Sony, What Happened To Wipeout?

Will we ever see more of Sony’s futuristic racing franchise?

Posted By | On 15th, Aug. 2019 Under Article, Feature

New (and relatively newer) franchises have changed the face of Sony’s first party portfolio over the last decade and the half, with the likes of God of War, Horizon, Uncharted, and The Last of Us dominating headlines, but there are a few properties that have remained synonymous with PlayStation for as long as it has existed. One of those is Wipeout, the futuristic F-Zero inspired racer developed by SCE Studio Liverpool (formerly Psygnosis).

Here’s a franchise that has maintained a remarkable level of quality and consistency throughout its lifespan, and though it’s by no means a system seller, or one of the top billing games on any PlayStation platform, its still a series that millions of people hold very close to their hearts. In recent years though, Wipeout has slowly but surely all but faded away, to the point where it now seems like little more than a hazy memory. Sure, we got a remastered release not too long ago – and an excellent one at that – but how long has it been since we got a true sequel? Too long, I say.

And why exactly is that? It’s hard to think of a bad Wipeout game. Most of them have been legitimately good, while many have been downright excellent. Even Wipeout Fusion, which often divides opinion among series fans, is at the very least a solid racer, while Wipeout 2048, though somewhat unremarkable, is never not fun. So why is it that even in the face of such remarkable consistency, this series finds itself on ice? What the hell happened to Wipeout? 

Though this is a series that is closely associated with PlayStation and Sony, funnily enough, it didn’t start out that way. Before their restructuring in 2000, SCE Studio Liverpool were known as Psygnosis, the creators of Wipeout, and though they were acquired by Sony in 1993 – two years before the first Wipeout game came out – they actually retained a surprising amount of independence that would be unimaginable in today’s day and age- to the extent that many of their games were even multiplatform titles.

The very first Wipeout came out on the PS1, of course, but it also came out on PC and – just a few months after its PS1 launch – on the Sega Saturn. Its sequel, Wipeout 2097, released for the PS1 in September 1996, followed by a PC release in July 1997, and, once again, a Sega Saturn launch in September of that year. Hell, before moving on to Wipeout 3, they even made a Wipeout game for the N64, with Wipeout 64, which was published by Midway Games. Imagine that- a Sony-owned studio making an N64 exclusive title.

It was only with the fourth game in the series, which was Wipeout 3, that the franchise went all-in as a PlayStation exclusive property. That, incidentally, was also the last Wipeout game the development team made under its original name, with 2002’s Wipeout Fusion on the PS2 – and every subsequent Wipeout title afterwards, being developed under the SCE Studio Liverpool moniker.

That is, until 2012. 2012 saw the release of Wipeout 2048, a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, and though the game by no means set the world on fire – its excessively long loading times attracted a lot of criticism, in fact – it was still a technically impressive and deeply enjoyable game with some excellent track design. It was, sadly, also the last game to be made by SCE Studio Liverpool, with Sony shutting it down in 2012.

It’s been seven years since Wipeout 2048 came out and SCE Studio Liverpool was shuttered, and we’ve received no new Wipeout sequel. We did see the launch of Omega Collection on PS4, a remastered collection of PS3’s Wipeout HD, its Fury expansion, and 2048. Releasing in 2017, Omega Collection was very well received upon launch, and though it’s definitely worth experience for all PS4 owners – especially if you own a PSVR headset, for which it is probably one of the top 3 games to date – it still doesn’t scratch that itch for a new game in the series.

With SCE Liverpool no longer being in the picture, the future of Wipeout remains a little hazy. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Sony has given up on the franchise- the 2017 remaster would suggest that they still see some value in this property. But with half a decade having passed since the last new entry in the series, and more than a decade since the last console entry, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds for the franchise.

Before the studio was shuttered, they had been working on two launch titles for the PS4. One was going to be a Splinter Cell-style stealth game, while the other was a new Wipeout entry. It was billed as being “drastically different” from previous games in the series, and when the studio was shuttered, it was already pretty far along in production, having been in development for about 12-18 months. What does that say about Sony’s confidence in the series? Well, it doesn’t necessarily say anything about Wipeout specifically- internal restructuring and shuttering of studios isn’t something that is all that uncommon in this industry, sadly. But it does tell us that Sony doesn’t have too much of an issue cancelling a game that has been in development for over a year, and shutting down the studio that was in charge of not just that game, but the entire series from its very inception.

It should be noted, that, that back in 2015, Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida made comments that were quite positive about Wipeout. When asked about the future of the franchise in the wake of SCE Liverpool having been closed down, Yoshida said that there was always a chance the series could make a return. “Never say never,” he said. “There are many IPs that we kind of stopped iterating with new games. One of the reasons is we always love to work on new IP. From my standpoint I try to balance the number of games in a franchise. In the future there might be a chance to come back to a game like Wipeout.”

All of which is to say that as things stand right now, we’re probably not going to see another Wipeout title for a while. “There might be a chance to come back to Wipeout” is by no means a definitive statement- it leaves the door open for Sony in case they ever want to come back to the property, but it also tells us that for now, they have no plans to do anything with it.

And really, one simple look at their first party philosophies and lineup in recent years should be enough to tell us that anyway. Sony’s leaned very heavily into cinematic single player experiences, and it’s worked out very well for them. Their games receive widespread praise and sell millions following that direction, and it stands to reason that that’s what they’re going to continue doing. That’s where all their resources are being diverted- and it’s not like they even have a dedicated studio to work on the series anymore.

Sony has, to be fair, stated in recent months that it would like to focus a bit more on online gaming with the PS5, and that is something that Wipeout would definitely qualify for. But even if they were to make good on those words, wouldn’t it make sense for them to go to other, more financially successful properties first- such as Killzone, for instance? Sadly, it seems like Wipeout is going to remain in the shadows for now- which is a real shame, because when this series was at its best, it delivered some of the best racing games any of us ever saw.

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