Being a new PS4 owner, I tuned into the Sony press-conference held at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany to find out about all the new games coming out for the system. On the demo reel during one of the pre-show advertisements where it showed games currently available on the system, I caught a glimpse of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. At first I was taken back by the inclusion of Spider-Man, as I thought it may be a tease that a new Spider-Man game was perhaps on the horizon, but then quickly sobered to the realization that this was the game I looked at unfavorably not more than a few short months ago.
The thought lingered though, should Sony make first-party Spider-Man games?
Turning away from video games for a second, Sony’s film division is keen to holding onto the film rights for the Spider-Man character, so much so that they’ve announced countless spin-off’s of their newly rebooted film franchise, even after this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to live up to expectations (it’s the lowest grossing Spider-Man film to date at $708 million.) It’s also the fastest to arrive on home video, coming out next Tuesday in North America, racing even its comic book film competition Captain America: The Winter Soldier which came out in April.
It’s not unheard of to have first-party developers publish licensed games, look at Goldeneye 007 on the N64, or Sega’s Spider-Man, X-Men and various Batman games. Spider-Man as a video game franchise also owes a lot to the PlayStation brand, having been reinvigorated by Activision and Neversoft in 2000. Spider-Man 2 was offered as a promotion via UMD for new PSP owners when that handhelf launched, Spider-Man 3 received an exclusive edition to the PS3 in that consoles infancy, and this year saw a PS3 bundle including The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game and a copy of 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, the movie not the game.
Spider-Man, whether or not the films are deemed a success, is an incredibly strong brand and one that’s had at least one video game released a year since the year 2000. Those who wanted to get their hands on the next adventure starring the character would have to turn their attention to Sony’s PS4 and PS Vita devices exclusively, potentially boosting sales for both machines.
There’s also the overcoming excitement about the mere prospect of a Sony developed Spider-Man game. Perhaps rivaling, some would say even besting Nintendo, Sony has some of the best studios working either for them or with them today: Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us,) Sucker Punch (inFAMOUS series,) Santa Monica Studios (God of War series,) Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, upcoming Hellblade,) these are a but of few of the talented groups Sony has under their employ. Can you imagine a game with the open world scale of inFAMOUS with the story telling found in The Last of Us, starring Spider-Man?!! I quiver with the possibility.
I’m not sure of the business logistics of making a deal like happen, or even if it’s possible. Disney seems to have little interest in making solo Marvel games; Their only major Marvel game release being of course Disney Infinity 2.0 in a little over a months time. They are open to having other publishers work on properties they own, striking a deal with EA to develop Star Wars games for the near future. That leaves the present holder of the license, Activision. It’s difficult to ascertain where they stand with the license; Last year they lost the digital rights to all the Marvel games in their catalog, with the exception being 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Could it be that they only hold the rights to the film franchise and nothing else? Spider-Man is appearing in Disney Infinity after all.
As much as I would love to see Sony purchase the Spider-Man video game rights, I’m not sure how it fits with their recent decisions when it comes to their gaming divisions. This year at both Gamescom and E3 Sony has shown off a lot of AAA games like The Order 1886 and Uncharted 4, but they’re also keen on pushing the system as a place where you can play all the upcoming indie titles that have exploded on Steam. Suddenly showing off a Spider-Man game may cause Sony to lose some of their “cred” that they’ve built in that community.
Sony is in a unique position to take the license and align it with their interests in their film division though, showing exactly how dedicated they are in creating a multi-media universe for the Spider-Man property. Initially slated for a release in 2016, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 is now arriving at the earliest in 2018. This new window would provide ample time for the platform holder to set up the resources and talent necessary for a Spider-Man game, all the while leaving plenty of time for the proper polishing of a game to make it as best as possible.