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Drama Game Dev VR Sony spent five years building a new PlayStation VR studio, then abruptly shut it down

IbizaPocholo

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On February 5, 2020, PlayStation head of Worldwide Studios Hermen Hulst visited Sony Manchester to tell employees the studio was closing. The news came as a shock to some inside the studio — a group made up of expats and locals, a few with decades of experience working at Sony. The studio had been advertising new positions at the time, and suddenly team members were looking for jobs, as Sony abandoned the project they had been working on for the last five years.

Mixed in with messages of solidarity and support from those within the industry were inevitable questions. People wanted to know what the studio had been working on, and what had led to its abrupt closure. Sony formed the Manchester studio to create games for PlayStation VR, but the team had never announced a project and kept its cards close to its chest during the five years it was open. The leadership at the studio, for instance, wouldn’t tell new hires anything about the project or its hierarchy until they joined — a huge leap of faith for those traveling from overseas.

At the time, a PlayStation representative told GamesIndustry.biz that the closure was “part of our efforts to improve efficiency and operational effectiveness.” But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership.

THE BIRTH OF A STUDIO

Sony Manchester opened in 2015, with the studio’s origins lying in Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe’s Creative Development Group — a small division of Sony responsible for user testing as well as research and development for future titles.

Sam Coates, the studio director at Sony Manchester, had previously been the senior manager of Sony’s Creative Development Group. He helped lay the foundation for the new Manchester studio throughout 2015, bringing onboard approximately 15 developers, many of whom had worked for other big developers. The ultimate goal was to establish a new AAA VR studio within the region. Above Coates were Eric Matthews, then vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios (and a former Bitmap Brothers co-founder), and Sony research director, Mark Green — both of whom were based in London.

Check the link for more.
 

Wizz-Art

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Dabaus

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Sup with all the sony hit pieces this week? Weve gotten one almost everyday this week no? Weird how no one writes bad articles about xbox. And the IGN guy saying its bad when sony is the market leader despite every third party having record profits at the moment...Come one man
 

Topher

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" But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership."

Lack of pressure from Sony leadership? What does that mean? Sony was not hounding them to get to work?
 
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Dabaus

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" But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership."

Lack of pressure from Sony leadership? What does that mean? Sony was not hounding them to get to work?
It means sony let them do what they for 5 years with no pressure or deadlines.
 
Feb 23, 2018
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" But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership."

Lack of pressure from Sony leadership? What does that mean? Sony was not hounding them to get to work?
Yeah pretty much. This again syncs up with what many other devs have said - Sony lets them do whatever they want, but if it doesn't result in something good it's over.
 

mckmas8808

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Sup with all the sony hit pieces this week? Weve gotten one almost everyday this week no? Weird how no one writes bad articles about xbox. And the IGN guy saying its bad when sony is the market leader despite every third party having record profits at the moment...Come one man

It weird man. It must be getting great numbers.
 
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GHG

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" But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership."

Lack of pressure from Sony leadership? What does that mean? Sony was not hounding them to get to work?

They say lack of pressure like it's a bad thing.

But I would say that if that's what ex employees are saying then it's a failing on Sony's part from a recruitment perspective - you need to understand your work environment and the types of people that are equipped to thrive in it. It's all good and well employing technically sound people but if those people need pressure to perform at their best and that's not how you run your ship then you're going to run into some severe productivity issues.
 

Bryank75

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If they didn't make anything in that time, I can't complain too much but I am really not happy that they have not replaced all these studios with productive ones..

It's time to buy some excellent studios with strong established IP's to supplement the exclusive offerings.
 

Isa

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There's a shock. Sony's like the new EA. Hell I can count more studios taken out back, blasted and buried in their walled garden than I can the studios they've added into the fold. And I don't just mean studio buyouts. Not every studio can be molded into greatness, but then again when the buck stops with upper management who else can they blame? Oh yeah sure its just the employees fault, not poor guidance or work culture brought about by the leadership.

I'd hope for more "cultivation" and "organic growth" from companies that are supposedly raking it in, but man these past few years from Sony have been pushing me away hard. Not that I wanted VR games, but I'd hope that for those that enjoy the platform(PSVR in this case) they'd get to see some real effort and quality releases in the future from in house. Just imagine all the money burnt that could've been another traditional game, perhaps something other than a 3rd person action adventure that could pad out the rest of the year instead of rereleases I have no intention of buying.

Also is 5 years really enough time when Sony's own studios have a history of taking over 5 years to so this past gen. And that's on easier to develop hardware. The team at Manchester were working with something still in its infancy, told to make a top tier project. I can't help but think of the transition from arcade games in the early 80's to home consoles and computers, where games started to become longer and the whole fundamental shift that occurred in game design let alone production. Shits complicated, and instead of letting the team have time and perhaps cracking the whip or offering guidance they just called in the hit. Noice leadership.
 
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Unknown?

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There's a shock. Sony's like the new EA. Hell I can count more studios taken out back, blasted and buried in their walled garden than I can the studios they've added into the fold. And I don't just mean studio buyouts. Not every studio can be molded into greatness, but then again when the buck stops with upper management who else can they blame? Oh yeah sure its just the employees fault, not poor guidance or work culture brought about by the leadership.

I'd hope for more "cultivation" and "organic growth" from companies that are supposedly raking it in, but man these past few years from Sony have been pushing me away hard. Not that I wanted VR games, but I'd hope that for those that enjoy the platform(PSVR in this case) they'd get to see some real effort and quality releases in the future from in house. Just imagine all the money burnt that could've been another traditional game, perhaps something other than a 3rd person action adventure that could pad out the rest of the year instead of rereleases I have no intention of buying.

Also is 5 years really enough time when Sony's own studios have a history of taking over 5 years to so this past gen. And that's on easier to develop hardware. The team at Manchester were working with something still in its infancy, told to make a top tier project. I can't help but think of the transition from arcade games in the early 80's to home consoles and computers, where games started to become longer and the whole fundamental shift that occurred in game design let alone production. Shits complicated, and instead of letting the team have time and perhaps cracking the whip or offering guidance they just called in the hit. Noice leadership.
You didn't read the article, did you?
 

Three

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5 years with nothing to show isn't exactly abrupt unless they actually didn't tell them they weren't performing well.

Closed in Feb 2020. Article today more than a year later. What's this for there are no new interview quotes. It's just weird.

Edit: Under NDA and anonymous. Makes sense then.
 
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StateofMajora

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Aug 7, 2020
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Sad for the people there who actually tried and maybe had their hands tied but I can see why Sony decided to shut it down.

But in fairness PSVR was always a half assed effort on Sony’s part and it’s a bad gimmick to start so I’m not surprised.
 
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Jigsaah

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Sup with all the sony hit pieces this week? Weve gotten one almost everyday this week no? Weird how no one writes bad articles about xbox. And the IGN guy saying its bad when sony is the market leader despite every third party having record profits at the moment...Come one man
Xbox Fans: Welcome to it.
 
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Tripolygon

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It’s an interesting article. I don’t think it’s a hit piece like some want to think. The industry likes secrecy and keeping things hush hush which makes these kind of stories feel more grandiose than it is. They had 5 years to create a game and had nothing to show so the studio was closed.
 
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Barakov

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On February 5, 2020, PlayStation head of Worldwide Studios Hermen Hulst visited Sony Manchester to tell employees the studio was closing. The news came as a shock to some inside the studio — a group made up of expats and locals, a few with decades of experience working at Sony. The studio had been advertising new positions at the time, and suddenly team members were looking for jobs, as Sony abandoned the project they had been working on for the last five years.

Mixed in with messages of solidarity and support from those within the industry were inevitable questions. People wanted to know what the studio had been working on, and what had led to its abrupt closure. Sony formed the Manchester studio to create games for PlayStation VR, but the team had never announced a project and kept its cards close to its chest during the five years it was open. The leadership at the studio, for instance, wouldn’t tell new hires anything about the project or its hierarchy until they joined — a huge leap of faith for those traveling from overseas.

At the time, a PlayStation representative told GamesIndustry.biz that the closure was “part of our efforts to improve efficiency and operational effectiveness.” But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership.

THE BIRTH OF A STUDIO

Sony Manchester opened in 2015, with the studio’s origins lying in Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe’s Creative Development Group — a small division of Sony responsible for user testing as well as research and development for future titles.

Sam Coates, the studio director at Sony Manchester, had previously been the senior manager of Sony’s Creative Development Group. He helped lay the foundation for the new Manchester studio throughout 2015, bringing onboard approximately 15 developers, many of whom had worked for other big developers. The ultimate goal was to establish a new AAA VR studio within the region. Above Coates were Eric Matthews, then vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios (and a former Bitmap Brothers co-founder), and Sony research director, Mark Green — both of whom were based in London.

Check the link for more.
Lmao Laughter GIF
 

Iced Arcade

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Sup with all the sony hit pieces this week? Weve gotten one almost everyday this week no? Weird how no one writes bad articles about xbox. And the IGN guy saying its bad when sony is the market leader despite every third party having record profits at the moment...Come one man
Hit pieces? Did the studio not shut down?
 

MagnesG

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They went on the uncharted territory (VR) with not much guidance so of course they absolutely failed. No pressure, no big console seller aka no risk on big brandings, not much support at the end. You just can't trust Sony to nurture the medium, just wait for Nintendo next time.
 
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A.Romero

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I understand a lot of people here don't have idea how businesses are run but the article is pretty clear. It's stupid that devs blame Sony because they didn't get enough pressure. I mean, it's alright if that's the way you want to work but even Ueda found himself on the street even after 2 critical successes.

I know it's an Internet forum and hot takes are the daily currency but come on, it's just common sense. At least read OP's excerpt.

Also, I'd want to work for you if you are OK with hiring me and me not doing shit for 5 years.
 
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Dabaus

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Hit pieces? Did the studio not shut down?
"Why the PS5 Sucks'
"Concern in Japan about ps5 sales" (Its sold 200k more than the ps4 did at this point launches aligned
"Its bad that the ps5 is the market leader"- IGN guy
"Sony closed down a studio after 5 years with nothing to show for."

All of this in less than a week. Clearly theres an agenda here.
 

Marty-McFly

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"Why the PS5 Sucks'
"Concern in Japan about ps5 sales" (Its sold 200k more than the ps4 did at this point launches aligned
"Its bad that the ps5 is the market leader"- IGN guy

"Sony closed down a studio after 5 years with nothing to show for."

All of this in less than a week. Clearly theres an agenda here.
This is a little disingenuous. The Japan article was about Playstation's anaemic software sales in Japan not even charting in the top 30 for the first time since the days of the Famicom.

The IGN guy comments were on his Youtube channel not posted on an official site.

I can't speak for the rest, but Studio's closing and the Japan article were definitely newsworthy.
 
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itsjustJEFF

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" But five individuals close to the studio and the project told us more about its development, speaking anonymously as they had signed NDAs regarding their work. They say that, despite being in development for roughly five years, the game they were making lingered in pre-production for much of that time, in part due to endless iteration and a lack of pressure from Sony leadership."

Lack of pressure from Sony leadership? What does that mean? Sony was not hounding them to get to work?
Sounds like Sony and the studio never committed to proper milestones and deadlines. As someone in the creative field, I'll have to admit that you need to give us a deadlines. You need to give us a schedule to follow. We need milestones that we need to aim for cause baby Jesus knows we can spend forever on iterations and trying to make everything "perfect"... don't leave us alone :messenger_grinning_sweat:
 
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Marty-McFly

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Closing down unprofitable departments is not good business? Lol I guess all the big gaming companies or regular ones are not engaging in good business.
It's the publisher's job to make sure their studios deliver and their investments pay off. It's on the employer to make sure their investments payoff not the employees (through competency in proper project assembly, guidance, and support).
 
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