Sony closes UK’s Evolution Studios

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Evolution Studios

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Driveclub had a difficult start with multiple delays and mixed reviews

Sony has announced the closure of the UK’s Evolution Studios.

The Cheshire-based video games development house dates back to 1999, and had most recently worked on the troubled PlayStation title Driveclub.

Sony has confirmed that there will be at least some compulsory redundancies as a consequence of its decision.

The announcement closely follows Microsoft’s announcement of plans to close another British developer, Lionhead Studios.

Sony said that its decision had followed a review of its European operations.

“We accept that this decision will mean that we risk losing high calibre staff, but by focusing on other studios that already have exciting new projects in development we believe we will be in a stronger position going forward and able to offer the best possible content of the highest quality for our consumers,” it said in a statement.

“Where possible we will try to reallocate people onto other projects. If appropriate opportunities are not possible within the company, we will assist staff in any way we can, including speaking with local employers and with other development companies.”

Racing games

Evolution had specialised in racing games for Sony games consoles. Its first title was World Rally Championship, released in 2001, which was followed by several sequels.

Then in 2006, it launched the off-road racer franchise Motor Storm.

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Evolution Studios

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Evolution’s first title was the officially licensed game of the World Rally Championship

However, its last title – Driveclub – had a troubled birth.

The game – which was designed to let six players form a club and race rival teams via the internet – was originally supposed to be a launch title for the PlayStation 4 in 2013, but was repeatedly delayed.

When it did finally become available in October 2014, its computer servers struggled to meet demand and plans to offer a free cut-down version to PlayStation Plus subscribers had to be delayed further.

Since then, however, it has been improved and the news site Eurogamer described it as “one of the best racing games available”. Last July, Evolution announced the game had surpassed more than two million sales.

Driveclub’s community manager has issued a statement saying the title will “continue to thrive” under the guidance of Sony’s other developers.

Its director also issued a statement of his own via Twitter.

“It truly has been an honour to work with such a talented, passionate and determined group of people,” wrote Paul Rustchynsky.

“I hope you will all join me today in celebrating Evolution by picking up a pad, throwing on your favourite Evo game, and giving us a victory lap.”

Sony’s announcement came three weeks after Microsoft announced it was cancelling the release of Fable Legends, an action role-playing game, and was in discussions to close the Guilford-based studio behind it.

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Lionhead Studios

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Fable Legends was cancelled after years of development

“I think it’s coincidental that there have been announcements about both Evolution and Lionhead so close together,” commented Rob Crossley, UK news editor of Gamespot.

“The games industry is in a growth period right now and there are lots of signs of positivity.

“But these are two studios that aren’t succeeding as much as they needed to.

“You hear that some of the ‘triple A’ [big budget] games now sometimes have to sell above five million units to get into the black.”

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