Sony and PlayStation rocked social media with the announcement of the acquisition of Insomniac Games. In case you have been living under a metaphorical gaming rock for the past two decades. Insomniac Games is the studio behind such IP’s as Ratchet and Clank, Resistance, Sunset Overdrive, and most recently Marvel’s Spider-man. Insomniac Games has a level of quality and consistency that very few studios can match. While it has been no secret within the industry that Sony has wanted to add Insomniac to their first-party studios family. Insomniac Games has always prided themselves on their independence. With that being said the studio has always had a close working relationship with PlayStation. While some people may try to downplay that this acquisition just makes sense considering their already close working relationship. Personally, I think the purchase of Insomniac Games sends a big message on a couple of fronts. Let’s tackle all the different aspects that this acquisition could mean for Sony.
What is going on at Sony?
It is no secret that Sony has been very quiet since their 2018 E3 conference which gave us fresh looks at Marvel’s Spider-man, The Last of Us Part II, and Death Stranding. Ghosts of Tsushima was officially revealed to the public for the first time to hugely positive feedback. Aside from some bizarre conference pacing choices, Sony showed off some very impressive games. However, since that E3 the PlayStation brand went quiet, we heard little to nothing from them all the way up until late September. Shawn Layden announced during the PlayStation Blog’s official podcast, that they were canceling PSX. PlayStation Experience was one of the biggest fan events done by any console manufacturer at the time. The cancellation of PSX led some people to raise the concern that “arrogant” Sony was making a return, and that could we see another PS3 blunder incoming. While it has been a slow burn to get information on what Sony has been up to, the introduction of State of Play has helped counteract this. While many people, myself included were very critical of these decisions. The acquisition of Insomniac proved that Sony truly operates on its own rules and can generate hype with minimal effort. During Gamescom’s live stream, the official PlayStation account tweeted out about acquisition and within moments all eyes were trained on Sony. In a weird way, this has kind of drawn reason to the point that PlayStation didn’t need to be at E3 to make big announcements. While certainly as a fan I would prefer PlayStation to have been at E3 2019, there is just something so electric about E3 as a fan. However, in terms of cost versus effectiveness the argument of doing streams such as Inside Xbox, Nintendo Directs and State of Plays continue to grow. Announcing such a large acquisition on social media versus on the Gamescom stage is certainly a point that Sony has driven home.
Why would Sony purchase Insomniac Games?
Now the acquisition of Insomniac Games made me scratch my head initially for one major reason. Why spend a huge amount of money to lock down a studio that historically produced 98% of their games on your platform exclusively? This question has a very simple answer but it is not the one many people are suggesting. Many people attribute Sony purchasing Insomniac Games to keep the studio out of the clutches of Xbox. Xbox has been on a never before seen acquisition spree that can only be rivaled by THQ Nordic. Could Xbox be looking at Insomniac Games for acquisition? It certainly is a possibility, however, it goes against the grain of the type of studios they have been purchasing. Microsoft has been acquiring highly creative but financially struggling studios such as Obsidian and Ninja Theory. While Insomniac Games is a creative studio to its core, they are certainly not financially struggling by any means after the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man. Insomniac Games just doesn’t fit Xbox’s pattern of acquisitions, however, there is one big player that many don’t take seriously. I truly believe that Sony acquired Insomniac Games to make sure that Google could not come in and snag up the studio. Google Stadia is looking like its heading for a rough launch, with very low consumer faith in both Google as a company and in the product itself. It almost a safe bet that Google will panic and start buying up any studio they can bankroll. With Insomniac Games being one of the largest independent game studios, Google could certainly set their sights on the studio. If Xbox and Sony have to keep making these kinds of moves to keep Google at bay, then I hope both companies continue this trend of acquisitions.
What could the future hold for Insomniac Games?
No doubt this is a huge deal to Insomniac Games, this guarantees their financial future for the foreseeable future. In how risky making AAA games can be for studios in this economy where one game could break your studio, this is worth its weight in gold. The question remains, what could Insomniac Games be working on next now that they are owned by Sony. A sequel to the blockbuster Marvel’s Spider-Man is obviously in the works, there is no doubt about that. However, let’s get hypothetical for a few moments. One of my favorite franchises that Insomniac Games created was Resistance an amazing FPS that first launched on PS3 all the way back in 2006. I find one of the weak points in Sony’s catalog for the PS4 is an oversaturation of third-person actions games, with very little diversity in genres in terms of first-party. That’s not to say these games aren’t amazing, but Sony has proven they set the bar in this genre. Resistance would be such a good fit to bring more diversity to the PlayStation portfolio which already features gigantic IPs such as God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Uncharted. If PlayStation could add a top tier FPS game to their first-party library that would be a huge move. Resistance has a large fan base, and in a world where we are not oversaturated with FPS games unlike back in the Xbox 360/PS3 era, it feels like almost the perfect time. It is also worth noting that Ratchet and Clank could definitely be on the table as well, after the success of the Ratchet and Clank “remake” that released in 2016. There is also the probability that Insomniac Games could work on PSVR titles as well, as they have been working on a handful of Oculus Rift games. Stormland is Insomniac Games current VR project for Oculus Rift, it would be very surprising if the game does not come to PSVR now. With the size of Insomniac Games with a staff size just around 300 people the potential for multiple projects is certainly on the table.
With the purchase of Insomniac Games, PlayStation has made a massive splash and I don’t think its the last splash we will see. Those that are worried about “arrogant” or “complacent” Sony returning need not worry it seems. It truly looks like Sony is going to come out swinging next generation. With Xbox looking to the next generation and making a good amount of moves to fix fan criticism. Then finally with Nintendo having an absolutely insane year with the Nintendo Switch, which only seems like it will get crazier. It’s safe to say that the hobby we enjoy called video games is looking better and healthier then it ever has.