PlayStation VR studio Sony Manchester shut down for good last year. Now, a number of employees have come forward to explain why they think it failed.
More than a year ago, the company behind the PlayStation consoles announced that it was closing down Sony Manchester for good. Whether coincidentally or not, this also happened to be right around when the pandemic was picking up and lockdowns were just over the horizon.
Regardless of the reason at the time, this in-house virtual reality game developer was closed down by Sony. A number of employees have since come forward to shed a little more light on the story.
Former Sony Manchester Employees Detail Problems
Based on what former employees have said, the problems with Sony Manchester appeared to be with its executives. There were tons of talented developers who were excited to produce new PlayStation VR games, but they often found themselves frustrated and bottlenecked by micromanagement and poor decision making.
"On paper, it sounds amazing," one of the former employees told Polygon. "You had the backing of Sony. You were going to create a new IP, and we haven’t entered production yet so you are there from the start. But after six months to a year, people would realize this isn’t going anywhere and would then face a decision of what to do next."
One in-development project was a title that was essentially a 3D, virtual reality version of the Desert Strike games. It sounds like an awesome idea and I can think of about a dozen smaller VR developers that could make this game in much less than five years with adequate funding. Sony Manchester, unfortunately, couldn't quite pull it off.
"We had a producer but she couldn’t really do her job as they didn’t like any detailed plans," a former employee explained to Polygon. "I’m sure that this infinite tweaking and iteration worked fine for the Bitmap Brothers games in the 80's, but it was a bit out of place here. New enemy types would take months — and we’re talking blocky tanks. It was all just a pre-production concept. It was just a graybox for years."
Ultimately, Sony Manchester failed to produce a single commercial release in the five years it existed as a studio. Bear in mind, though, that this isn't the death throes of VR or even VR at PlayStation — the PSVR 2 headset is still very much on the way as far as we know. Sony can also rely on Dreams developer Media Molecule to continue to produce content for the platform, too.
It sounds like Sony Manchester had quite a few problems. It's always sad to see a project fail, but this isn't 2012 — VR is very much a developed industry and there are plenty of developers who are willing to pick up the pieces.
What do you think of what happened to Sony's dedicated PlayStation VR game development studio? What's your favorite PSVR game? Let us know in the comments below!