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Sony Acquires Studios Behind Returnal, Demon's Souls Remake

Sony and Housemarque have worked together for years.
Sony and Housemarque have worked together for years. / Photo courtesy of Sony

Sony has acquired Housemarque, the development studio behind PlayStation 5 launch title Returnal, the company announced Tuesday. As if that weren't enough, a leak from PlayStation Japan suggests the company has also acquired Bluepoint Games, the studio responsible for the Demon's Souls remake on PlayStation 5.

In Housemarque, Sony adds a longstanding collaborator to its stable of first-party studios. The studio has made games for Sony consoles since Super Stardust HD on the PlayStation 3, and Sony Interactive CEO Jim Ryan emphasized that longstanding relationship in a written statement.

"Housemarque has flexed its creative palette on a wide range of PlayStation games over the years that have continually showcased the power of our hardware," he said.

Housemarque co-founder and managing director Ilari Kuittinen wrote a post on the PlayStation Blog celebrating the acquisition's promise of stability.

"This gives our studio a clear future and a stable opportunity to continue delivering on gameplay centric approaches, while still experimenting with new methods of narrative delivery and pushing the boundaries of this modern artform."

"With the backing of SIE and its family of studios supporting us, we can truly grow into our place in the industry and show what Housemarque can create with no limitations," he wrote.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Housemarque's current management will continue to run daily operations in cooperation with PlayStation Studios External Development team.

Sony celebrated the Housemarque acquisition by posting on many of its social media channels, sharing an image with several of the company's biggest first-party IP, the PlayStation Studios logo, Housemarque's logo, and the words "Welcome to the family."

But when the rest of Sony's social media channels were announcing the Housemarque acquisition, the PlayStation Japan Twitter account accidentally posted a tweet celebrating an acquisition of Bluepoint. It included an image identical to that posted with the Housemarque announcement, but with the Bluepoint logo in place of Housemarque's, and the Demon's Souls remake added to the lineup of IP. The tweet has since been deleted.

Analysis

Studio acquisitions can shed a lot of light on a company's strategy. Both Sony and Microsoft have made been making notable acquisitions of late, but PlayStation Studios head Hermen Hulst says Sony isn't in an arms race with Microsoft and other platform holders when it comes to studio acquisitions.

Hulst told British GQ that Sony was looking for perfect fits, rather than sheer firepower.

“We're very selective about the developers that we bring in,” Hulst said. “Our last new acquisition was Insomniac [for $229 million in 2019], which has worked out very well. I'm always looking for people that have a similar set of values, similar creative ambitions and work very well with our team that we can further invest in and help grow as creators. It's not like we're going around and just making random acquisitions.”

Echoing CEO Jim Ryan, Hulst emphasized the long relationship between PlayStation and Housemarque.

"The amount of collaboration between our external development group and Housemarque on the technical side, the production management side and even on the creative side has been so deep. So for us, it just makes so much sense to do that.”

The leaked acquisition of Bluepoint fits that bill as well. The studio's first project Blast Factor, was a PlayStation 3 launch title. Nearly every project since has included working with Sony in some form. Bluepoint has remastered several treasured PlayStation titles, from Shadow of the Colossus to the Uncharted trilogy.

Microsoft's approach to acquisitions instead emphasizes scale. The company acquired ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in March, bringing a staggering number of studios into its stable: Arkane Studios, id Software, MachineGames, and the great white whale of Bethesda Game Works. ZeniMax and Microsoft had no special relationship, but Microsoft saw enormous dollar signs when it looked at ZeniMax's portfolio.

Microsoft's strategy makes plenty of sense in the short term, as Bethesda's got a guaranteed smash coming down the pike in the next Elder Scrolls game, but any acquisition brings the threat of new management. Being unfamiliar with how these acquisitions operate may lead to misunderstanding how they achieve what greatness they find. New bosses means new chances for meddling, and there's no guarantee that won't come for Bethesda et al.

Sony, on the other hand, has built up trust with the studios it acquires. This makes it more likely they'll let their acquisitions do their thing unfettered, which should lead to long and healthy relationships. Maybe none of those acquisitions will bring the short term gold rush of a new Elder Scrolls game, but they should provide steady success over time.