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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 30, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Sony closing marquee studio Zipper Interactive (UPDATE)

In a blow to the Seattle area game industry, Sony today confirmed that it’s closing Zipper Interactive, the Redmond studio that created the hit “SOCOM” action game franchise.

The shutdown comes just a month after Zipper released “Unit 13,” a shooting game for Sony’s new PlayStation Vita handheld gaming device.

UPDATE: In Sony’s formal layoff notification to the state, it disclosed that 86 positions will be eliminated June 1.

Zipper’s closure comes exactly one year after Sony closed another major gaming studio in the Seattle area. Last March it closed the Bellevue office of Sony Online Entertainment that was established in 2004. It was part of a broader layoff of 205 employees that also scuttled “The Agency,” an online spy game the Bellevue studio was developing.

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Sony continues to have a presence in the area, though. Last August it bought Bellevue’s Sucker Punch Productions, which created the hit “inFamous” series for the PlayStation 3.

Zipper was started in 1995 by veterans of defense contracting companies who went on to produce strikingly realistic military action games that helped establish Sony’s PlayStation gaming platform.

After developing a series of PC games the company began working with Sony in 2002 to develop SOCOM for the PlayStation 2. The game was introduced alongside a network adapter that gave the PS2 online capabilities.

Sony bought Zipper in 2006 and the SOCOM franchise eventually sold more than 12 million units.

Other recent games included “SOCOM 4,” (pictured) which showcased Sony’s “Move” motion-control system for the PlayStation 3. It was supposed to be a Move launch title in the fall of 2010 but was delayed until early 2011.

In early 2010 Zipper released “MAG,” an ambitious multiplayer shooting game that let up to 256 people play together at once in massive war games.

It’s unclear whether any employees will be transferred to Sucker Punch or other Sony studios.

I saw the news first at GameInformer.com.

Here’s Sony’s statement:

“The closure is a result of a normal cycle of resource re-alignment within SCE WWS. 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.”

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