Spider-Man Could Have Been An Xbox Exclusive

Spider-Man Could Have Been An Xbox Exclusive
Screenshot: Sony

It’s wild to think about a world in which Insomniac didn’t make one of PlayStation’s fastest-selling games of all time, and yet it very nearly happened. After cutting a decade-long partnership with Activision, Marvel Games had been shopping the Spider-Man IP to other major publishers. Taking on an external IP didn’t fit with Microsoft’s business strategy at the time, and they declined. Sony took a gamble by investing in Spider-Man, and it paid off.

As originally spotted by VGC, the book The Ultimate History of Video Games, Volume 2 details how Spider-Man ended up becoming a Sony exclusive. Though Activision had been publishing Spider-Man games for almost 14 years, Jay Ong, the executive vice president of Marvel Games, felt that the publisher wasn’t doing enough with the IP. He noted that The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which had released in 2014, had scored in the 40s on Metacritic.

Ong thought that superhero tie-in games weren’t regarded very highly for most of gaming history: “You judged [superhero games] by a different standard, a lower standard because most superhero games and most licensed games were pretty poor.” As a result, publishers would give studios very conservative budgets for superhero games. The standard changed when Arkham Asylum went on to sell 10 million copies. As a result, Ong decided that it was time to separate from Activision.

The Marvel executive was looking for a publisher that didn’t settle for ‘crappy licensed games’ and could see the IP as a long-term investment. Nintendo was out, since they mostly worked with their own franchises. Xbox “wanted to focus on their own IP.” When Ong approached PlayStation, he sold it to their VPs with: “We could beat Arkham and have one game and maybe multiple games that could drive adoption of your platform.” And that was how Sony would eventually end up staking $US100 ($139) million on a Marvel game.

They gave the project to a well-regarded independent studio named Insomniac Games. Insomniac had a long track record for technical excellence, and their previous game featured parkour-based gameplay. According to Insomniac’s CEO Ted Price, the studio was the most enthusiastic about Spider-Man. The developers related to how Peter Parker was an “underdog” and an “everyman.” Spider-Man drew favourable comparisons with Arkham Asylum at launch, which had always been Ong’s goal. “Arkham was the one that changed [the low standard] narrative,” he said. “It was inspirational for us in the early days.”

Comments

  • It’s interesting because looking at it now Marvel partnering with Sony just seems like a complete n0-brainer. People already associate Sony with Spiderman going back to the first film in 2002, then of course the PS3 with the spiderman font. They couldn’t have picked a better team with Insomniac as well. Can’t imagine a world where Spiderman 2018 was an xbox exclusive.

  • Sure Spider-Man could’ve been an Xbox exclusive but if you go back to the year 2002 MARVEL Comics Spider-Man was originally published by Activision and developed by Vicarious Visions and if we fast forward to 2008 when Spider-Man Web of Shadows came out not only was Spider-Man Web of Shadows published by Activision but Treyarch stepped to help with the development support.
    As of today Activision is no longer publisher for the Spider-Man franchise and neither is both Treyarch and Vicarious Visions.
    Vicarious Visions has now merged with Blizzard Entertainment and both Activision and Treyarch are now the only developers for the Call of Duty Black Ops series along with Raven Software High Moon Studios Beenox Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games along with Toys For Bob now providing support for both Call of Duty Vanguard and Call of Duty Warzone.

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