd been a bit of a fuss a long, long time ago, when Psygnosis, an independent studio that was very well-known indeed in UK gaming circles, was gobbled up by the big, bad multinational.

So many wasted hours...
I never played many Psygnosis games back in my ZXSpectrum and Amiga days. All that Roger Dean artwork seemed more than a tad embarrassing in the 1980s although it looks quite sweet now. I did play Lemmings, of course. Everyone played Lemmings. It was the Angry Birds of its day.

Nostalgia or the lack of it notwithstanding, Sony's decision to close this venerable and successful arm of its world-wide empire seems to me to have some ominous implications. Sony's statement includes the following:

"...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."

I'm not saying anything
It would be nice, wouldn't it, to think that one of those "other studios" working on "exciting new projects" might be SOE. They are, after all, working on both Planetside2 and EQNext. Smed also occasionally drops hints about other projects even more secret than EQNext, which is rumored to be being developed for reasons of security in a secret base somewhere beneath an active volcano.

It would be nice, but as Scott Jennings likes to point out, there are reasons why we can't have nice things. Wilhelm at TAGN , replying to a comment of mine, makes the astute observation that Sony have a record of being mostly interested in selling hardware. They are, at heart, a consumer electronics firm, after all.

Sony don't make desktop PCs. They do still make laptops and a strange hybrid tv-pc that I wouldn't kick out of the living room but to what extent this marries with the MMO market I wouldn't care to guess.

Oh, maybe I would...

Currently residing in the "Where are they now?" file
MMOs are still, primarily, a desktop PC hobby. There have been a few console MMOs and there are a few more on the way but it could hardly be considered the heart of the market. Desktop PCs themselves are almost certainly living on borrowed time and consoles may predecease them. Before very long the combined onslaught of tablets, smart-phones and internet tv could (I would bet on "will") send both dedicated gaming PCs and consoles to the same "remember when" rose-tinted graveyard as VCRs and 8-Track Stereos.

It's possible SOE could be a big part of that transition should it occur, providing MMO-style content for new platforms. I could live with that. You have to wonder, though, whether MMOs are the type of content those new platforms will want to have provided for them.

On the thread relating to the PSS1 acquisitions on the Everquest forums someone suggested they "strongly suspect that the real situation is that SOE are in the process of being sold (by Sony) to PSS, and this is the due diligence period." I'm not sure I buy that conspiracy theory in whole cloth but I probably wouldn't faint if it turned out to be true.

If it's not PSS1 it may be someone like them. That's if Sony don't just decide to call quits on the whole thing, like they did in Liverpool today. Who knows, we might even end up being glad PSS1 took an interest after all.

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