Ok, so it’s hardly an acquisition of Bethesda proportions, and not exactly the biggest surprise. Playing a key role in the development of The Playroom (PS4) and more recently, The Playroom VR (PS5 VR), Firesprite have been PlayStation Studios company in all but name for some time.
But nevertheless, this marks the 14th addition to the PlayStation Studios family. Firesprite now breathe rarefied air shared by the likes of Guerilla and Housemarque. This marks the third acquisition of this year. This of course marks a continue trends in the industry of consolidation. Both Microsoft and now Sony greedy to lay claim to all independent talent in the market.
One key difference, of course is that this is not something that will necessarily deliver an immediate return for Sony. Unlike Microsoft, Sony doesn’t yet have an equivalent Games Pass. This of course gave Microsoft an immediate opportunity to bring the many games of ZeniMax’s back catalogue to it’s platform. This may not quite have paid back the massive $7.5b outlay for that gargantuan acquisition. But it’s a start, and something Sony Entertainment Interactive lacks.
Microsofts acquisition of ZeniMax gave Games Pass customers instant access to Bethesda’s dizzying back catalogue
Conversly, Herman Hulst, head of PlayStation Studios has spoken about openning up the studios portfolio. He clearly wants to break new ground, pushing into new genres and deliver a variety of experiences. The Firesprite acquisition is a clear indication that this ambition is more than just clever marketing speak.
This does seem to mark a growing trend from PlayStation. If asked what games best represent Sony PlayStation its hard not to conjure one of many (all be it exceptional) 3rd person action RPGs. Spiderman, God of War, Uncharted, The Last of Us…the list goes on. But Firesprite, and other acquisitions like it mark a different style altogether.
Sony’s fisrt party releases have always favoured the 3rd person action narative. Often exceptional, but it does get a little repetative
These studio purchases are typically the result of a long run partnership. With Sony investing years nurturing the studio through collaborative endeavour, it’s key to their continued success. A great example of what fruit this approach can bare was with Sony’s interaction with the newly formed Kojima Productions. Lending Guerrilla Games’ proprietary Decima engine out to help bring Death Stranding to life, success was all but guarenteed.
This is a far cry from the Microsoft approach. Focusing on a studio, putting in the hours to develop relationships is surely a better way to ensure long-term success. Whilst Microsoft may get the headlines with multimillion dollar acquisition, these are unproven, and come with baggage. Todd Howards ego for starters. It’s an altogether more intellectual approach, and one that will almost certainly bear fruit for SIE.
Just like Housemark before it, it’s not apparently exactly what Firesprite will do for Sony other than continue to work on the Playhouse. This is clearly does not mark limit of the partnership or Sony’s ambition for the Liverpudlian Studio. But with Sony putting Jade Rayond’s Heaven Entertainment behind the inaugural released from Firesprite you can expect big things. With significant talent from prior Call of Duty releases, we might be tempted to put our money on a Sony FSP first party game.
Could Sony’s positioning of Heaven Entertainment at the helm of Firesprite’s next release mark a first party FPS game from PlayStation studios? Interesting times
But with years of PlayStation Studios relying on proven, if increasingly tired money-spinners from Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, and Sony Santa Monica it’s a welcome break from form at the very least. Actually, it’s damn right exiting to see what might even be described as a risk from SIE, looking to break to mould and explore something entirely new, unproven. This diversification is perhaps the antidote to the trend towards consolidation, and may very well deliver fresh and exciting variety to the somewhat cookie cutter games we love to play, but hate to love.
In the words of Hulst himself,
“Firesprite is a creative and ambitious studio that is exceptional at building incredible experiences that truly showcase the potential of our hardware. The team’s technical and creative capabilities will be paramount to growing our stellar catalogue of exclusive games, and I think you’ll be excited for what’s to come.”
Well Herman, we can only hope.
“Video games are great. I should know, I’ve played some.”
Olly S, July 2020