Sony is closing its Manchester, UK-based studio, the very same that was opened in 2015 to produce ‘AAA’ PSVR exclusives.
While no games came from Manchester Studio throughout its five-year existence, it’s clear the team was working on VR up until very recently.
Sony had posted job vacancies for their Manchester Studio up until its closure, with one such listing announced last month for UI Artist. Candidates were told to look forward to an “exciting and rare opportunity to join an ambitious new studio to create original games exclusively for PlayStation’s VR platform.”
GamesIndustry.biz confirmed the news with Sony, reporting that the move was “part of [Sony’s] efforts to improve efficiency and operational effectiveness.”
Initially founded as ‘North West Studio’ and later changed to Manchester Studio, the team was described in job postings as a “small, highly experienced team, passionate about creating the best AAA VR experiences.”
At the same time, Sony recently promoted the creative director behind PSVR exclusive Astro Bot Rescue Mission (2018), Nicolas Doucet, to lead SIE JAPAN Studio.
Healthy speculation: it’s possible Sony is concentrating its VR-producing studios in effort to amass fresh exclusive content for the second iteration of PSVR, which is reportedly arriving sometime after PlayStation 5 launches this year. It may be that Manchester Studio simply hadn’t performed quickly enough to keep up, as VR game development has changed substantially since the studio was founded five years ago.
As we know from Highwire Games’ PSVR exclusive Golem (2019), which was delayed for nearly five years, ‘Development Hell’ can overtake even the most experienced and ambitious teams. Golem suffers from some of the same game design elements that would have been considered acceptably experimental in the early days of VR, but became less desirable as the industry at large established best practices for VR game design. Although entirely unsubstantiated by Sony or otherwise, it’s possible Manchester Studio found themselves in the same boat, and was summarily closed for similar reasons.