Sony Interactive Entertainment announced Monday that the company is acquiring Insomniac Games, a storied game studio and one of the most experienced in VR development anywhere in the world. The studio has developed three Oculus exclusive titles, with its fourth and largest yet, Stormland, still due to launch in 2019.

Founded in 1994, Insomniac Games was best known for the creation of the Spyro and Ratchet & Clank franchises which have collectively spanned more than a dozen titles, many exclusively on PlayStation consoles. In recent years the studio has been well known in the VR space, having developed three exclusive titles for Oculus Studios: Edge of Nowhere (2016), The Unspoken (2016), and Feral Rights (2016), not to mention the non-VR hit Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018) which was a PlayStation exclusive.

Image courtesy Insomniac Games

Sony’s primary reason for buying Insomniac is surely the quality and success (13M+ units) of Spider-Man (alongside the studio’s decades of experience developing for PlayStation consoles). Sony will bring the studio under its SIE Worldwide Studios group, which has churned out some of the company’s most lauded exclusive games (VR and otherwise).

While Sony will surely focus in the near-term on leveraging Insomniac’s talents for more AAA non-VR titles, the acquisition is a strategic boon for PlayStation’s VR ambitions, and a blow to Oculus. Sony has effectively sniped one of the world’s most experienced VR development studios after Oculus spent several years investing in the studio’s VR expertise.

In addition to the three Oculus exclusive titles the studio had already released, Insomniac is still developing its forth and largest title for Oculus Studios, Stormland, which is due out in 2019. The acquisition will surely not impact the release of the title, but it very likely will impact its future.

Image courtesy Insomniac Games

If Stormland turned out to be a hit for Oculus, and if Insomniac had remained independent, Oculus would likely ask the studio to start working on additional content and possibly a sequel. But now that the studio is owned by a direct competitor in the VR space, it’s unlikely that Insomniac would take on that work.

This of course all depends on who owns the Stormland IP. If Oculus holds the rights to the game, the company would have to search for a different studio to pick up where Insomniac left off (though the friction of switching teams on such a big project would be substantial); if it turns out that Insomniac retained the rights to the game, Oculus could be totally barred from continuing it unless they want to pay Sony to license the IP.

It’s likely that the Stormland deal between Oculus and Insomniac specifies a certain period of ‘post-launch content and support’ which the studio will be obligated to fill regardless of the acquisition.

However, generally a studio like Insomniac would want to do good work on post-launch content so that the publisher (Oculus Studios in this case) would be encouraged to pay for the development of even more content. But given that no additional deal is likely to be made following whatever was originally negotiated (considering the acquisition), Incomiac doesn’t have much incentive to put its heart and soul behind additional Stormland content.

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In that sense, this was a pretty good move for Sony on the VR front. Not only are they benefiting from years of Insomniac’s VR talent—that Oculus paid for—but they’ve also put some major hurdles in place for Stormland’s future and deprived Oculus Studios from one of its core collaborators; VR game design is so new compared to non-VR game design that it’s not like Oculus can just go out shopping for another studio with the same level of VR expertise as Insomniac, and that means Oculus Studios has less access to great VR development talent moving forward.

Oculus Studios has consistently worked with a small number of independent game development studios over the years to deliver exclusive games to its platform. Oculus may now be taking a close look at the likes of Ready at Dawn, Twisted Pixel, Sanzaru Games, 4A Games, and others, to ensure they don’t get snatched up, especially considering that Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios has also been on a studio-buying spree.

Image courtesy Insomniac Games

While it won’t be the studio’s top priority, the odds seem good that Sony will have part of Insomniac Games work on a PSVR exclusive title; at least half of Sony’s current Worldwide Studios teams have worked on PSVR games. If this comes to pass, it seems likely that the studio would begin working on a launch title for PSVR 2, which Sony has all but confirmed at this point.

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  • Jarilo

    All the Ratchet and Clanks were PlayStation exclusives. I always thought Insomniac was already mostly Sony. Weird.

    • d0x360

      They were so Sony didn’t REALLY need to buy them. They rarely made non Sony titles and even when they did it was with smaller teams with the exception of the Excellent sunet overdrive… Which is basically the basis of Spiderman’s traversal and animation system minus the webs.

      • Jarilo

        That’s what I kind of figured. To be honest though I loved their flat screen stuff but I don’t see the impact on VR from them that everyone else seems to be making it out to be. Edge of Nowhre and Unspoken were….okay at best. It’s really Stormland everyone is thinking of and none of us have really even played it.

  • Peyton Lind

    Has Insomniac ever made a game that isn’t an exclusive? Lame studio.

    • Gonzax

      A studio that makes great games is anything but lame. Business is business.

      • d0x360

        Exactly. If company X pays a dev to make an exclusive that’s that. Yea I get it..if you don’t own the platform and wanna play that can be rough..but nobody is stopping you from buying the hardware the system is on.

        It is a shame Oculus lost them…and everyone else but Sony. Their VR games have been great as was sunset overdrive.

        I enjoyed spiderman but…aside from visuals it wasn’t really any better than spiderman 2 for the 7th gen consoles. Both games had extremely repetitive side missions, although spiderman 2 had way better swinging.

        All this means is in a couple years the major talent at the studio will leave. Probably starting with the studio head. It always happens that way when a good independent dev gets bought out. Always.

      • adasd

        right. not to mention theyve made some of the most iconic and successful games ever. I’m still resistance’s largest fan and Insomniac games was continuously on americas top ten big companies to work at because they had such great benefits and entertainment at work. They had mini put put and massage parlors in their offices….

      • Jarilo

        Agreed, but if you are only into VR then Insomniac has yet to really release one. Edge of Nowhere and Unspoken were meh.

        • Gonzax

          I loved both EoN and Unspoken and I’m sure Stormland will be one of the best VR games ever made. Anyway, if you can have something as amazing as Aircar done by one guy and free then there’s no reason to worry, other people will come up with some great games.

          • Jarilo

            Yea, I’m not worried. Stormland does look awesome. EoN and Unspoken were not bad, but they weren’t anything that blew me away in VR either.

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Sony didn’t do it to “Strategically” hurt Oculus. They did it because it’s a great asset for their company.

    • asdfasdfasdf

      100%, and oculus still gets stormfront. so that was more of what the deal was and not insomiac is oculus for life.

    • benz145

      The intent and the result are two different things.

      Sony’s primary reason for buying Insomniac is surely the quality and success (13M+ units) of Spider-Man (alongside the studio’s decades of experience developing for PlayStation consoles). Sony will bring the studio under its SIE Worldwide Studios group, which has churned out some of the company’s most lauded exclusive games (VR and otherwise).

      While Sony will surely focus in the near-term on leveraging Insomniac’s talents for more AAA non-VR titles, the acquisition is a strategic boon for PlayStation’s VR ambitions, and a blow to Oculus. Sony has effectively sniped one of the world’s most experienced VR development studios after Oculus spent several years investing in the studio’s VR expertise.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Any competition in gaming just makes the gaming consumer develop more marketable games that is affordable for the customer.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    What I notice that is not a good idea, its when a game is released and its not a immediate hit, they being oculus tends to move focus on more new titles rather than reinventing the wheel.Say the likes of a comeback game such as one that doesnt spark the masses interest until later.If you fall ou get up you dont stay there.I cant believe we are not seeing more games s a series to luckys tale.Is it that it was named after palmer lucky who is one from the company ? More retro vr games and platformers like moss with sequels like as mario and sonic.Do 2d within vr,third person and first person options in one game.You start out playing on a screen like sega classics vr,then you get a over the top view with basic 3d and finally you can choose either thirst or first person in a retro type of platformer.Jesusavesouls !

    • Shy Guy

      Lucky’s Tale did get a sequel, Super Lucky’s Tale, sadly it was non-VR only. It’s now being expanded and coming to Nintendo Switch.

    • drowhunter

      hahah ..whut?

      • JesuSaveSouls

        I like superman and many typos in my post since I don’t proofread.

  • there is gunfire studio who did from other sun, driftersvr who did gunheart but worked with oculus on robo recall and who most of the drifter team came from the robo recall team. also oculus could start their own in-house studio and try to hire most of the team behind stormland. if not oculus should buy one of the other devs I mention. drifters Vr would be a great get for them and they would do a great job picking up the content creating for stormland.

  • Greyl

    The VR games Insomniac have made, Edge of Nowhere and The Unspoken, weren’t good, and Stormland is probably good, but looks no where near as ambitious as Asgard’s Wrath is, so nothing of value was really lost.

  • Wes Beyrent

    Let’s remember, companies are made up of people. There’s nothing stopping Oculus from posting jobs and hiring Insomniac VR developers. Unless Oculus just can’t compete with Sony/Insomniac benefits, or there’s a non-compete clause in Sony’s acquisition of Insomniac. I love Insomniac’s games, but it sounds like their VR titles were “meh”, so I’d rather see more great games like Ratchet and Clank on PS4 and 5 than some “meh” VR titles on my Oculus Quest.

    • asshat

      non-compete clause

      • Andrew Jakobs

        But the aquisition of Insomniac can’t really change the contracts the people working there. People are free to go if they want. non-compete isn’t really viable in many countries..

  • dbailes

    So how are Sony and Oculus competitors? One sells console VR games and the other sells PC VR games. Seems to me Sony should let them keeps making PC versions of everything to make more money.

    • Their only competitors because from what I’ve heard Sony has sold WAY more PSVR’s than Oculus has Rift’s, and so from a purely hardware standpoint it’s much harder to sell one versus the other if the software isn’t there to back it up.

  • Justos

    Are the views on your articles so low that you have to create titles like this? No offence Ben, but your articles have skewed anti oculus in the more recent months and as someone who is more in the middle, your bias is showing.

    Leave it to Ben, to paint something good for Sony as bad for Oculus, just because. Its not like Stormlands is being canceled or anything. Nothing will be pulled from Oculus home.

  • care package

    Exclusives piss me off. It’s ok if Sony does it, but Oculus doing it is complete bullspit.

    • drowhunter

      thats hypocritical and if it wasn’t for exclusive Asgards Wrath wouldn’t exist.

      • care package

        I know dude it was sarcasm.