Dear Sony, We need to talk about SOCOM.
It’s me. Sean. You might remember me from the angry article I wrote in this exact style some 5 years ago, on the day you closed Zipper Interactive. I’d link to it, but the site is long dead and even the Wayback machine can’t find it.
I was angry back in 2012. I was younger, naive, and you’d closed a studio that was filled with obvious talent that made brilliant games. They just weren’t getting the marketing push they needed – something you were guilty of a lot back then. I was pissed at you because you’d just shuttered the only studio you owned that had a track record of making fantastic third-person shooters. Unit 13, one of the most under-appreciated games on the PSVita, as well as 7 SOCOM games were made by Zipper Interactive. Without them, the only studio you had that could make shooters was Guerrilla Games and they were working on Killzone (a series that has divided opinion a the best of times).
Here we are, 5 years later. 5 years since you closed Zipper and 6 years since the last SOCOM game was released – SOCOM 4 U.S. Navy SEALs on the PS3 (complete with PSMove control integration). I think it’s fair to say you probably don’t look back with regret at the decision to close Zipper. You’ve managed to sell 60+ million PS4’s without them and it was a studio with diminishing returns – MAG (2010) sold ~1.3M copies, SOCOM 4 (2011) sold less than 1m copies, Unit 13 (2012) sold around 500k copies at which point the studio was closed. It made financial sense at the time. You probably made the right call and while a lot of fans were angry back then, we understand now.
But it’s time to bring SOCOM back from the dead.
It should be a no brainer really. Just look at what games are selling well right now; PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – a Royale-style shooter with third-person shooter with realistic action. Sound familiar? So much of what PUBG does well is what SOCOM was doing well 10 years ago. Sure, PUGB has the benefit of a decade of gameplay advancements that have been made since then, but the action is still the same. That arse clenching moment when you walk into someone and it’s a QUICK-RUN-Did-they-see-me-SHIT-they-saw-me-heart-racing-quick-draw-oh-fuck-OH-FUCK moment in PUBG? SOCOM perfected that in 2005.
Sure, SOCOM was always more structured than PUBG. It wasn’t just 100 people searching (or hiding in the swamp) for one another in large maps in a fight to the death (although, it sometimes felt like that). SOCOM had strategic team play, placing an emphasis on co-operation and tactical movement. Kind of like…the multi-million selling The Division? Or Ghost Recon Wildlands?
The point I’m trying to make Sony, which is probably abundantly clear by now, is that there’s a SOCOM shaped hole in the games market that many other titles are filling – but it needn’t be this way. There are millions of gamers out there with fond memories of SOCOM that would likely pony up for a new title. If you can find the right team, give them the right budget and market it as well as you’ve been doing for your other games recently, you’ll have a hit on your hands.
It also makes sense to get back to making shooters again. Now that Guerilla Games are making big open-worldy adventures like Horizon Zero Dawn, you’ve not got a single studio working on an exclusive shooter. Not a one. Elsewhere, Microsoft have Halo and Gears and even Nintendo have Splatoon 2. Shooters might not be the industry driving force they were back in 2007 but they’re important to a lot of PS4 owners.
SOCOM is a franchise that helped drive the PS2 on to become the best-selling console of all time. IGN called the SOCOM series “online gaming’s dirty little secret” in the sixth generation of consoles, suggesting that the games were better than anything available on Xbox Live at the time. With the right team and the right investment and with the benefit of modern-day gaming advancements, SOCOM could help the PS4 best the achievements of the PS2 and widen the diversity in first party titles and exclusives you already offer.
Please Sony. For a long-term SOCOM fan and someone who misses the series dearly, please give it another chance.
Hugs and kisses