Evolution Studios, the U.K. developer responsible for Driveclub and the MotorStorm franchise, has been shut down by Sony, the company confirmed on Tuesday.
The first-party studio who made Driveclub on the PlayStation 4 and the MotorStorm series on the PlayStation 3 will be closed effectively immediately, Sony announced.
The closure is a result of Sony making changes to its European development structure after the company’s regular review of its Worldwide Studios teams.
Sony said it would try to relocate employees to other parts within its Worldwide Studios at Sony Computer Entertainment but acknowledged that it might lose many of the talent formerly employed at Evolution. It will also help those employees find positions at external teams.
“It is regrettable that this decision will lead to compulsory redundancies,” Sony said. “We accept that this decision will mean that we risk losing high calibre staff but by focusing on other Studios that already have exciting new projects in development we believe we will be in a stronger position going forward and able to offer the best possible content of the highest quality for our consumers.”
There were staff cuts at Evolution Studios in March 2015 with 55 people laid off, around half of the team’s total employees. At the time Sony announced that it would be restructuring the company to focus on Driveclub as a service while it prepared to release the PlayStation Plus version of the game.
“This decision should not take anything away from the great work that Evolution has produced,” Sony said on the closure.
Driveclub will now be supported by other teams within Sony, according to Jamie Brayshaw, the senior community manager for Evolution. Sony will continue to own the Driveclub and MotorStorm IPs. “Community has always been at the heart of everything we’ve worked hard for at Evo,” Brayshaw said in a statement. “Your endless enthusiasm, support, honesty and energy was always our biggest motivator.”
Paul Rustchynsky, Driveclub’s director who has been with Evolution since 2004, thanked the fans for their years of support and Sony for helping the studio become one of the top racing developers. “I hope you will all join me in celebrating Evolution by picking up a pad, throwing on your favourite Evo game, and giving us a victory lap,” he said.
Driveclub is a more realistic racing game exclusive to the PS4, different from the more arcade-style found in the MotorStorm franchise. Evolution Studios first announced the game in February 2013 at Sony’s PlayStation Meeting event where the PS4 was first revealed. One of the game’s main features is that players can form social clubs and gain experience together, unlocking new cars, customization options and challenging other teams in online races. The game is intended to be a socially connected experience with an emphasis on community features and online multiplayer.
Originally set to be a launch game for the console in November 2013, Driveclub was delayed nearly a year until October 2014. At launch there were several online network problems with the game, with players not being able to connect to its servers, race online or use Driveclub’s community and social features, which were a key feature of the title. Parts of the racer were actually unplayable and inaccessible because of the server problems. These issues persisted for several weeks as Evolution struggled to bring the game up to standard.
A PlayStation Plus version of Driveclub was also heavily delayed past the PS4’s launch, which was originally promoted by Sony as being one of the key free games for Plus subscribers on the new console. It finally released in June 2015 once the retail version became stabilized. The Plus version has less features than the full retail game, with a smaller number of cars and courses available to play.
Despite its poor launch, Evolution Studios had continued to heavily support the game with improvements and updates that added new content to the core game. Driveclub has a Season Pass for downloadable content that added new courses, cars, customization options and race events every month since the game’s release. Evolution put out another update for the game as recently as a few weeks ago, with new vehicles and events also being added the same day as the studio’s closure.
A stand-alone expansion called Driveclub Bikes released in October 2015, which featured new superbike vehicles, racing modes and events. There were also plans to bring Driveclub to PlayStation VR, Sony’s virtual reality platform launching this October. Evolution Studios was already developing a VR version that had been demoed at various events, most recently at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week.
Since its launch Driveclub built a core following, with many fans praising the game as being one of the better racers on the market. The game sold more than 2 million copies across retail and digital as of July 2015 and is especially popular in Europe. Driveclub was also bundled with the PS4 console at the game’s launch.
Evolution Studios was founded in 1999 and became a first-party Sony developer in September 2007. The company also developed five games in the World Rally Championship series for the PlayStation 2, starting in 2001 and going through 2005. The team moved on to the PS3-exclusive MotorStorm series, which first launched for North America in March 2007. There were three core MotorsSorm games developed by Evolution on the PS3 and one spin-off that also released for the PlayStation Vita in 2012. The last mainline game, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, released in March 2011.
Sony isn’t the only one closing its first-party studios lately. Microsoft also announced the closure of two of its teams in Europe earlier this month like Lionhead Studios, the developer behind the Fable franchise and Press Play, who developed Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.
Sony still has the Gran Turismo franchise and its maker Polyphony Digital as an internal developer for core racing games. The next release is the upcoming Gran Turismo Sport for the PS4 that will also have a focus on social interactions and online races.