Business / Corporate

Sony agrees to acquire Spider-Man video game developer Insomniac

Bloomberg, AFP-JIJI

Sony Corp. agreed to buy Insomniac Games Inc., the studio behind last year’s hit, Marvel’s Spider-Man, as part of a push to stay competitive by acquiring independent game studios.

The studio, based in Burbank, California, and Durham, North Carolina, was founded 25 years ago by current Chief Executive Officer Ted Price. It has a long history of making games for Sony, including Ratchet & Clank, a sci-fi shooting game, and the Spider-Man title, which has sold over 13.2 million copies. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Sony’s PlayStation remains the top-selling gaming console worldwide. But like the rest of the industry, it’s grappling with the global success of Fortnite — a shooting title from Epic Games Inc. — and a broader shift toward free-to-play titles.

Tech giants Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google LLC have also stated their intention of getting deeper into the business. And traditional game developers, such as Electronic Arts Inc., are introducing subscription services, making even their top titles available to customers who pay them monthly subscription fees.

Sony now operates 14 video game studios around the world. Sony has long made games from its studios exclusive to PlayStation, just as Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. do with their platforms.

In an interview, Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony’s game studios worldwide, said exclusive titles will still be a part of the company’s strategy, but that some games — particularly multiplayer titles designed to be played on personal computers — may see broader distribution.

“We must support the PlayStation platform — that is nonnegotiable,” Layden said. “That said, you will see in the future some titles coming out of my collection of studios which may need to lean into a wider installed base.”

Sony is expected to announce a fifth generation of its popular PlayStation console in the near future. The current version launched in 2013.

In June, U.S. technology veteran Microsoft gave the world a first glimpse at a powerful next-generation Xbox that it aims to release late next year.

The commitment to consoles by longtime rivals in the market comes with the rise of subscription services that stream video games Netflix-style from data centers in the cloud.

The new gaming platforms disrupt the industry by giving users the ability to avoid consoles and game software that is either on a disc or downloaded. Adapting to the new trends will be critical for players in the massive video game industry.

Sony launched its PlayStation Now game service five years ago, allowing titles to be streamed to its current-generation consoles or Windows-powered computers.

Google is to launch its Stadia game streaming service in 14 countries in November.

The Stadia tech platform aims to connect people for interactive play on PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

Apple has announced plans to launch a new game subscription service called Apple Arcade later this year, with at least 100 titles available at its debut.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been testing its Project xCloud game-streaming technology.