Sony never saw it coming.
Microsoft announced plans to purchase Activision for $68.7 billion, which would give the Xbox brand access to the likes of Call of Duty, Warcraft, StarCraft, and even former PlayStation mascot Crash Bandicoot. Sony doesn’t have the capital to get into an acquisitions arms race with a $2 trillion company like Microsoft, but a smart acquisition might help a staggered Sony get back in the fight after a challenging start to this console generation.
If Sony opts to solve its conundrum through capital spending, here are eight top-tier developers worth buying.
8. Quantic Dream
As far as public perception is concerned, Quantic Dream and Activision are sort of in similar places. With the studio still feeling the PR sting from toxic workplace allegations filed in 2018, president and founder David Cage recently declared victory against those claims following an appeal in April of 2021.
There’s still a large contingent of gamers that hates the apparent smugness of Cage and the games he makes, but it’s undeniable that high-gloss titles like Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human are exactly the kinds of games PlayStation likes to make. In fact, Sony’s affinity for those projects led to an exclusivity partnership spanning nearly a decade. Sony knows how Quantic operates, so there would presumably be less hesitancy about buying them wholesale. That being said, the two companies worked together so closely in the past that we suspect if Cage was open to a deal he would’ve signed one already. Could the studio’s hurt reputation make him more open to one today?
7. Supermassive Games
The makers of PlayStation 4 exclusive Until Dawn are reportedly worth about $6 million, putting them well within the realm of a company PlayStation could acquire if executives wanted to broker a deal. The British game developer has been hard at work making Dark Pictures Anthology games for Bandai Namco, but siding with Sony could present the studio with some unique opportunities.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this Dark Pictures deal has employees churning out games a bit faster than they’d probably like, but funding from Sony could allow the team to slow down and focus on the level of detail that made Until Dawn so great. Better still, is the possibility of Supermassive making episodic content for Sony’s highly rumored subscription service expected to launch over the next few months. Supermassive has a working history of making the kind of content Sony could use. It also doesn’t hurt that PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan has his roots in Europe and familiarity with European talent.
Depending on your taste PlatinumGames might not carry quite as much cache as the previous two studios on this list, but it still has a stable of IP and talented development teams worth mining. Imagine the likes of Neir, Bayonetta, and possibly Astral Chain being exclusive to PlayStation!
One of Platinum’s biggest issues has been its inconsistent performance and inability to keep projects on track. With funding and guidance from a massive company like PlayStation, gamers might be graced with the good version of Platinum every single time. The company did take an undisclosed investment from Tencent in 2020, however, which means they may have enough capital to keep operating on a mostly independent basis.
Sony buying Capcom would be a pretty massive spend, with the iconic game development house reportedly worth nearly $5 billion, but a hypothetical deal could still work out to be valued slightly below Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda. If Sony were to buy them, PlayStation would own the rights to Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Mega Man, Monster Hunter, and much more.
These are all franchises the PlayStation faithful have adored for decades, and the fact that one Japanese company would be acquiring another makes the process much easier than it would be for Microsoft. In order to make this deal work, though, PlayStation would have to let some of its obsessive attention to detail go by the wayside to allow the studios to do their own thing. The Resident Evil and Monster Hunter franchises have never been bigger, and, with Sony’s recent acquisition of EVO, why not buy the tournament’s biggest fighting series too?
4. Konami IP
Konami is reportedly worth about $6 billion, but Sony doesn’t need to buy its entire chain of health clubs, bottled water, and pachinko machines to make the most of a partnership. Instead, it would benefit Ryan and company to just purchase Konami’s major gaming properties for a few million dollars each. Imagine what Bluepoint could do with a new Metal Gear or Castlevania game. Maybe Kojima Productions could be swayed to resume work on Silent Hill.
Konami is sitting on a collection of treasured IP that deserves to be in the right hands. Microsoft could purchase them just as effectively, but, considering how well Konami brands perform in Japan, it might be smarter for Sony to take control of them instead. It definitely could wind up running Sony’s first-party studios a bit thin, but even an occasional Konami IP would help give PlayStation Studios a neat little boost.
Sega has a market cap hovering around $3.6 billion, making them a big but still attainable acquisition for a company like Sony. Owned franchises like Persona, Shin Megami Tensei, Sonic, Yakuza, and Virtua Fighter still carry plenty of recognition for PlayStation audiences, and the Persona games have long benefited from Sony funding and console exclusivity.
Similar to Platinum, Sega is sometimes in a position where its quality is tough to predict. If they were to be acquired, Sony would have to be careful about which studios they have a more hands-on approach with and which they leave to their own devices. Where Ryu Ga Gotaku seems plenty capable of pleasing its fans on its own, Sonic Team might require a little more care. With enough freedom to create and cash to do it, maybe the blue blur can reclaim his place as a top-tier gaming mascot.
2. Bandai Namco
Bandai Namco would be a historic purchase for PlayStation, with a market cap of around $17 billion. The question that remains, though, is whether or not exclusive access to Dark Souls, Ace Combat, Dragon Ball, Tekken, and Soulcalibur would be worth that huge chunk of change.
Once again the fighting game franchises would be a nice fit given Sony’s stake in EVO, and reclaiming Dark Souls would be an incredible way for Sony to atone for past mistakes with Demon’s Souls. It’s ranked highly on this list because of the opportunities it would provide, but we’re guessing it’s far out of corporate’s price range.
1. Square Enix
Among the list of potential acquisitions, perhaps the most common name to pop up is that of the Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, and Kingdom Hearts stewards at Square Enix. They’re reportedly valued at around $6 billion, making them much more attainable than our previously listed developer.
The kismet nature of this potential relationship is obvious. PlayStation and Square have been strong partners since the release of Final Fantasy VII in 1997, and especially recently, ongoing work on Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XVI as PlayStation exclusives proves Square’s most talented dev teams know their way around Sony’s hardware. Just like Square, Sony is also in the unique position of geographically straddling the U.S. and Japan, giving the corporation clear access to all sides of the business.
Might PlayStation’s obsession with quality mean we see fewer Square Enix releases coming out at once? Potentially. But it also means those development teams will only have to work on one piece of hardware in perpetuity, potentially freeing up resources to finish more ambitious projects faster. It’s also possible Square might eventually sell off its studios to Microsoft and Sony along western and Japanese lines, but PlayStation fans would likely prefer the complete portfolio.