Four games in six years; three on the PSP and a fourth due next month on PlayStation Vita (or now, of course, if you imported a machine from Japan). For a company like Bigbig, focused entirely on portable PlayStation products and with a great track record – and a game just around the corner – news of their closure must have been gutting.
For me, on a personal level, it all just seems a little premature.
Not that news of yet another UK studio being shuttered is anything remarkable these days, the tax issue continues to loom and the purse-strings are tighter than ever before, but we’re used to developers being laid off and offices cleared a little while after a game has hit the shelves, at least in the studio’s native market.
It does, as it happens. I bought the game from the Japanese PlayStation Store (without giving it a second thought: the game was only ¥2,000) and although you can’t help shake the feeling that the above description is almost entirely fitting (it screams mini-game compilation right from the off) it’s a solid enough game with great presentation, even if there’s an overwhelming sensation that the reins were never allowed off.
At the time of writing, the Bigbig website is still up and running, but it’s eerily tragic and sad; the last post on the site a duo of Happy Christmas wallpapers, their Twitter feed a suddenly halted stream of enthusiasm. One can only assume there wasn’t much in the way of notice of the closure, stories of their offices being renovated back in November and a tenth anniversary celebratory day out amongst recent blogs.
Bigbig were formed by four guys back in 2001, based in England and under the umbrella of Evolution Studios. Their first game, the PSP’s Pursuit Force, was an early hit for the console and a follow-up pushed the title further. The studio’s take on MotorStorm, though, in Arctic Edge, was a particular highlight, and is still thought of fondly as one of the best mobile racers for years. Clearly a talented bunch of individuals, then.
One of the cute Little Deviants from Bigbig's final game.
It’s safe to say that that particular aspect of the game became rather iconic, a statement that said ‘Vita is different’ at a time when Sony was so keen to show what the console could do – at least it felt that way to me.
So it seems a little odd that the game you’ll be getting free (if you pre-order a PS Vita in the US) will be the last these guys produce as Bigbig.
Sony said, when the closures were announced, that Bigbig was “an important part of SCE Worldwide Studios” since it was incorporated into the group in 2007, but added that “by focusing on other Studios that are currently working on exciting new projects, we would be in a stronger position to offer the best possible content for our consumers.”
We don’t doubt that they’ll find new employment elsewhere (and we wish them all the luck in the world in that respect) but as name, a brand, this is a rather sudden end. A shame indeed, when Sony should be pushing all the resources they can at Vita – for which some – including this author for one – think Bigbig were a perfect fit.