On March 30, 2012, Sony Computer Entertainment closed the doors on long-time shooter developer Zipper Interactive, less than a month after releasing the developer’s latest game, Unit 13, on the Vita. Sony states:
“The closure is a result of a normal cycle of resource re-alignment within Sony Computer Entertainment World Wide Studios. Zipper has completed all work associated with its most recent project, Unit 13 for PlayStation Vita. Zipper titles MAG, SOCOM 4 and Unit 13 will continue to be supported, including the new Daily Challenges in Unit 13.”
While best known for their SOCOM franchise, which offered unprecedented multiplayer on the Playstation 2, Zipper started developing games on the Windows platform, including work on Mechwarrior 3 in 1999. Following Crimson Skies for PC in 2000, Zipper teamed up with Sony to develop the first SOCOM: US Navy SEALs game. After establishing SOCOM as the mutliplayer shooter on the PS2, Zipper continued with SOCOM: US Navy SEALs II and SOCOM: US Navy SEALs III.
When the Playstation Portable launched, efforts were focused on bringing the SOCOM series to the new handheld. SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo came of this project and was well-received. More SOCOM titles followed for both the PS2 and PSP until work began on the ambitious MAG title for Playstation 3.
Having the ability to put 256 players into the same game showed marvelous networking capabilities, but SOCOM fans felt abandoned after SOCOM development duties were shifted to Slant Six Games (and their subsequent release of SOCOM: Confrontation). After MAG was released, rumors began going around about Zipper returning to SOCOM. SOCOM 4, again developed by Zipper, was released in April 2011.
SOCOM 4 had design choices that aimed to be more “beginner friendly” (let’s be honest; SOCOM has always had a steep learning curve, but once you get it, it generally becomes nothing short of stellar) and lacked a key component to SOCOM games; Demolition mode (added the following October as DLC). SOCOM 4 received mixed reviews.
As they had done with the PSP, Zipper set out to bring their vision of shooter action to the Playstation Vita. Unit 13 could be considered a SOCOM “portable experience”, as it plays much like a SOCOM title but with no relative story. While the game offers co-op, there is no form of competitive multiplayer outside of leaderboard battles.
With Zipper Interactive closed, a few questions come to mind. Will the SOCOM series continue without them? SOCOM Confrontation (Slant Six-developed) is still played to this day, so another studio could take the reigns. And will some of the core team stick together, whether they form a new studio or take their talents elsewhere?