What Game Studios Could Sony Acquire?
Last week, Microsoft dropped the mother of all bombs on the gaming industry when it announced it would be purchasing Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, one of the largest videogame publishing houses in the world. Bethesda is most notable for the game development studios under the Softworks umbrella, so this move gives Microsoft ownership of some of the world’s most recognizable and popular gaming IPs. These include Fallout, Doom, Wolfenstein, as well as The Elder Scrolls and Skyrim.
This was truly a seismic move in the industry, one that seemingly puts Microsoft ahead in the arms race for game exclusivity with arch-rival Sony, and leaves industry watchers asking what the Japanese giant will do next. It is unlikely they would, or could afford to, purchase a massive publisher and studio conglomerate such as Bethesda. Will they look to acquire more individual studios, something they have studiously done over the years? This strategy has led to the current view that they are well ahead of Microsoft as far as first-party exclusive games that people want to play. It seems like the logical step to make given the circumstances, so today we will examine that angle, looking at five studios that Sony might look to bring into the first-party family.
This seems like the most logical studio for Sony to acquire, and I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t happened at some point over the past few years. Sony’s affinity for remakes and remasters is well known, as are the financial windfalls those games have brought. Bluepoint has been the studio at the head of that movement and stands as one of the crown jewels of Sony’s second-party studio stable.
Best known for the excellent PS4 remaster of Shadow of the Colossus and The Nathan Drake Collection, which brought the first three Uncharted games to PS4, Bluepoint has well established its bonafide hit. The studio now finds itself heading up the ground-up PS5 remaster of the beloved “Soulsborne” genre progenitor Demon’s Souls, which joins Spider-Man: Miles Morales as one of the most anticipated and important games for the new system’s launch. That may seem like a lot of pressure, but Sony clearly trusts Bluepoint to handle very important franchises (they also created the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection port for PS3, Vita, and other systems) so this seems like the next logical step for the studio.
What would Sony gain from buying Bluepoint, since they already have a second-party relationship going? The announcement was recently made that PS5 would not support backward compatibility to anything pre-dating the PS4, so there is still a vast catalog of games that Bluepoint could conceivably bring up to modern standards on the next-generation system. Titles like Resistance, Colony Wars, and many others would be huge hits even today. And if there is to be an arms race with publishers acquiring studios, sooner or later one of the giants will come knocking on the door with a very large check that Bluepoint couldn’t pass up. It only makes sense for Sony to have the best porting studio in the industry solidly locked up before that can happen.
While you may not know the name, Supermassive is the studio that brought us one of PS4’s signature experiences, Until Dawn. The cinematic horror game was very well received and is quite unique in the PS4 library, playing out as a choice-based, “choose your own adventure” style game with multiple endings. Since that time, the studio released a VR-only follow up to Until Dawn called Rush of Blood and many other VR titles. They went back to their horror roots in 2019 with Man of Medan, the first game in the planned Dark Pictures Anthology.
So why would Sony want to buy Supermassive? It feels like the studio really has this interactive story thing figured out, with beautiful games that hit the more-popular-than-ever horror ball right out of the park. Sony doesn’t have a first-party studio that makes these kinds of games right now, and the technology could easily be used to tell other types of stories too. Think of it as the kinds of games that Telltale made, just with better graphics and less janky, well, everything. If Sony were to work with the types of licensed IP’s that Telltale did, they could really be on to something.
FROM has been around since 1994, making games for all consoles with a heavy concentration on the various PlayStation iterations. It wasn’t until 2009's Demon’s Souls, however, that they became the studio that everyone knows today. This was the beginning of a gaming phenomenon that would come to be known as the “Soulsborne” genre, which would eventually see three Dark Souls games and the studio’s reputation for creating punishingly difficult experiences that pushed players to the limits of their skills. Bloodborne, the studio’s only PS4 exclusive game, has become one of the most revered and important games on current-gen consoles and fans wait breathlessly for the announcement of a sequel.
Like the other studios, what would motivate Sony to bring FROM into the first-party family? The Soulsborne genre has become one of the most popular in all of gaming, and FROM is the undisputed king of the mountain. The latest data I could find puts just the Dark Souls games at 27 million copies sold, so adding in Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne pushes that total well past 30 million. Who wouldn’t want that type of success in their stable? Even if they decided to not make them exclusive to their own consoles, they would still make money from every copy sold on their competitor’s machines, which would give them a win either way.
Sony has a long history of working with Hideo Kojima, one of the most recognized and revered game creators in history. During his time with Konami, Kojima gave the gaming world the Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid franchises, which both saw unprecedented levels of success across four generations of consoles. After Kojima’s unfortunate divorce from Konami, he went on to found his current studio and created the fascinating experiment that was Death Stranding. Some people loved it, some hated it, but everyone talked about it, and that’s never a bad thing to say about games on your platform.
Sony always worked closely with Kojima when he was at Konami, and that relationship didn’t waver when he went out on his own. Sony played a large part in helping him make Death Stranding on a shortened time schedule, giving him the use of the Decima Engine which had been created at Sony-owned Guerilla Games, and having the two studios work closely on the game’s creation. Though Kojima can be divisive when it comes to the critical and popular reception of his games, he has seen incredible success over the years and is considered one of the most innovative designers of his era. There are also rumors that Sony wants to buy the Metal Gear and Silent Hill franchises from Konami, and who better to revive those series than Kojima?
This one won’t happen, mostly because of the huge sum of money Sony would have to pony up to get the deal done, but it’s fascinating to think about.
CD Projekt Red is the Polish developer behind The Witcher franchise, as well as the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. The Witcher 3 by itself has sold more than 30 million copies, and the buzz around Cyberpunk almost assures similar success. Not only does CDPR make the games, but they also have a digital storefront that serves as a competitor to Steam, known as GOG (Good Old Games). The original focus for GOG was to find old games and make them playable on current systems while packing in extras such as art, soundtracks, and the like while also removing DRM concerns. Over the last few years, they have expanded to new games and seriously grown the service’s profile.
It’s quite obvious why Sony would want to have CDPR as a first-party studio, with their massive hit franchises and huge following that comes along with them. Looking a bit deeper though, CDPR already has links to Netflix with The Witcher’s series adaptation, something Sony is keen to find for many of their IP as well. It would also serve Sony well to have the GOG platform in-house, as they have expressed the desire to put their most successful titles on PC. Seeing the success of their PlayStation Store, it makes sense there would be a desire inside Sony to have a platform where they could sell their games to the PC market without having to pay a large percentage of the proceeds to Steam. But again, this is unlikely to happen, as Sony would likely need to pay something similar to the $7.5 billion that Microsoft just paid for Bethesda in order to bring The House That Geralt Built into the fold.
Will Sony look to acquire these or any studios, or will they stand pat, comfortable with all the studios already under their umbrella? It’s always been difficult to predict what they will do, especially when it comes to marketing and PR, so we may not know anything is afoot until it actually happens. All we can do is stay tuned and enjoy the ride!