The head of Marvel Games has revealed how Xbox turned down an opportunity to make licensed games just before Sony struck a deal to make Spider-Man on PS4.
In an excerpt from Steven L. Kent’s 2021 book The Ultimate History of Video Games Vol 2 (discovered on ResetEra), Jay Ong, Executive Vice President and Head of Marvel Games, explains how the company closed its previous deal with Activision in search of a better partnership.
According to Ong, Marvel Games was not satisfied with the quality of Spider-Man games published by Activision and the two companies mutually agreed to end their licensing deal early.
Ong said that Activision asked “what are you going to do with this IP after you get it back” when the deal was made to walk away? To which Ong replied, “I’ll find a better home for it.”
According to Ong, Activision’s response was, “Good luck finding your unicorn.”
Ong said Marvel Games then went to both Xbox and PlayStation to see if either of them would be interested in an exclusive partnership, asking them, “We don’t have any major console deals with anyone at this time, what would you like to do.” ? ?”.
Microsoft’s strategy, Ong recalls, was to focus on its own intellectual property, and as such it decided to pass on the offer.
However, Sony was more receptive. “I sat down with these two third-party PlayStation executives Adam Boyes and John Drake in a conference room in Burbank in August 2014,” Ong said.
“I said, ‘We have a dream that this is possible, that we could beat Arkham and have at least one game and maybe multiple games that could drive adoption of your platform.'”
Sony reportedly responded by offering to develop a Triple-A Spider-Man game exclusively for PlayStation, handing the project over to Insomniac, which was independent at the time but was considered “one of Sony’s key partners.”
The resulting game, Marvel’s Spider-Man, received critical acclaim and reportedly sold more than 20 million copies, and its spin-off Miles Morales sold an additional 6.5 million.
Spider-Man is in the US now one of Sony’s most successful video game releases of all timeexpressed in dollar sales.
Insomniac recently announced Spider-Man 2 with a teaser trailer during a PlayStation Showcase presentation in September 2021. It’s also expanding its relationship with Marvel via a Wolverine game in development.
The Spider-Man sequel is slated for release on PlayStation 5 in 2023, with Candyman actor Tony Todd playing Venom.