On January 12th, 2017 Sony announced the official closing of Guerrilla Cambridge (formerly SCEE Cambridge) from the U.K. much to the shock of Playstation fans the world over. Sony issued the typical statement as picked up by Eurogamer and relayed here for the sake of the argument to follow:
"Within [Sony Interactive Entertainment] Worldwide Studios, we have a regular process of review in order to consider projects coming to completion and the deployment of resources,…In such a competitive landscape
this enables us to continue to create and produce high-quality, innovative and commercially viable projects…As a result, it has been decided that Guerrilla Cambridge Studio will close."
Translated, what Sony is likely trying to say is that Guerrilla Cambridge's games performance has been lacking very likely in the sales department but possibly also in the quality department as well. I do want to begin by stating that the most iconic franchise produced by the now closed studio was and will now forever be Medievil.
The two adventures of Sir Daniel Fortesque that graced the original Playstation back in the 90s are nothing short of legendary among its cult fans. In fact, the original Medievil's demo was part of the reason why Sony purchased the studio which was named Millennium Interactive back in July of 1997. Medievil was a hack and slash adventure with a touch of good-natured humor. It was well-received back then and Sir Daniel became an icon of Playstation as attested by his inclusion in the PS3/PS Vita fighting game Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Based on metacritic, Medievil sold close to a million which was a great result for the gaming industry at the time. However, its sequel did not even cross the half a million mark and was likely the reason why Medievil 3 never released back on the PS2 even after it was rumored to have been in development before it was finally cancelled according to unseen64.net.
The rest of the history of Sony Cambridge between Medievil 2 and Killzone Mercenary is in all honesty very lack luster in terms of sales and critic performance. Games such as C-12 Final Resistance, Primal, Ghosthunter, and 24: The Game all failed to forge a strong identity for the Cambridge Studio. The greatest triumph eventually came with the PSP version of Little Big Planet as it moved about 2.55 million units according to vgchartz.
However, after Little Big Planet, the studio would continue to struggle to hit sales targets and win over critics. It may perhaps be seen as unfair that the U.K. based developer would be tasked to make a huge impact in both the very much afflicted AAA portable gaming scenario as well as the incoming VR arena. The first crucial assignment was to bring the biggest AAA game to the PS VITA since Uncharted: Golden Abyss. They were given the Killzone IP and the newly-renamed now Guerrilla Cambridge crafted Killzone Mercenary.
The new Killzone was received somewhat favorably by critics but was clearly inferior to its console predecessors, specially 2 and 3. It scored an average 78 in metacritic and in terms of sales it's still sitting under a million according to vgchartz. What was worse is that the game failed to revitalize the PS VITA and thus marked the end, along with Tearaway, for Sony's first party efforts on the handheld system. It is very plausible to believe that Guerrilla Cambridge might have closed then and there where it not for the advent of VR gaming. RIGS: Mechanized Combat League was to be the last game ever made by the studio. New IP RIGS was at the forefront of Sony's marketing of Playstation VR. To its credit, RIGS looked like a new e-sports gaming hit in the making and is likely still one of the most heavily-budgeted AAA VR game ever made. It may very well have been the most expensive as well.
RIGS performance had a touch of deja vu with a 78 metacritic average and what may have been some of the worst first party PS4 game sales to date with barely scratching 200,000 units according to vgchartz. Some might say that it's not bad for VR since it's a new platform and there's the enigma of the digital sales impact. However, the game was priced at $50 upon release and was likely not cheap to make. Everything about the game screamed that it was attempting to be the VR "system seller." Far from it, three months later the U.K. studio was to be no more with official cancellation even of the dlc that was in development at the time.
I think that the reason for the closure is pretty obvious. Sony is to be commended for risking and having purchased or funded more than a dozen studios since they landed on the gaming industry. Guerrilla Cambridge is not the first studio to go nor will likely be the last. As with any business, there are many factors not obvious to the objective bystander as to why a gaming studio closes down. Much like it happened to Evolution, Zipper Interactive, and SCEE Liverpool; Sony's first party studios go through a trial period that unfortunately doesn't seem to have an end in sight. I even believe that Naughty Dog could close if all of a sudden there next games bomb critically and sell very bad (though I doubt that could ever happen). Even the mighty Santa Monica studio went through a heart-breaking big round of lay offs. How is it that the God of War developer had to cancel their new IP? It's scary to ponder these things but at the end of the day, business is business. Having said that, I do fear that if PS VR sales become stagnant or if Media Molecule's Dreams continues to fade, we might yet see a few more studio closures. I believe that AAA games can no longer sell under one million. Its just no longer acceptable for the gaming industry and this puts quite a big amount of pressure on modern-day studios. Let us, however, hope for the best for Sony's first party. May they continue to create amazing gaming experiences for us gamers.
What do our readers think? Let us know below in the comments. This piece reflects the opinion of this author and I would love to see what other points of view there are regarding this topic. In the mean time, rest in peace oh valiant Sir Daniel Fortesque.