While it’s never made quite the same song and dance about it as Microsoft has in recent years, Sony’s history is peppered with developer acquisitions designed to strengthen its first-party portfolio. It purchased Dutch developer Guerrilla Games in 2004 and long-time partner Sucker Punch in 2011. In the same general era, it also picked up LittleBigPlanet developer Media Molecule – and let’s not forget that studios like Naughty Dog were originally independent as well. Of course, Sony recently added Insomniac Games to its long list of first party Worldwide Studios.
While the Japanese giant has outright purchased some teams, it’s also established several organically. The likes of PixelOpus – who recently worked on Concrete Genie – and God of War developer Sony Santa Monica were formed to bolster the organisation’s exclusive output. But with current PlayStation boss Jim Ryan frequently hinting that the platform holder may be looking to add more teams to its roster, we figured it might be fun to consider the likeliest candidates.
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Recognised as perhaps the best port house in the business, Bluepoint Games has pivoted from industry leading remasters to full-scale remakes in recent years. The team is perhaps best known for its awe-inspiring work on Shadow of the Colossus, where it preserved the gameplay of the original but brought the presentation up to the standards of an entirely new generation. It’s now strongly rumoured to be working on a Demon’s Souls remake, which could debut alongside the PS5.
Likelihood: Neutral. While it would certainly make sense for Sony to acquire Bluepoint Games, the studio’s strengths lie in remakes and remasters rather than original projects, and so PlayStation can probably call upon the independent Texas-based outfit whenever it has an idea it wants to explore.
Location: Bellevue, Washington, USA
A relatively young studio, Camouflaj is currently working on Marvel's Iron Man VR exclusively for PlayStation VR. The developer previously released République on PS4 before adapting it into a VR title, so it seems the team is finding its feet in the virtual reality space. The Iron Man PSVR title is easily the most high profile game Camouflaj has made so far; if it does well, perhaps Sony could consider acquiring the studio.
Likelihood: Neutral. As with IllFonic (below), it's too early to tell if Camouflaj will become a prime contender to join Sony's first party group. The proof will very much be in the pudding with Iron Man VR. Sony is heavily invested in virtual reality, so perhaps it's looking to bring on a talented team to specialise in the area.
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Despite publicly attempting to reinvent its image recently, Sony and Housemarque’s relationship goes back a long way. Recognised for its arcade games, the studio is probably best known for PS4 launch title Resogun, but it’s also the mastermind behind PlayStation Store classics such as Super Stardust HD and Nex Machina. Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida recently visited the Finnish outfit, while CEO Ilari Kuittinen has talked about how smaller studios sometimes have to accept investment in order to stay alive.
Likelihood: High. Housemarque would land much-needed financial security, while Sony would add a reliable developer to its ranks. Both outfits already have a strong working relationship, so don’t rule this one out.
Location: Golden, Colorado, USA
IllFonic's history with PlayStation is limited, but it's worth considering the studio as a candidate for acquisition. Known for Friday the 13th: The Game, the team's latest title is Predator: Hunting Grounds, a PS4 exclusive asymmetrical multiplayer game. Given that Sony has been looking to explore multiplayer titles further, it makes sense it's publishing this unusual game. If it's successful, perhaps the platform holder may look to bring IllFonic fully on board.
Likelihood: Neutral. IllFonic's relationship with Sony is still pretty fresh, so it's hard to say whether the studio is likely to join Worldwide Studios. Again, it may all come down to how Predator: Hunting Grounds performs. One to watch.
Location: Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan
Only auteur Hideo Kojima could find himself establishing a new studio named Kojima Productions – less than a year after he was ejected from the previous Kojima Productions under Konami’s control. The new company instantly entered into an arrangement with Sony, and would go on to leverage Guerrilla Games’ impressive Decima Engine for use on its debut project, Death Stranding. The two developers have since become deeply interlocked, with staff from Amsterdam regularly taking the trip from Tokyo and vice versa as the teams make a joint effort to evolve PlayStation’s proprietary game development technology.
Likelihood: Neutral. Kojima Productions has quickly become a part of the Worldwide Studios furniture, and its relationship with Guerrilla Games in particular seems mutually beneficial. Sony has played a key role in helping Hideo Kojima set up his new studio, but after being burned by Konami he may value his independence above all. It’s worth noting that ex-PlayStation president Andrew House played a key role in convincing Kojima to come on board, and he has since left the company.
Ready at Dawn
Location: Irvine, California, USA
This studio formed of ex-Naughty Dog and Blizzard devs made its start with games for Sony's PlayStation Portable. It made a name for itself with two excellent God of War entries for the handheld before it turned its collective hand to home console work. After spending years developing a state of the art game engine, Ready at Dawn released The Order: 1886, a maligned but visually jaw-dropping PS4 exclusive. After pivoting to something more family friendly with Deformers, the developer has mainly focused on virtual reality titles for PC headsets.
Likelihood: Low. It's clear the studio and Sony were at one stage very closely working together. However, after The Order failed to make an impact, it feels like the chances of the team joining Worldwide Studios is fairly slim.
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Best known for Max Payne but more popular in recent years for its work on Xbox exclusives like Quantum Break, Finnish developer Remedy has since broken away from Microsoft, bringing its next project Control to multiple platforms, including the PS4. Curiously, Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida visited the studio recently, while it’s been touring various first-party outfits like Naughty Dog. We’ve also heard from a number of sources that Sony is lining up a bid, although the company’s recent reacquisition of the Alan Wake brand casts some doubt on that speculation.
Likelihood: Low. Remedy Entertainment has maintained its independence over the years, and so is unlikely to be particularly open to the idea of an acquisition. The team recently signed a deal with Epic Games to publish its next two titles, so a Sony buy-out probably isn't happening any time soon.
Location: Guildford, England
Supermassive Games has historically operated as a kind of gun-for-hire for some of Sony’s more adventurous projects. The British outfit played a key role in the development of PlayStation Move software, creating titles like Start the Party and Tumble. It’s also worked on PlayStation VR, with rails-shooter Until Dawn: Rush of Blood proving a particular highlight. It’s the teen-slasher which inspired the aforementioned virtual reality effort that it’s best known for, however, as Until Dawn has become something of a cult classic on the PS4.
Likelihood: Low. We can’t help but feel if Sony was going to acquire Supermassive Games, it would have happened already. The platform holder never seemed particularly eager to fund a follow-up, and now it’s signed up with Bandai Namco to create The Dark Pictures Anthology.
Which studios do you think Sony should acquire? Is this topic already tired in the wake of Microsoft’s recent spending spree? Cash the cheque in the comments section below.