Psygnosis was founded in 1984 in Liverpool, United Kingdom by Ian Hetherington and Jonathan Ellis. Over the course of its existence, Psygnosis released more than 100 games for many platforms, pushing the boundaries of all systems and platforms, dedicating themselves to creating and publishing games which feature cutting edge technology and game design. Before joining Sony and the Playstation armada, Psygnosis created many critically acclaimed and successful games for home computer systems, such as Lemmings, Blood Money, Shadow of the Beast and Microcosm.
Psygnosis was acquired by Sony in 1993 and was one of the dominant forces in establishing the standing of the Playstation in the gaming industry, by contributing games such as Wipeout and Destruction Derby to the first wave of Playstation releases in 1995. By 2000, Psygnosis decided to feature on the console market, ceasing to create games for the PC and were incorporated into Sony and renamed SCEE Studio Liverpool.
Sony announced on August 22, 2012 that they were closing SCEE Studio Liverpool.
In 1999, Psygnosis published Drakan: Order of the Flame which was developed by Surreal Software. The game received mixed reviews, but became the center of a small controversy when the editorial staff at PC.IGN received a letter from Psygnosis PR which discussed Psygnosis' opinion that PC.IGN was not an editorially sound body. The full letter reads:
With Drakan topping the SoftTrend charts at #2 in August and with sales of the game moving very strongly forward it is sad that we have to write to inform you that we think IGN's review of Drakan, even with a fairly decent score, does not reflect what we deemed IGN to be on the editorial caliber scale, both in style and in content - nor does it reflect an awareness of actual consumer opinion as seen in the actual sales of the game.
Rather, the review of Drakan is quite demeaning and juvenile sounding, stooping lower than PCXL while really missing the whole point of the game. Unfortunately, we have to tell you that the message we get from the both the beginning and end of this review seems to focus only on the female body, to put it nicely. We're aware of the audience that IGN is targeting, so why even the negative feel from the beginning of the review? While some of the gameplay comments are good and fair in between, there is a hefty amount of contradiction and way too much personal interjection. In particular, the ridiculous 'Cleavage' interview at the end is very tacky, or to be more blunt, really stupid. Oh please!
From a PR and marketing perspective, we're really tired of such subjective points of view, editorial that ignores the general consumer perspective and fails to commend a game like Drakan that breaks out of genre, graphic and gameplay barriers. Where's the informative content for your readers? Are they really that dense?
As you're probably aware, the review has been posted at EBworld.com and what's even more disconcerting is that there is no score on this page so visitors are only reading discrepant editorial. So, while I'm being banged away at both by an irate developer and senior marketing exec, I also must agree that we can no longer provide editorial content, exclusive opportunities and review materials if this is what we get for a top-selling game.
We have asked that EB take down this review on their site. Do you think this review will really sell more copies of Drakan? If you would like to help us then perhaps you can also take steps to have the review removed from the EB site.
It would be fair and considerate to hear back from you. We realize that you can't answer all the irate emails from publishers about reviews you've posted but this one, we think, warrants an appropriate response. Regards,
It is worth noting that the overall score that PC.IGN gave to Drakan was an 8.1 out of 10. IGN published both the full letter from Psygnosis, as well as a response which read:
Forward: Normally, we would respond to this letter in private, but since the email was forwarded to our superiors, our coworkers, and even our sales staff, we felt it necessary to respond in kind.
Congratulations on Drakan's continued success. As we said in the review, it was a fun game that we really enjoyed playing, and even recommended to our audience. With that said, we are sorry that you did not find the "editorial caliber" of our review to be up to your standards. We suspect that you are not defining editorial caliber the same way we do � a thorough and unbiased examination of the good and bad points of a product. Judging by your letter, it seems your definition of caliber is strongly tied to sales as a benchmark for excellence. The history of PC software is littered with titles that were lambasted by the critics, but enjoyed great sales. Myst, Deer Hunter, and Rebel Assault come to mind immediately, but as you can see from our review, we do not include Drakan in that list.
Your criticism causes us some confusion. As the focus of the game seemed to be very much on selling the sexual appeal of a scantily clad leather-bound woman, a la' Lara Croft, we find it ironic that you accuse us of sounding "demeaning and juvenile" when the review that you seem to object to is devoted to our views on your juvenile and demeaning portrayal of a female protagonist. It's not that we don't understand why you would have a character like this; after all, it's proved very lucrative for games like Tomb Raider and SiN, but we find it unnerving that you would try and deny the intentional (and blatant) sexualization of your heroine. Are you trying to suggest that this is historical for the time period, or that the character design was a complete coincidence?
Furthermore, we'd like to think of all of our reviews as being from a subjective viewpoint, so subjective in fact that readers will actually respect our opinions. Our readers are not dense. When they read a review, they expect to hear whether the money that they spend on a new product will be something that will keep them entertained, not whether or not it will make them part of a large group of buyers. If we started reviewing the games in the manner that you suggest, we'd be out of a job very quickly.
What it seems like you're suggesting is that you expect positive coverage in exchange for "editorial content, exclusive opportunities and review materials." We don't agree to such demands, and furthermore, we don't appreciate such threats. Our review scores will remain the same whether or not we receive free copies of your game in the mail. Just as you would think it unfair for us to give the game a bad review if you didn't send us press materials, it's not fair to our audience to score a game higher than it deserves purely in the interest of the beating out the competition.
We're not sure whether our review will really sell more copies of Drakan, and in fact, that's not really our job here at IGNPC. Our job is talk about and review games from an unbiased and independent perspective, just like movie, music, theater, restaurant, or any other sort of artistic analysis. EB World has already made the decision to carry our reviews, both good and bad, as a resource for their consumers, even though it could theoretically affect their sales. We respect EB World's integrity in this matter, and we find it hard to believe that you can't as well.
But all of this is beside the point. We liked Drakan. We gave it a high rating, placing it amongst such peers as Starfleet Command and Tiberian Sun. If your complaints are truly about the mockery of the character you've created to sell your games, then perhaps you shouldn't have made a character with such blatantly disproportionate sexuality.
And thank you for the comparison to PCXL. We enjoy the magazine, and wish it continued success. As for referring to our interview with cleavage as stupid, we prefer to think of that as very blunt.Sincerely,
-- IGN Staff
Notably, future valve writers Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw became involved in the controversy via their website Old Man Murray. They initially published an article that was extremely sardonic and highly critical of Psygnosis' letter (This article: http://www.oldmanmurray.com/features/723.html) . Following this article, they received a response from a programmer at Surreal Software, which they posted with the inclusion of comments and responses from both Faliszek and Wolpaw here: http://www.oldmanmurray.com/features/724.html