Why Sony Interactive Bought 'Spider-Man' Maker Insomniac Games

Shawn Layden-Getty-H 2019
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SIE chairman Shawn Layden discusses the new deal, what it means for Insomniac's development and the company's approach to acquiring studios and talent.

On Monday, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) announced its acquisition of Marvel's Spider-Man and Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games. (Terms of the deal were not disclosed.) The acquisition made Insomniac the 14th studio to join SIE's roster at the company's Worldwide Studios, alongside such developers as Horizon Zero Dawn maker Guerrilla Games and Dreams and Little Big Planet studio Media Molecule.

While Insomniac has a long-standing relationship with Sony dating back to the 1990s and the Spyro the Dragon series, the developer has remained independent, albeit as one of the most profitable and widely known video game developers in the world. With the success of last year's Spider-Man (the game sold over 3 million copies over its first three days and has sold over 9 million worldwide since its launch last September), Sony has officially acquired the studio in its entirety.

Shawn Layden, chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios, caught up with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the deal, what it means for development on Insomniac's titles and the company's approach to acquiring studios and talent.

How long has this deal been in the works?

Insomniac has been a partner of ours for over 20 years now, and I’ve been working with Ted [Price, CEO of Insomniac] and the team since the days of Spyro the Dragon. Since then, they’ve gone on to do the Ratchet & Clank series, Resistance: Fall of Man and, most recently, Spider-Man, which by all angles looks to have been quite a successful endeavor. So we’ve known for a long time. The most important thing about acquiring talent or studios is, do they fit into your culture? Do they match with the studio that you are and the one you wish to become? Insomniac is the perfect fit for Worldwide Studios. They bring quality and innovation, the two things that we lean into every time and all the time. I can’t say enough good things about Ted and his team. We’re just super delighted.

Why now? Did the success of Spider-Man weigh into this decision?

Sure. Spider-Man underscores how consequential Insomniac is to gaming in the overall. They are an impact maker. They are a style setter. There are just a clutch of studios in that independent sphere who are at an accomplishment level of something like Insomniac. They are a very rare bird, and we felt that this was the time to formalize the relationship.

What changes for Insomniac and your relationship now that they’re in the fold?

For Insomniac themselves, nothing much changes at all. They’re a fantastic studio, they deliver fantastic content. I don’t think anyone will go in there and tell them how to make a game. They certainly got game of their own. I think what Worldwide Studios provides to them is a closer relationship to the innovation — whether it’s in technology or game design that we’re doing here. We’ve got a number of teams with extraordinary talent in game creation. We’re in a place now where all of our teams are trading technology and techniques and innovation across studios to get better and stronger. I think there’s only additive natures to it. There’s nothing there that will change their culture or their ability to deliver the fabulous games they’ve been doing for 20 years.

What does this acquisition mean for a series like Sunset Overdrive, which was a Microsoft exclusive?

That was a great experience for Insomniac, and they learned a lot through that, as well. As far as the IP itself, we really haven’t turned over the files on that one to see what that actually means, to be honest. We like what they’ve been doing in the Spider-Man franchise, and things like Ratchet & Clank are certainly vital series in the present and future. That’s what we’re concentrating on.

Are you concentrating on existing IP or the creation of new IP with Insomniac?

All the studios at Worldwide Studios manage their franchise plans and manage their IP in a way they see best. Insomniac will be no different in that way. We’ll look at what they walk into the fold with. If they have ideas around new game concepts, which every team does, we will look forward with great anticipation to what the future brings.

What is Sony’s approach to acquiring studios?

We look at this from a Worldwide Studios perspective, which has the encouragement and support of Sony Interactive Entertainment, my leadership, and Sony Corp. has been fully backing on this. Looking at something like Insomniac, an acquisition of a studio of that caliber and size was really a way for us to continue our strength in innovation and quality with a heavy leaning towards the power of narrative, the power of storytelling. These are things that, if you look across our catalog, we do a lot in this genre. We want to tell stories. We want to create a place where game developers can bring their vision to life and tell stories that impact the emotions and interests of our gamers. Insomniac fits perfectly into the division that we created at Worldwide Studios here, leaning into first and best.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.