Since Sony acquired the studio in 2002, Zipper Interactive has spent the past decade doing one thing and one thing only: Making tactical military shooting games for Playstations. What started with SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs in 2002 ballooned into a franchise of seven games made by Zipper alone, a series that cultivated one of living room gaming’s most fevered and devoted online multiplayer communities. The SOCOM era is now coming to a close though. Amidst rumors of cancelled future games and staff layoffs comes word that Sony is closing Zipper for good.
Kotaku reported on Friday that Sony was planning to close the studio.
The studio looked to evolve beyond the SOCOM series in recent years. Zipper’s most recent game was the Vita’s Unit 13, a strategic shooter for Sony’s new handheld that mixed quick missions with online multiplayer for small groups of players. It was well received by critics but it’s unclear how it connected with average players as Sony hasn’t revealed sales information about the game.
Zipper was in dire need of a hit when Unit 13 came out though. Playstation 3’s SOCOM 4 sold just 500,000 copies in its first six months in 2011, failing to cultivate the following that its predecessors had on the Playstation 2. MAG, Zipper’s one other non-SOCOM game from the Sony era released in 2010, fared little better, failing to retain an active community of online players after its initial release.
It’s easy to forget SOCOM’s place in the turbulent history of console gaming online. Unlike the original Xbox, the Playstation 2 had a nomadic community of online players. With no central network, each game that supported the system’s network adapter bore the burden of maintaining its own community, something SOCOM did with gusto. The original Playstation games were so popular that its servers remained open for nearly a decade. Servers for 2003’s SOCOM II for Playstation 2 remain online today.
As sparsely populated as those servers may be, it’s unknown what the future will bring for all of Zipper’s titles now. Unit 13 isn’t even a month old, and while no downloadable content is officially scheduled for the game, it’s hard to imagine that Sony wasn’t planning to support the Vita’s one original shooter franchise throughout the year.
Digital Trends’ request for a comment from Sony on Zipper and Unit 13’s futures has so far gone unanswered.