In an excerpt from Steven L Kent’s 2021 book The Ultimate History of Video Games Vol 2 (as spotted on ResetEra), executive vice president and head of Marvel Games, Jay Ong, explains how the company cut its earlier deal with Activision short in search of a better partnership.
According to Ong, Marvel Games wasn’t happy with the quality of the Spider-Man games being published by Activision, and the two companies mutually agreed to terminate their licensing deal early.
Ong said that when the deal was made to walk away, Activision asked “what are you going to do with this IP after you get it back?” To which Ong replied: “I’m going to find a better home for it.”
According to Ong, Activison’s reply 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 forming an exclusive partnership, asking them: “We don’t have any big console deals with anyone right now, what would you like to do?”.
Microsoft‘s strategy, Ong recalls, was to focus on its own IP, and as such, it decided to pass on the offer.
Sony, however, was more receptive. “I sat down with these two execs from PlayStation third-party, Adam Boyes and John Drake, in August 2014, in a conference room in Burbank,” Ong said.
“I said, ‘We have a dream that this is possible, that we could beat Arkham and have one game at least and maybe multiple games that could drive adoption of your platform’.”
Sony reportedly responded by offering to make a triple-A, PlayStation-exclusive Spider-Man game, and handed the project to Insomniac, which was independent at the time but was considered “one of Sony’s most important partners”.
The resulting game, Marvel’s Spider-Man, was widely critically acclaimed and reportedly went on to sell more than 20 million copies, with its spin-off Miles Morales selling a further 6.5 million.
In the US, Spider-Man is now one of Sony’s most successful video game releases ever, in terms of 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 an in-development Wolverine game.