Sony had a few big blockbusters during the last generation, but none were as popular as Marvel’s Spider-Man, created by Insomniac and released by Sony. Insomniac Games and the Marvel brand have arguably become the major pillar of PlayStation Studios’ production (Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Wolverine are expected for the future). As of late 2020, the open-world web-slinging game has sold over 20 million copies. Well, it’s possible that things may have gone a different way.
According to an excerpt from Steven L. Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Titles Volume 2, newly-formed Marvel Games parted with longstanding Spider-Man publishing partner Activision in 2014 and approached Xbox and PlayStation about producing a new Spidey title and maybe games based on other brands. Xbox declined to accept them.
On August 12, 2022, Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales will both be available on PC.
In order for him to succeed, he required a publisher that had not succumbed to the “crappy licensed games” mindset. Ideally, he wanted a business that had a long-term investment strategy in mind and was motivated by the desire to grow a brand. He or she must possess an extensive talent pool, an unwavering focus on quality, and an insatiable supply of cash. It was possible to find three businesses that met these criteria. Nintendo, for example, made the majority of its games using its own IP.
Being a former first-party console developer, I sent a message to both Xbox and PlayStation, saying, “Right now, we don’t have any major platform partnerships in the works. What are your plans for the day?” Microsoft’s goal was to focus on its own intellectual property. They were successful. In August 2014, I met with Adam Boyes and John Drake, two PlayStation third-party officials, in a Burbank conference room. I told him, “We have a hope that this is achievable, that we could surpass Arkham and have at least one game and maybe numerous titles that might drive adoption of your platform.
Sony saw the promise in a new Spider-Man game, despite the bad press that licensed games had at the time. Sony partnered with Insomniac, an independent third-party firm. Grady Hunt, Sony’s head of development, and Mark Cerny, the designer of the PS4, were sent to oversee the project. The rest, as they say, is a piece of history.
Marvel’s generous offer would Microsoft turn down today? That, I’m sure, would be a resounding “no.” This is exactly the type of system-selling, Game-Pass subscription-producing game they’re searching for right now, and money appears to be no issue for them. Even still, success is all about being in the right location and having enough foresight at the correct moment.
What are your impressions of this little tale, exactly? What if Xbox had partnered with Marvel instead of PlayStation when the game industry was just getting started?