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How the Unfortunate End of Evolution and Lionhead Studios Came About
After having delivered a respectable title in the form of Driveclub, it was announced just a couple of days ago by Sony that Evolution Studios would be shutdown.
It’s indeed sad news, as no one really wants to see layoffs, and gamers more certainly don’t want to see more and more studios being shut down, because it means less games.
The tale of Evolution Studios and Lionhead Studios
Sony promises that it’s resource pool previously being used on Evolution will now be focused on other developers, and that efforts were being made to give jobs to those who would suffer from the lay-offs (part of the UK laws during mass layoffs).
Evolution brought us Driveclub, and it was indeed a refreshing, modern approach to racing simulators, but everything related to it wasn’t a bed of roses – far from it.
The immense saturation in the racing genre as well as the presence of big boys like Forza, Need for Speed, and Gran Turismo make it incredibly difficult to successfully introduce new franchises in the first place. It’s hard enough to convince players to try out a new racing game that is on schedule, but it becomes a near-insurmountable task to do so when you struggle with constant delays.
That’s not to say Driveclub did badly or didn’t live up to its promises – far from it. While perhaps not a trend-setter in the racing genre, it has succeeded in selling over 2 million copies since its release back in October 2014.
However, Evolution Studios’ admitted dedication towards racing and sports-associated games made them a highly focused development organization, and sadly one with limited applications.
It’s almost as if the studio knew it was going to be closed down. The recent DLC, which is also the last thing Evolution Studios will ever make, is apparently filled with eerie innuendos that suggest that much.
The title itself reads ‘Finish Line,’ and if that wasn’t enough, it also has a pair of events named ‘Clocking Off’ and ‘The Long Goodbye.’
Although Evolution Studios developer Paul Rustchynsky suggested in a tweet that the event names weren’t one of their ‘hilarious puns,’ there’s little reason not to believe the firm wasn’t informed of its future… or the lack of.
Another studio that is suffering from a similar fate is Lionhead, owned by Microsoft. Lionhead had a reputable history that spanned wider genres than Evolution before its acquisition by Microsoft in 2006.
They were the folks who brought us the famed Fable series, as well as the much-loved Black and White title that gave everyone a chance to play god (literally). Unfortunately, Lionhead Studios is also in the process of getting the axe, as was revealed by Microsoft a couple of weeks ago.
Lionhead was for the larger part in the past few years responsible for the development of Fable Legends, a spin-off of the original series and one that was proudly boasting its impressive technicalities, such as the usage of the sleek Unreal Engine 4 and pretty awesome gameplay mechanics.
Unfortunately, after plenty of delays and a somewhat stalled progression, Fable Legends was also put under the axe alongside Lionhead Studios.
Lionhead Studios, like Evolution, is under the process of shutting down, which gives its employees an opportunity (again, under UK laws) to acquire new jobs. Sony and Epic Games have already shown their interest in the developers of Lionhead Studios, and there’s obviously reason for that.
Fable Legends was looking like one heck of a game. Granted, it was also a title that was entering a highly saturated genre (massive multiplayer online), but it was predominantly riding the hype of previous Fable titles, as well as the impressive visuals and convincing gameplay mechanics that had been shown off several times.
It’s perhaps because of this reason the closing of Lionhead Studios seems like a bigger blow than that of Evolution. Evolution Studios was developing racing sims for the longest of times, while Lionhead was dwelling in the captivating fantasy RPGs of its past. The difference is obvious.
The question though is, how do these shutdowns overall affect production in Europe by Sony and Microsoft? A bitter but perhaps truthful answer is ‘maybe not that much.’