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Psygnosis Limited
FormerlyPsygnosis (1984–1999)
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
Founded1984; 40 years ago (1984)
FoundersIan Hetherington
David Lawson
Jonathan Ellis
Defunct22 August 2012 (2012-08-22)
Napier Court, Wavertree Technology Park, Liverpool, England
ProductsShadow of the Beast
Colony Wars
Formula One
ParentSony Computer Entertainment (1993–2012)

Psygnosis Limited (/sɪɡˈnəʊ.sɪs/; known as SCE Studio Liverpool or simply Studio Liverpool from 1999)[1] was a British video game developer and publisher headquartered at Wavertree Technology Park in Liverpool. Founded in 1984[1][2] by Ian Hetherington, Jonathan Ellis, and David Lawson, the company initially became known for well-received games on the Atari ST and Amiga. In 1993, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and began developing games for the original PlayStation. It later became a part of SCE Worldwide Studios. The company was the oldest and second largest development house within SCE's European stable of developers, and became best known for franchises such as Lemmings, Wipeout, Formula One, and Colony Wars.

Reports of Studio Liverpool's closure surfaced on 22 August 2012, with Edge quoting staff tweets.[3] Staff members were told the news by Michael Denny, vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe.[4] Sony said that the Liverpool site would remain in operation, as it was still home to many Sony Departments.[5] At the time of its closure, it employed roughly 100 people comprising two development teams. Mick Hocking oversaw Studio Liverpool's operations as its last Group Studio Director, a position he continued to hold within Evolution Studios.

Psygnosis still exists as a legal entity under Sony and continues to make legal filings, but has had no developers since 2012.[6] In December 2021, Sony renewed Psygnosis' logo and trademarks despite not using the Psygnosis branding since 2000, though this is thought to be standard filing practice as trademarks last for a decade in the United States and Sony had previously filed renewal applications in 2011 as well.[7]


The Psyclapse name was used on some early releases.

Psygnosis was the eventual successor of the defunct 8-bit software house Imagine Software, where Lawson was one of the founders and Hetherington was financial director. Finchspeed, a company created by the directors,[8][9] attempted to acquire the assets of the failing company but this was unsuccessful and the remains of Imagine, including their much-hyped but never completed "megagames", were sold by the receivers.[10] While the name and trademarks were bought by Ocean Software,[11] Sinclair Research paid a rumoured £100,000 for the rights to Bandersnatch and contracted a new company set up by Hetherington and Lawson, Fire Iron, to produce the game for the Sinclair QL for release in early 1985.[12][13][14]

Sinclair withdrew funding from Fire Iron in early 1985[15] and Psygnosis, which became a limited company under United Kingdom company law in July 1985,[16] launched their first title Brataccas, which featured many of the concepts originally intended for Bandersnatch,[17] at the 1985 Personal Computer World show in September.[15][18]

The name of another Imagine Megagame (the proposed but never developed Psyclapse) was later used by Psygnosis as an alternative label for some of its releases,[19] such as Ballistix and Captain Fizz Meets The Blaster-Trons.[20]

The box artwork was very distinctive with a black background and fantasy artwork by Roger Dean[21] bordered in red. This style was maintained for the better part of 10 years. For the next few years, Psygnosis' releases contained increasingly improved graphics, but were marred by similarly difficult gameplay and control methods. The original company headquarters were located at the Port of Liverpool Building at the Pier Head in Liverpool, but soon moved to Century Buildings in Liverpool's Brunswick Business Park, and later moved down the road to South Harrington Building by the docks.

Although Psygnosis primarily became a game publisher, some games were developed fully or partly in-house. During the early days, artists were employed full-time at the headquarters, offering third-party developers, who were often just single programmers, a high-quality art resource. This allowed Psygnosis to maintain high graphical standards across the board. The original artists were Garvan Corbett, Jeff Bramfitt, Colin Rushby and Jim Bowers, with Neil Thompson joining a little later.

Obliterator, released in 1988, contained an opening animation by Jim Bowers. This short scene would pave the way for increasingly sophisticated intro animations, starting with 2D hand drawn sequences, and progressing into FMV and 3D rendered movies created with Sculpt 4D on the Amiga. Eventually, Psygnosis would buy Silicon Graphics workstations for the sole purpose of creating these animations.

While most game companies of the mid-to-late 1980s (including Psygnosis) were releasing identical games on both the Amiga and Atari ST, Psygnosis started to use the full potential of the Amiga's more powerful hardware to produce technically stunning games, with the landmark title Shadow of the Beast bringing the company its greatest success so far in 1989. Its multi-layered parallax scrolling and music were highly advanced for the time and as such led to the game being used as a showcase demonstration for the Amiga in many computer shops.

Psygnosis consolidated its fame after publishing the DMA Design Lemmings game franchise: debuting in 1991 on the Amiga, Lemmings was ported to a plethora of different computer and video game platforms, generating many sequels and variations of its concept through the years. Microcosm, a game that appeared on the FM Towns, Amiga CD32, and 3DO furthered the company's reputation for games with excellent graphics but limited and poorly designed gameplay.

Psygnosis also created the "Face-Off" games in the Nickelodeon 1992 television game show, Nick Arcade, such as "Post Haste", "Jet Jocks" and "Battle of the Bands".

In 1993 the company was acquired by Sony Electronic Publishing.[22][23] The acquisition cost Sony £20 million.[24] In preparation for the September 1995 introduction of Sony's PlayStation console in Western markets, Psygnosis started creating games using the PlayStation as primary reference hardware. Among the most famous creations of this period were Wipeout, G-Police, and the Colony Wars series, some of which were ported to PC and to other platforms. The PlayStation marked a turning point in Psygnosis's game design, moving away from the prerendered graphics and limited gameplay that the company had become associated with.[25][26] This was a successful period for the company; in the 1995–96 financial year, Psygnosis games accounted for 40% of all video games sales in Europe.[27]

The acquisition was rewarding for Sony in another aspect: development kits for PlayStation consoles. As it had previously published PSY-Q development kits for various consoles by SN Systems, Psygnosis arranged for them to create a development system for the PS based on cheap PC hardware. Sony evaluated the system during CES in January 1994 and decided to adopt it.[28]

As Psygnosis expanded after the Sony buyout, another satellite office was opened in Century Building with later offices opening in Stroud, London, Chester, Paris, Germany, and Foster City in California (as the Customer Support & Marketing with software development done in San Francisco), now the home of Sony Computer Entertainment America. The company headquarters has resided at Wavertree Technology Park since 1995.

The Stroud studio was opened in November 1993 in order to attract disgruntled MicroProse employees. Staff grew from initially about 50 to about 70 in 1997.[29] Among the titles created at Stroud are Overboard! and G-Police.[29] The Wheelhouse—its publishing name—was closed in 2000 as part of the Sony Computer Entertainment takeover of Psygnosis. Some members joined Bristol-based Rage Software, but faced a similar demise a number of years later.

Despite being owned by Sony, Psygnosis retained a degree of independence from its parent company during this period and continued to develop and publish titles for other platforms,[30] including the Sega Saturn[31][32] and the Nintendo 64.[33] This caused friction between Psygnosis and Sony, and in 1996 Sony engaged SBC Warburg's services in finding a buyer for Psygnosis.[34][35] However, though bids reportedly went as high as $300 million (more than ten times what Sony paid for the company just three years before),[36] after six months Sony rescinded its decision to sell Psygnosis. Relations between the two companies had improved during this time, and Sony became reconciled to Psygnosis releasing games for competing platforms.[37] Shortly after, Psygnosis took over distribution of its own titles, a task that Sony had been handling following the buyout.[38]

As Studio Liverpool[edit]

The SCE Studio Liverpool logo

In 1999, a process to consolidate Psygnosis into Sony Computer Entertainment was underway, resulting in the bulk of Psygnosis' sales, marketing and PR staff being made redundant and the development teams reporting directly into Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's president of software development.[39] To reflect this, in 2000, the Psygnosis brand was dropped in favour of SCE Studio Liverpool.

The newly named SCE Studio Liverpool released its first title, Formula One 2001, in 2001. The game was also the studio's first release on the PlayStation 2, and the first entry in the Formula One series after taking over from developer Studio 33. From 2001 to 2007, Studio Liverpool released eight instalments in the series between the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3. However, Sony Computer Entertainment's exclusive licence with the Formula One Group expired, without renewal, before the 2007 season, marking the end of any further Formula One series instalments from the developer.

Studio Liverpool also created Wipeout Fusion, the first of two instalments of the series on the PlayStation 2, released in 2002. Next they developed Wipeout Pure for the PlayStation Portable, which launched alongside the handheld in 2005 to significant acclaim, with many media outlets heralding it a return to glory for the series. They followed up with the sequel Wipeout Pulse in 2007 which was later ported to the PlayStation 2 and released in Europe.

In 2008 it released Wipeout HD, a downloadable title for the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network service, consisting of various courses taken from both Wipeout Pure and Wipeout Pulse remade in high definition. An expansion pack for Wipeout HD named Wipeout HD Fury is available at PlayStation Network, including new game modes, new tracks, new music and new ship skins/models.[40] In 2007, a copy of Manhunt 2 was leaked online prior to its release by an employee from the Sony Europe Liverpool office.[41]

On 29 January 2010, Sony made a public statement.[42] The closure of Studio Liverpool was announced on 22 August 2012. In a press release, Sony stated that after an assessment of all European studios, it had decided to close Studio Liverpool. Sony said that the Liverpool site would remain in operation, as it is home to a number of Sony World Wide Studios and SCEE Departments.[5]

Eurogamer was told by an unnamed source that, at the time of its closure, Studio Liverpool was working on two PlayStation 4 launch titles. One was a Wipeout title described as "dramatically different"; the other was a motion capture-based game along the lines of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell.[43]

Spin-off studios[edit]

In 2013 a number of former Studio Liverpool employees formed two new studios: Firesprite[44] which worked on the visuals of The Playroom for the PlayStation 4,[45] and Playrise Digital who had success with their Table Top Racing games. In September 2021, Sony acquired Firesprite.[46]


XDev, Sony's external development studio is responsible for managing the development of titles at developers that are outside of Sony's own developer group. It has won 14 British Academy (BAFTA) video game awards and AIAS awards for LittleBigPlanet, 3 BAFTA awards for the Buzz! series and Develop Industry Excellence Awards for MotorStorm and Buzz!.[47]


Games developed or published as Psygnosis[edit]

Name Year Platforms Description
3D Lemmings 1995 MS-DOS Also known as Lemmings 3D, a puzzle strategy game.
1996 PlayStation
Sega Saturn
3D Lemmings Winterland 1995 MS-DOS An expansion for 3D Lemmings with additional levels and a winter theme.
3 Ninjas Kick Back 1994 Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
3X: The Science of War
Adidas Power Soccer 1996 PlayStation
A Bug's Life 1998 PlayStation An adaptation of the movie A Bug's Life
1999 Microsoft Windows
Adidas Power Soccer International 97 1997 PlayStation
Adidas Power Soccer 98 1998 PlayStation
Microsoft Windows
Agony 1992 Amiga A side-scrolling shoot 'em up in a fantasy setting.
Air Support 1992 Amiga A top-down strategy game with a first-person view for some missions.
Atari ST
All New World of Lemmings 1995 Amiga A sequel to Lemmings 2 with some additional features.
1994 MS-DOS
Alundra 1997 PlayStation An action adventure game about a boy who learns he has the power to enter people's dreams, acclaimed for its bizarre storyline and smooth gameplay.
2007 PlayStation Network
Amnios 1991 Amiga A top-down, multi-directional, scrolling, shoot 'em up set on ten different planets.
Anarchy 1990 Amiga A side-scrolling shooter where the player pilots a futuristic tank.
Atari ST
Aquaventura 1992
Armour-Geddon 1991 Amiga A strategy video game.
Atari ST
Armour-Geddon 2: Codename Hellfire 1994 Amiga A strategy video game.
Assault Rigs 1996 PlayStation An action game set in the near future featuring a tank simulation game.
1997 Sega Saturn
1996 Windows
Atomino 1990 Amiga A puzzle video game based on building molecules from atoms.
Atari ST
1991 Commodore 64
1990 MS-DOS
Attack of the Saucerman 1999 PlayStation An action game.
Awesome 1990 Amiga An action strategy science fiction game with a variety of gameplay styles.
Atari ST
FM Towns
Baal 1988 Amiga A platform shoot 'em up that garnered little attention or critical acclaim.
Atari ST
Commodore 64
Ballistix 1989 Acorn Electron A futuristic sports game involving a game with similarities to hockey and billiards.
Atari ST
BBC Micro
Commodore 64
1991 TurboGrafx-16
Barbarian 1987 Amiga A platform game featuring the eponymous muscle-bound barbarian. This title showcased the Atari ST and Amiga's superior multimedia capabilities.
1988 Amstrad CPC
1987 Atari ST
1988 Commodore 64
ZX Spectrum
Barbarian II 1991 Amiga 500 A fantasy action-adventure game featuring the same brute from the first game, Barbarian.
Atari ST
Benefactor 1994 Amiga A puzzle-platform game which shares some similarities to Lemmings.
Amiga CD32
Bill's Tomato Game 1992 Amiga A puzzle-platform game where a tomato must rescue his girlfriend from a squirrel.
Atari ST
Blast Radius 1998 PlayStation A space combat simulator
Blood Money 1989 Amiga A scrolling shooter where the player travels through four different worlds; a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version was unreleased.
Atari ST
Commodore 64
Blue Ice 1995 Windows A graphic adventure puzzle video game.
Bob's Bad Day 1993 Amiga
Bram Stoker's Dracula 1993 NES, Super NES, Game Boy, Game Gear, Master System, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega-CD, Amiga, MS-DOS
Brataccas 1985[15][17] Amiga, Atari ST, Mac Action/Adventure. Psygnosis' first published game.
Brian the Lion 1994 Amiga A Platforming game.
The Carl Lewis Challenge 1992
Captain Fizz Meets The Blaster-Trons 1988 Also known as Icarus.
Carthage 1990 Amiga
Atari ST
Christmas Lemmings 1991 Also known as Holiday Lemmings.
Chronicles of the Sword 1996 MS-DOS
Chrono Quest 1988 Amiga
Atari ST
Colony Wars 1997 PlayStation
Colony Wars: Vengeance 1998 PlayStation
Colony Wars: Red Sun 2000 PlayStation
Combat Air Patrol 1993 Amiga, MS-DOS
Creepers 1993 MS-DOS
Cytron 1992 Amiga
Darker 1995 MS-DOS
Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors 1996 Arcade, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Network Responsible for PlayStation port.
Daughter of Serpents 1992 MS-DOS
Deadline 1996
Deep Space 1986
Defcon 5 1995 MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, 3DO
Destruction Derby 1995 MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64
Destruction Derby 2 1996 MS-DOS, Windows, PlayStation
Destruction Derby 64 1999 Nintendo 64
Destruction Derby Raw 2000 PlayStation
Diggers 2: Extractors 1995 MS-DOS
Discworld 1995 MS-DOS, Mac OS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Discworld II: Mortality Bytes! 1996 MS-DOS, Windows, PlayStation, Sega Saturn Except for the Sega Saturn version.
Drakan: Order of the Flame 1999 Windows
Eagle One: Harrier Attack 1999 PlayStation
Ecstatica 1994 MS-DOS
Ecstatica II 1997 MS-DOS, Windows
Eliminator 1998 PlayStation
Expert Pool 1999 Windows
Formula 1 1996 PlayStation
Formula 1 97 1997 PlayStation
Formula 1 98 1998 PlayStation
Formula One 99 1999 PlayStation
Formula One 2000 2000 PlayStation, Game Boy Color
G-Police 1997 PlayStation
G-Police: Weapons of Justice 1999 PlayStation
Global Domination 1993 MS-DOS, Amiga
Globdule 1993 Amiga
Guilty 1995 MS-DOS
Hardcore (cancelled) 1994 Amiga, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Hardcore is a run and gun "Eurostyle 2D shooter". It was cancelled by Psygnosis due to the publisher's belief that 16-bit game sales would decline due to the release of the then upcoming Sony PlayStation. The Genesis version of this game was later released by Strictly Limited Games .
Hexx: Heresy of the Wizard 1994 MS-DOS
Hired Guns 1993 Amiga, MS-DOS
Infestation 1990 Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, FM Towns
Innocent Until Caught 1993 Amiga, MS-DOS
The Killing Game Show 1990 Amiga, Atari ST, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Also known as Fatal Rewind.
Kingsley's Adventure 1999 PlayStation
Krazy Ivan 1996 PlayStation
Sega Saturn
Lander 1999 Windows
Last Action Hero 1993 NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Game Boy, Game Gear, Amiga, MS-DOS
Leander 1991 Amiga, Atari ST, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Lemmings 1991 Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum, Amiga CDTV, Super NES, Acorn Archimedes, NES, Sharp X68000, PC-98, TurboGrafx-CD, Atari Lynx, Master System, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Amstrad CPC, Sam Coupé, Commodore 64, Amiga CD32, Philips CD-i, Game Gear, Game Boy, 3DO, Windows 95, Apple Macintosh, PlayStation, Game Boy Color, Sony PSP, Sony PS3[48] Debatably Psygnosis's most successful game.
Lemmings 2: The Tribes 1993 Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Super NES, Game Boy, Acorn Archimedes, FM Towns
Lemmings Paintball 1996 Windows
Lemmings Revolution 2000 Windows
Lifeforce Tenka 1997 PlayStation
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1994 Super NES, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega-CD
Matrix Marauders 1990 Amiga, Atari ST
Menace 1988 Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS
Metal Fatigue 2000 Windows
Mickey's Wild Adventure 1996 PlayStation A platform game featuring Disney's Mickey Mouse who travels back in time to his original cartoons.
2011 PlayStation Network
Microcosm 1993 FM Towns, Sega CD/Mega-CD, 3DO, Amiga CD32, MS-DOS
Muppet RaceMania 2000 PlayStation
Misadventures of Flink 1994 CD32, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega-CD
Nations: WWII Fighter Command 1999
Nevermind 1989 Amiga
Nitro 1990 Amiga, Atari ST
Novastorm 1994 PlayStation, MS-DOS, FM-Towns, 3DO, Sega CD/Mega-CD
No Escape 1994 Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
O.D.T. – Escape... Or Die Trying 1998 PlayStation
Obitus 1991 Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, Super NES
Obliterator 1988 Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum
Oh No! More Lemmings 1991 Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST, SAM Coupé, Apple Macintosh, Acorn Archimedes
Ork 1991 Amiga, Atari ST
Overboard! 1997 Microsoft Windows, PlayStation
Panzer Elite 1999 Windows
Perihelion: The Prophecy 1993 Amiga
Prime Mover 1993
Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame 1993 MS-DOS, Mac OS, Super NES, FM Towns, Xbox (bonus) Publisher of the canceled Sega Genesis/Mega Drive port.
Pro 18 World Tour Golf 1999 PlayStation
Professional Underground League of Pain 1997 MS-DOS Known as Riot in Europe.
Psybadek 1998 PlayStation
Puggsy 1993 Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Sega CD/Mega-CD
Pyrotechnica 1995
Rascal 1998 PlayStation
Red Zone 1992 Amiga
Retro Force 1999 PlayStation
Roll Away 1998 PlayStation, Android Known as Kula World in Europe, and Kula Quest in Japan.
Rollcage 1999 PlayStation
Rollcage Stage II 2000 PlayStation
Rosco McQueen Firefighter Extreme 1997 PlayStation
Rush Hour 1997 PlayStation, Microsoft Windows Known as Speedster in Europe, and BattleRound USA in Japan.
Second Samurai 1994 Mega Drive, Amiga
Sentient 1997 PlayStation, MS-DOS, Windows
Sentinel Returns 1998 Windows, PlayStation
Shadow Master 1997 PlayStation
Shadow of the Beast 1989 Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Side-scrolling platform game developed by Reflections. It showcased the Amiga's graphical capabilities with parallax layers, background color gradients, and large sprites. Artwork inspired by Roger Dean, and atmospheric music by David Whittaker.
Shadow of the Beast II 1990 Amiga, Atari ST, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Shadow of the Beast III 1992 Amiga
Silverload 1995 MS-DOS A horror adventure game.
Shipwreckers! 1997 Microsoft Windows, PlayStation
Spice World 1998 PlayStation
Stryx 1990
Team Buddies 2000 PlayStation
Tellurian Defense 1999
Terrorpods 1987 Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, MSX
Adventures of Lomax, TheThe Adventures of Lomax 1996 PlayStation A platform game, a spin-off of Lemmings. The player character is a Lemming who must save his friends.
The City of Lost Children 1997 MS-DOS, PlayStation
Theatre of Death 1993
Thunder Truck Rally 1997 PlayStation Known as Monster Trucks in Europe.
Toy Story 1995 Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Super NES An adaptation of the movie Toy Story
1996 Microsoft Windows
Urban Assault (cancelled) 1999 PlayStation A port of the FPS/RTS hybrid game developed by TerraTools and Microsoft, that was outsourced to Climax Entertainment, and that was never announced nor released. The port remained undiscovered until 2016, where it was found on a sale of old Climax assets. The original PC game's source code was also found on the Climax lot.
Walker 1993 Amiga
Wipeout 1995 PlayStation
Wipeout 64 1998 Nintendo 64
Wipeout: 2097/Wipeout XL 1996 PlayStation
Wipeout 3 1999 PlayStation
Wipeout 3: Special Edition 2000 PlayStation
Wiz 'n' Liz: The Frantic Wabbit Wescue 1993 Amiga, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
X-It 1995
Zombieville 1998

Games developed as SCE Studio Liverpool[edit]

Game title Year released Platform(s)
Formula One 2001 2001 PlayStation 2
Wipeout Fusion 2002 PlayStation 2
Formula One 2002 2002 PlayStation 2
Formula One 2003 2003 PlayStation 2
F1 04 2004 PlayStation 2
Wipeout Pure 2005 PlayStation Portable
F1 05 2005 PlayStation 2
F1 06 2006 PlayStation 2
PlayStation Portable
Wipeout Pulse 2007 PlayStation 2
PlayStation Portable
Formula One Championship Edition 2007 PlayStation 3
Wipeout HD 2008 PlayStation 3
Wipeout HD Fury (DLC) 2009 PlayStation 3
Wipeout 2048 2012 PlayStation Vita

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]