Studio Liverpool Wiped Out

It was not a particularly pleasant year for some of Sony’s major first-party studios. Little Deviants developer BigBig Studios was shuttered over a month before its game hit Western store shelves, putting an end to our pleas for a new Pursuit Force. Meanwhile, after strong rumours towards the latter half of March, the platform holder also confirmed that it had closed Zipper Interactive. The studio's last title was Unit 13, a solid third-person shooter designed with the portable aspects of the PlayStation Vita in mind.

While both casualties were sad, it was the closure of Studio Liverpool in August that hit the hardest. Like both BigBig Studios and Zipper Interactive, the UK developer’s last title had been for the PlayStation Vita – but it later emerged that the legendary team was hard at work on the PlayStation 4 when the closures were announced. Apparently, the company had been putting together a “dramatically different” version of WipEout that had been in development for “12 to 18 months”. In addition, the outfit was also supposedly prototyping a Splinter Cell-esque adventure that used motion capture technology similar to L.A. Noire.

Despite Studio Liverpool’s projects purportedly being cancelled, hope re-emerged later in the year when, after a prolonged silence, community manager Ami Nakajima started posting from the WipEout Facebook page in September. It’s still not clear what Sony plans to do with the famous IP, but the reappointment of the series’ leading lady suggests that its next-generation revival may be back on the starting blocks.

It Only Does Lawsuits: Kevin Butler Sued

After being the face of PlayStation for several years, news that Sony was suing Kevin Butler actor Jerry Lambert came as a big surprise. The brouhaha started in late September when the performer appeared in a Bridgestone commercial playing on a Nintendo Wii. Despite the advertisement being edited – presumably at the behest of the platform holder’s legal team – online super sleuths later uncovered legal documents pertaining to a dispute between SCEA and Wildcat Creek, the company managed by Lambert.

Apparently, Sony was unhappy with Lambert’s portrayal in the Bridgestone commercial as it felt that it created confusion in the marketplace. “Use of the Kevin Butler character to sell products other than those from PlayStation misappropriates Sony’s intellectual property, creates confusion in the market, and causes damage to Sony,” corporate communications manager Dan Race explained in a statement shortly after the court documents leaked.

Bridgestone later revealed that the advertisement aired three days after Lambert’s contract with Sony lapsed, however the platform holder argued that the actor was bound by an “exclusivity clause” which prevented him from providing his services to competing video game manufacturers. The resolution of the court case has not yet been revealed, but the last time Kevin Butler promoted a PlayStation product was as part of LittleBigPlanet Karting’s pre-order bonuses.

Nihilistic Software Declassifies Difficult Release Schedule

Despite being the biggest title in the PlayStation Vita’s line-up, Sony failed to furnish Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified with a trailer at E3. In fact, we were forced to wait until August – three months prior to the game’s supposed ship date – before we actually got to learn any hard information about the portable spin-off.

It was at GamesCom that the platform holder properly revealed the shooter, announcing that Resistance: Burning Skies developer Nihilistic Software was at the helm. The studio promised to deliver a bitesized take on the franchise’s ultra popular formula – but it later emerged that the game was slender in more ways than one.

Reports of a 60-minute single-player campaign reinforced rumours that suggested Nihilistic Software had been given just five months to create the game. Apparently, handheld specialist Vicarious Visions was working on a straight port of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 at one point, but the “flawed” project was canned and passed off to the Californian studio, purely because it already had experience working on a first-person shooter for PlayStation Vita.

Perhaps anticipating poor review scores, and sensing the growing distaste surrounding its name, Nihilistic Software announced that it was exiting the console business and rebranding as nStigate Games in mid-October. The company made the right decision: Black Ops Declassified earned a 4/10 from Push Square, and currently commands a Metacritic rating of 33 per cent.

In the next part of this feature we’ll be taking a look at the comeback of Polygon Man, PlayStation 4 rumours, and many more hot stories from 2012. Until then, let us know about your favourite news from the past twelve months in the comments section below.