Once again we’re talking about Mergers and Acquisitions in the video game space, and as in previous times we’re doing it from the point of Sony’s view as it’s the one I’m most knowledgable, and frankly, the most interested in.
The year has been off to a banger start, and I have missed out on reporting on every single piece of news. This has been because of a struggle with mental health. While I won’t apologize for this, I do want to point out that I wouldn’t have skipped out on reporting on the recent news if it wasn’t because of a serious reason. Thank you for understanding.
As you probably know, Take-Two acquired Zynga, PlayStation (SIE) acquired Bungie, and the big one was Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision/Blizzard.
All of these have been reported on to death, and I know there are wishes for me to talk about both Bungie and their effect on PlayStation, as well as the ActiBlizz situation. I might talk about it at a later date, but think that most of the things have been said by more “important” people already – if there’s interest anyway, let me know.
However, this time around I would look at what I think the viable options for Sony are going forward regarding M&A. As I’ve said countless times at this point, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sony is going to have an aggressive year when it comes to acquisitions.
This has been clear to me since sometime around summer or fall since last year, and I believe I even described that I believed that Sony would try to tie up their most important partners/support studios during last year – and this year would be the year when they switched up their strategy and went out of their “comfort zone”.
This has been based on different things, but all in all, it’s been something I’ve been very sure about. Even so, I didn’t think Sony would start the year off by acquiring Bungie and the Destiny franchise for a whopping $3.6B price tag. But I am expecting that it’s far from the end.
The question I’ve gotten asked for the most is: How should Sony reply to Microsoft?
In my opinion, that question is bad. I don’t think there’s a need to have a “response” per-se, as reactionary moves tend to mean bad business. Some of my followers went as far into panic mode that they suggested that the only path forward for PlayStation (and Sony), is to sell either the SIE branch or the entire company to a bigger fish like Apple or Amazon.
You could see a similar reaction on the stock market, with Sony losing around $20 Billion in Market Value after the Microsoft news. Soon after the news hit, we started seeing people screaming that Sony needs to acquire EA or Take-Two as a response, and the respective companies’ stocks even went up briefly as a response to this, with investors believing Sony, in theory, could bite as a response.
What I want to talk about in this post, is exactly what you’ve been asking for. Acquisition-wise, what do I think is the best strategy going forward for Sony & SIE is. This article will be quite chunky so bear with me, I’ll try my best to inspect and dissect their plans once again. A big focus will also be the talking point as to why certain companies would be bad investments in my eyes – and others would make a lot of sense.
This might not be the exact article you’ve been wanting, and I’m sure some of my opinions aren’t going to make you happy – and that’s fine.
I also get asked on an almost weekly basis if I’m an insider, and if I have information on X, Y, and Z.
As usual: Unless I disclose that I’ve gotten some form of Insider Information, or intel not known to the general public, I’ll mention that. Please don’t spread things around as rumors based on this post, unless I say it’s intel I got. Everything else should be counted as Speculation because that’s what it is.
Looking at SIE & PlayStation Studios today
Seeing the recent reactions relating to Sony, one would believe they’re about to go bankrupt. They have no money, there’s no way they can fight Microsoft, and all of the sudden my Twitter timeline was filled with “PlayStation has no games” types of posts. Yet, with the release of Horizon Forbidden West, it’s all everyone is talking about.
I realize how massive and industry-changing Microsoft getting Activision/Blizzard is, don’t get me wrong. But I also hope you in turn realize how silly the narrative that Sony all of the sudden is doomed sounds.
The fact of the matter is; The PS4 generation was basically centered around fixing the brand and fixing its exclusive lineup. We went from respectable sites like GameTrailers’ being worried in 2013 that the PS4 wouldn’t have good exclusive games, which sounds silly to hear now. But going into the generation, we’d had a pretty mixed PS3 generation, and the PS4 was launching with Resogun, Knack, and Killzone Shadow Fall.
Sony knew this as well, and the general shift in tone came after the launch of The Last of Us. With Shuhei Yoshida, and to an extent Shawn Layden did a (mostly) great job of fostering its teams, they have gotten to a point now in which they all fill a certain spot in the PS Studios lineup.
What about the current day?
Well, I’d say that it isn’t an overstatement to say that SIE is the strongest Single-Player publisher in the entire gaming industry. I know, that is a very big and bold statement, but am I truly false in saying that?
While they’ve succeeded in making each of their developers successful in that area, they’re now also heavily expanding almost every single in-house studio to be able to make multiple titles at the same time.
Hermen Hulst and Jim Ryan have together continued to handle their teams with care to the point where they’re self-sufficient. While their owned teams are rapidly growing, Hermen Hulst and Jim Ryan is part of a very well-oiled machine that can run fairly painlessly. This in turn gives them the option to focus on expanding and fixing areas in which they’re weaker.
We can see from recent investments and partnerships that Sony knows what works, and what doesn’t. Since their first-party single-player lineup of games is held in such good regards, we can see that the only investments they’re doing on the single-player front are in genres they’re weak in. Final Fantasy for RPGs and Deathloop for FPS could be two examples of this.
It’s easy to notice a trend within Sony, where they take interest in areas in which they’re weak. Multiplayer and Live Service games are one of these areas. Haven, Deviation, and FireWalk are partnerships that happened because of this. And Bungie is stated to have been acquired simply to help out their worldwide studios in delivering better multiplayer games.
In other words… Sony is very strong in a lot of areas, and they know that. They also know they’re weak in others, and need to make improvements there.
Again… I have no clue why there’s panic to be had.
This leads to the question…
Can Sony afford to compete in M&A?
The narrative that Sony has no money is almost weirder than the narrative “PlayStation is Doomed” ever was.
Do they have infinite money? No, not at all.
Do they have as much money as Tencent, Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc? No, of course not…
It’s not like they’re broke, and I’m sure that a lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about, or looking at. The constant thing I see people doing is comparing companies’ worth by going on stock sites googling “Take-Two Worth”, and getting $19 Billion as an answer and that’s seemingly it?
This is an area I take a lot of interest in, and I still make a lot of mistakes regarding it. It’s a very vast world, but looking at Take-Two as an example – a company that is a lot smaller than Sony – they acquired Zynga for nearly the same amount that they’re worth on their own. All of a sudden I started seeing people saying stuff like “Take-Two has more money than Sony”, like… No, that’s not how it works.
An acquisition can work in plenty of ways. You can on one hand use your cash on hand, your reserves so to speak – this is an area where Sony is doing very well in as we’ve gone over earlier.
You can also do stock options, and there’s always the possibility of taking loans to take on deals. It’s all about doing the risk versus reward. The fact of the matter is that Take-Two’s takeover of Zynga is a lot more than just “We have $12.7 Billion, here you go”.
Does that mean Sony can and should acquire EA or Take-Two?
To the question, if they can, the answer is quite simple: Yes, but it isn’t as easy for Sony to do it as it is for Microsoft. It’s of course a risk even for a company like Microsoft, but they have a lot to fall back on if the deal went sideways – Sony would have harder aftermath to deal with.
Regarding if they should acquire them, I’ll get back to you later on in this article…
It’s important that you understand these points, Sony’s weak side, and where they need to improve – as well as some of the basics on the economic side for this article to make sense. Mainly; We’re going over what I think are the worst, and on the contrary, the best investments and acquisitions for Sony to make as it currently stands.
Let’s start with being negative, and heads up. I’ll probably piss a lot of you off with a few of these. Let us begin by looking at what I would say are bad investments for Sony to make.
Bad Acquisition Options for Sony
To introduce this segment, at first, I just wanted to look at the “Good” options for Sony, and do a separate article on the bad options. I quickly realized that if I only did one half, the comments would be filled with “What about X, Y, and Z” – which probably isn’t on that list for a reason.
I also want to say that a company that is on the bad list doesn’t mean that the company is bad, or in any way lesser than the good list. In a lot of ways, it could be seen as Sony not being a good fit for them, not the other way around. This is not meant to disrespect any company.
As we saw on Twitter after the Activision/Blizzard news broke, the kneejerk reaction from some people was that people felt that Sony needed to acquire Take-Two or EA (as a response), which I think is a terrible take.
All of a sudden it’s like we’ve forgotten what position Sony is in, revenue-wise they’re still in the top 3 in the entire gaming industry. They have a strong lineup of games and more unannounced games than you could even imagine in active development.
BUT taking into account what we went over in the previous chapter(s), I think there are plenty of acquisition options on the market; And that includes plenty of bad ones. As I’ve previously said, I’m going to make some people very angry with my opinions on these – and that’s fine. Be angry!
NOTE: I (obviously) won’t bring up every single company I think is a bad/good investment, more so these are companies I often see fans of PlayStation bringing up as potential targets – and some are even brought up often by investors. There’ll also be a low focus on VR developers, even though I think there are a few options there.
I know, I know. I’m sorry, okay?
I understand that I already lost a bunch of you with this opinion. Everyone seems to want someone to “save” Konami from their current state, and a bunch of people wants Sony to have their IPs (For good reason, they own a slate of beloved franchises)
I get it. But looking at Konami as a company, they’re extremely widespread and have hands in a lot of different areas. They also don’t really have a lot of in-house AAA developers at this point, and their FOX Engine is scrapped as well. You’re basically buying a shell of a video game company, and more so buying a company that specializes in other areas like entertainment, vending machines, and pachinkos.
If you could pry the IPs from them without taking on any employees or other areas of the company? Sure, that’s a great deal, but do you truly think that it’s something that is likely to happen based on Konami’s history?
At best I could see them licensing out their gaming licenses, but I’d assume that they’d demand that they would keep the entirety of the movie and pachinko rights as part of a deal like that. But… That’s seemingly already what they’re doing with M-Two’s new Silent Hill game, Bloober Team’s Silent Hill game, and Virtuous Metal Gear Solid 3 Remake.
For the pricepoint + problems tied to Konami, I don’t think it’s worth it for Sony to spend multiple billions to basically get 3 IPs that their fanbase wants, even if those 3 IPs are great.
Again, this might be a little controversial to a few readers. Ubisoft has a bunch of IP-powerhouses, and they’re also all things considered a pretty widespread company – with a lineup consisting of a large variety of genres and titles.
This one is hard, their worth is actually a pretty good starting point, with a premium payment included we’re probably looking at a >$7 Billion purchase most likely. This, in my opinion, is actually pretty good value for Ubisoft (Even though I’d assume the end price would be a lot higher than that with the current market)
Ubisoft might be the biggest western publisher that would make sense moneywise for Sony. But I also think they might be the worst option strategy-wise. Their games are pretty similar to areas in which Sony is already very strong, and their IPs frankly don’t bring a lot of importance to Sony’s current lineup.
Ubisoft is also kind of struggling in the area Sony is currently struggling in; Multiplayer titles. While they have a few successes, and successful MTX systems, I don’t think it makes much sense for Sony to acquire Ubisoft based on their IPs and Single Player expertise. There are way cheaper companies with lots of potentials that could fill similar Single Player gaming experiences available – and again, is that even a need for Sony?
Do they have multimedia potential? Yeah, they absolutely do, but then again I truly believe there are a lot better options for a similar price range.
This is also without mentioning the absolutely terrible workplace conditions that have plagued Ubisoft, something that could take years for Sony to fix.
I love Level-5. Or well, I love the idea of Level-5. For some reason, every time I see people talking about what Sony should acquire, Level-5 is always on lists. I have no clue why aside from nostalgic value?
This is going to sound extremely harsh… But, I view them as a shell of their former self, they’re a very troubled studio management-wise, they don’t own some of their biggest IPs. Their latest titles also did pretty bad enough for Level-5 ending up changing its development to Japan-only for a time period to recoup. I could go on and on about why I think they’re a bad investment.
And to be harsh on Sony as well, do you truly think that current day Sony would be a good fit for Level-5? The company that killed Sony Japan after multiple failures + a focus on Japan? Would Level-5, the company that has put out multiple failures, games very much focused on Japan, and games with review scores ranging from good to mediocre be something Sony would treat well?
It sounds like I’m taking a big shit on Level-5 and Sony with this paragraph of text, but with their current problems, mixed with current-day Sony, I don’t see it ending well for anyone included.
Would they be cheap? Definitely!
Would a company like Bandai Namco or Nintendo fit them better? 100%!
Ouch, am I right? Why did I put Sega on this list? I suspect pretty much everyone thought I’d include them on the “Good investment” list. The truth is: I’m conflicted, because I do think that parts of SEGA would be amazing for Sony, but I also think that Sony owning SEGA would be terrible for large segments of SEGA.
There are some strong points for Sony getting SEGA, the main one, of course, being Atlus and the Persona IP. Something Sony themselves see as an important brand for the company.
Studio RPG and the Yakuza franchise are also enticing. It sells well, and the studio is held in high regard. However, it’s worth pointing out that Nagoshi and a few other leads have left the studio to pursue a new team together with Netease.
Aside from that, there’s an appeal in certain IPs that has multimedia potential, the main one, of course, being Sonic the Hedgehog that already has a strong universe being built with Paramount.
There are however areas in which I fear a SEGA acquisition made by Sony specifically. Mainly, I think there are a lot of parts of the company that frankly does not fit SIE well, and as such, I fear that the acquisition of SEGA would result in a lot of layoffs, as well as certain studios potentially even being shutdown.
A strong backlog of games, IPs that have a lot of potential that SEGA currently isn’t hitting (Sonic, sorry not sorry), and a few very strong dev-teams are all enticing parts of acquiring Sony.
But the fact of the matter is that most of SEGA’s Western branch is very PC-focused on its development. While Sony is getting stronger each year with their PC ports, I don’t see them investing in developers making PC-exclusive games for quite some time. I simply fear for a lot of downsides in the acquisition of SEGA – because it’s easy to see the positive parts and feel that it’s entirely worth it.
I do also feel like there’d be some fixing of SEGA’s strategy and project scales that Sony would need to work on. The biggest thing I can think about is Sonic, to be honest; Sonic Team hasn’t been delivering games at the quality I, and many other fans would love to. There’s also the entire “Placing every bet on a Supergame” thing, and some questionable decisions here and there.
In other words; SEGA isn’t a terrible acquisition, lots of areas are actually good, but I think an acquisition of SEGA wouldn’t be good for a lot of teams SEGA owns, to be honest. In the end; Not a great fit for Sony, but might be a great fit for someone else. If Sony could get Atlus alone, however: Yes.
I wasn’t going to put QD on this list, as I feel it’s entirely obvious why they’re a bad acquisition. I decided to go forward with it because I’ve seen multiple people suggest that Sony should acquire them.
Quantic Dream has been a long-time PlayStation collaborator, working with them on almost all of their works. They’re now working on a Star Wars title with Lucasarts Games.
Why are they bad? Well, the answer is quite simply because of management being toxic, terrible, and all-around horrible. With lawsuits, allegations, and general proof of workplace conditions being terrible, I feel like there’s no way Sony ever agrees to work with them again.
According to a rumor from Tom Henderson, Sony also wanted to end their partnership with Quantic Dream after studio-lead and director David Cage wanted to add a fourth character in Detroit Become Human.
I’ve seen the suggestion that Sony could acquire them, fire Cage and other leads, and have a studio with great potential. The thing is; I’d assume that QD selling would include a deal for Cage to stay at the company, I have a hard time seeing him leave on his own accord.
This might be an unexpected appearance. The creators of Dying Light, based in Poland. How come I don’t want Sony to acquire them? Dying Light is a very well-established IP that all things considered is a big success as well.
Me not wanting Sony to acquire Techland is based on two things: Things I’ve heard about them, and I don’t think they would be a good fit for SIE, nor do I think SIE would be a good fit for them.
Dying Light is a smash-hit IP, and it has all things considered become a very big IP with its two first entries. And I’m shocked that Dying Light 2 has been released in the state it did because what I’ve been hearing about its development cycle did not paint the game or the studio in a good light.
Dying Light has one thing it could give Sony: Co-op expertise on a similar level to what Ubisoft does with games like FarCry, basically integrating co-op in your single-player open-world narrative-driven game.
But Dying Light as an IP doesn’t really do much for Sony’s current lineup. On the contrary, I don’t think Sony owning Techland does much for them either. In my opinion, there are 5 better-suited publishers for the company than Sony would be.
The big one…
Everyone seems to think that Sony needs to acquire EA as a response to Microsoft getting Activision/Blizzard without even looking at the scenario. I think this would be the dumbest move out of every company I put on the “bad” list, and that’s not an overstatement. Let’s talk about why…
EA is a brand and IP powerhouse. On one hand, they have a few of the biggest games releasing each year, with their EA Sports brand. They also have a big selection of strong multiplayer titles, ranging from Apex Legends, Plants vs Zombies, and Battlefield.
EA is a pretty varied company, all things considered, while they might not be the most popular company in the world, they’re at least pumping out games consistently, and to fairly good quality.
Their biggest shining bright right now has to be Respawn, the developer behind Jedi Fallen Order and Apex Legends. As of right now, it looks like they’re hitting on all fronts (and will continue to do so with their new Star Wars contract announced earlier this year)
EA also has the Gaming-Service EA Play, which also is rolled into Xbox Game Pass right now – an all-around good deal for EA fans, and Xbox fans. So why is EA on my list?
Well, simply because it’d be a reactionary move from Sony. EA would not fit well under Sony’s structure in my opinion. The biggest drawback is their price point, which would be a big undertaking for any company, but something that I think would affect Sony in a negative way. I think the stronger option for Sony is to go for one or two publishers that they could get for ~ $10B, or frankly build up an arsenal of strong developers that are currently independent.
There’s also the fact that a lot of EA’s strongest games right now are based around licensed properties, and exclusivity-wise, there’s no way EA Sports titles, a few of the Star Wars titles, etc, leave other platforms behind. This might not be an inherently bad thing, but I do think it kind of speaks against the acquisition.
There’s also the fact of Bioware and DICE having all the potential in the world, but also have had a few pretty bad years at this point. While Bioware is showing signs of fixing some of its issues, DICE is doing the exact opposite.
That’s it for the bad investments. Are you surprised I didn’t include any companies? Let me know!
From being negative to being positive again. It’s now time to look at what I would consider good investments from SIE and Sony corp regarding acquisitions
Good Acquisition Options for Sony
The entirety of the last segment consisted of me shutting down popularly demanded developers. As I said, I know I upset some PlayStation fans in the process – but I truly believe my viewpoint on each and every one of them. Doesn’t mean I think they’re bad developers, it just means I don’t see them as a good fit for Sony for one reason or another.
This segment will be a lot more fun and lighthearted. This is a sample of ~10 developers I think would fit very well under the PlayStation Studios banner or the SIE banner for that manner (Similar to Bungie).
I’ll also try to not bring in any developers for personal reasons, and only talk about things I actually think would be great choices. So without further ado, let’s get into it once again!
The former animation company turned into a critical-success indie developer with their first developed game. Beloved by PlayStation fans everywhere, and with potential being high for this new developer, it feels like a no-brainer that they fit well into the PS Studios lineup.
Ember Lab is a new and small indie developer, consisting of less than 30 developers, they just released their first title ever. Normally, this feels like a moment in time in which Sony would “test” them out with an exclusive game down the line.
With today’s M&A focus climate, I think that is going to change.
Sony placed its entire fall lineup on this small game, and according to Bloomberg, it really paid off for Sony. Between strong reviews, and the game selling well beyond what was expected from the title. The potential is limitless for Ember lab.
Ember Lab has also expressed interest in doing multimedia expansions, with animated movies potentially being a venue they want to pursue with the Kena: Bridge of Spirits IP. This is also another thing that would fit Sony like a fish in water, seeing the multimedia approach they’re currently pursuing.
And in the end… The investment would be cheap enough that it doesn’t make the acquisition a big risk to take on either. Low employee count, low cost, and massive potential. And Kena is already a beloved character and IP, and one that could be repurposed for movies, shows, or books if wanted.
All this said, I do think it’s almost unnecessary to put them on this list, as I’m feeling very confident that Sony is scooping them up if they haven’t already done so. Ember Lab, Hermen Hulst, and other PlayStation Studios seem to be openly flirting on Twitter on a weekly basis at this point.
One thing Sony needs to focus on is to grow in areas in which they’re weak. This could mean multiple things, but two areas I think could be good to pursue are diversifying their genre lineup, and the other is strong multiplayer content.
Arc Sys gives Sony both. Fighting game developers are a rarity these days, especially independent ones. Arc System Works is not only independent, but they’re also one of the most beloved studios in their genre.
Their games have grown radically lately, with Guilty Gear Strive being a bigger success than what was expected, and their game has (and maintains) a strong multiplayer scene.
Sony is also the part-owner of the E-sports tournament EVO, without owning a single Fighting game brand to show off there. We aren’t sure what Sony’s intentions are with EVO and fighting games, but they’re seemingly investing in the genre by making PS5 the place to play them.
Another part that makes me feel like Arc Sys is a great fit, is the fact that they have connections everywhere. They’ve worked very closely with Bandai Namco on Dragon Ball Fighterz, and similarly, they also have a great connection to SEGA and Atlus with their work on Persona 4 Arena.
I often see the sentiment that “Sony doesn’t care about Japan” and/or “Arc System Works is too niche for Sony”, and I frankly disappear. They’re constantly winning awards for making the best fighting games. They’re growing by each game, even when it isn’t tied to a big IP like Dragon Ball.
On Arc Sys’ end, they’d be guaranteed a big marketing budget, a big first-party budget, and a bigger push for global releases.
Similar to Ember Lab, I actually think there’s a strong chance that Sony is acquiring them very soon. It’s been rumored for a while, and while I have been unsure about the rumors, I think it’s become a question of “When”, instead of “If”.
The developer behind It Takes Two, headed by the wonderful Josef Fares. It might be a surprising addition to a few people reading, but I think it makes a lot of sense; Lets’ talk about why.
Hazelight has been working closely with EA on their games so far, and that contract is currently up. From what I’ve heard, with the success of It Takes Two, Fares has gotten both games offers, and acquisition offers from a variety of publishers ranging from Microsoft, Take-Two, EA, Sony, and Tencent.
These rumors might be entirely false, but based on the fact that It Takes Two is a hit on all fronts and the fact that Hazelight has found a niche in the industry that they basically own at this point, I feel like there’s a strong chance that publishers would love the thought of acquiring Hazelight.
Fares don’t strike me as the person that actively searches for money or success, he seems like someone that is driven by creativity and frankly: Having fun.
But it also seems like he respects Sony and their approach to big-budget games. He’s also been critical of Microsoft’s model with Game Pass.
This doesn’t mean anything; It’s clear that he values his ongoing partnership with EA as well, and Hazelight is at the point where they in theory probably could self-publish their next title if they desire it.
Sony would also get a gateway into the Swedish dev scene, one of the biggest markets for gaming development – one which they currently aren’t involved in at all.
I don’t think Hazelight is a likely acquisition from Sony, but it isn’t because of a lack of interest from Sony’s side. I more so feel like Hazelight won’t sell, yet at least. And if they do, it’ll be interesting to see where they decide to go. In my opinion, EA does feel like a very likely target.
This might be the most unexpected appearance on the list. A developer that isn’t rumored isn’t in a lot of conversations as a good acquisition target, and frankly: Probably isn’t likely to be acquired by Sony either.
But Larian is actually such a forgotten developer, they constantly release games that both sell well and get high-review scores. And what genre is their specialty? Western RPGs, which is one of the genres Sony is lacking the most currently.
Often when people are talking about how Sony should pursue WRPGs, it’s either through new developers, or CDPR (which we’ll talk about later on), but in my opinion, no developer would be as ideal as Larian Studios. It’s no secret that I’m not a big WRPG fan, but even I know their quality threshold.
Aside from their brilliant games, they also have a lot of PC experience – and I’d say their biggest player base is on the PC platform. Larian could be a great way to bridge players from the PC ecosystem over to PS5, as well as help out other PS Studios in bringing their experiences to PC.
The argument on PC sounds like the opposite of my opinion on SEGA. But the fact of the matter is that Larian is already very well-versed in the PC x Console dual launches. Their games are adapted for that, and thus a lesser hurdle needs to be had to get it to work.
It’s also worth mentioning that they would most likely have a pretty good price tag, at least when compared to a behemoth like CD Projekt Red that would be worth the same amount of money as certain publishers are.
I don’t think Larian Studios is a likely target for Sony, but I do think that it’s a great one all things considered. And one that often is forgotten.
The Big Boss himself, Hideo Kojima, and his mega-talented development team. For most PlayStation (and gaming) fans, it’s obvious straight away why Koji-Pro would be a good acquisition for almost any company.
The rumors are flying around regarding what they’re currently working on, and how many projects are in the pipeline. I don’t want to touch these rumors with a footlong pole, to be frank.
If I’m going, to be honest, I think that PlayStation under Shawn Layden kinda fumbled their partnership with Kojima. I have a strong feeling that Kojima didn’t leave the initial launch of Death Stranding feeling very pleased with his partnership with Sony. That fact bundled with his history of working under Konami makes this tricky.
On a scale of how likely I think this acquisition is; I think Sony definitely tries everything they can to make this happen. And I think Kojima does not want to sell, however, if he sells, I see Sony as his destination.
Why should it happen though?
Well, Death Stranding was a great game – and a strong start for the recently created developer. To put it into perspective, he started up a dev team from scratch, worked in a new engine, and they were able to put out a very good game in a short time span. That’s impressive.
KojiPro also has the potential to work in areas in which Sony is weak. Horror is a thing that comes to mind, an area Sony is close to non-existent in as of now. I also have a strong suspicion that KojiPro might be looking into making a VR game, which coincides well with Sony’s PlayStation VR2.
The strongest argument I see against this is “If Kojima leaves this acquisition means nothing”, and while I see your point, I think that KojiPro will end up doing what Tango Gameworks is doing. While Mikami is directing and working, he’s also fostering a new generation of talented directors under him, and I suspect that KojiPro will go in a similar direction – at least when they start doing multiple games at the same time.
Finally; They’re pursuing the movie & entertainment business, something that once again, Sony could help them achieve with flying colors. I feel like this acquisition would be in the interest of every party involved. Do I think it will happen though? I honestly have no clue.
Another studio that needs no introduction. Every publisher in the industry would probably want to work with FromSoftware if they could. Consistent-Game of the Year studio. Consistent quality. Consistent revenue + sales numbers.
FromSoftware doesn’t miss. But the fact of the matter is that they’re owned by Kadokawa. As time has gone by, I’ve realized that the chance of Sony acquiring Kadokawa has shrunk a whole lot. Especially after they accepted investments from multiple companies late last year.
I do however don’t think that would hinder Sony, or anyone else, to get FromSoftware from Kadokawa as long as the price is right.
Former SIE-President, Shuhei Yoshida, has on multiple occasions said that he regrets being negative toward Demon’s Souls. And according to rumors, there’s a feeling at SIE management that if they wouldn’t have let From slip back then, they’d now be a PlayStation Studio.
And I do think that it actually has a pretty strong chance of happening. FromSoftware is a great developer, and I’m sure they’re happy as long as they have creative freedom, and the option to launch games on PC platforms.
I can’t imagine Sony would oppose anyone of them. From Sony’s viewpoint it’s basically a no-brainer, even though From doesn’t (fully) own the Dark Souls and Elden Ring IPs, with Bandai co-owning them, they’d still be worth it at a big overprice. (Looking at the reviews for Elden Ring, I can’t state this enough, they’re worth anything)
From Kadokawa’s viewpoint, they have said that they want a multimedia approach and mention that gaming is a part of that. However, from what I’ve seen that is more so related to their anime efforts. Even though FromSoftware has a high-quality barrier, they kinda stick out like a black sheep in Kadokawa’s lineup. I’m not sure what Kadokawa wants to do, to be honest, but I feel like most companies would be willing to sell for the correct price.
The biggest hindrance in my opinion would be Bandai Namco, I suspect that they’d try to move mountains to be able to lock down FromSoftware on their own. It’s also easy to imagine that in the event that Kadokawa decides to sell, they’ll look around everywhere for bidders.
The first publisher on the list. WB Games is one of the most debated publishers in the entire industry. If you haven’t caught up, in 2020 reports came out that AT&T and WB were looking to sell their gaming division. Later that year, they changed their statement and said they valued their devs.
The situation has been fairly quiet regarding WB Games since then. We’ve had a few game announcements, and in 2021 AT&T spun off Warner Bros alongside Discovery to form a new company.
The thing is, the new company called Warner Bros Discovery still hasn’t finished its merger but is expected to do so by the summer-fall of 2022. This means we don’t really know the exact plans for the new company as of now, and with that, their intentions with WB Games.
While I of course have no way of knowing their intentions, I do think that from their statements HBO and entertainment are the main focus of the merger. They have made very few mentions of gaming being something they take interest in. I do think that the WB Games, or at least parts of it, will be sold off after the merger is finished.
So who’ll pick them up? Well, I can see a few targets for them. But Sony, Microsoft, and a company like EA actually seem like the most likely to me. It’s worth mentioning that you’re essentially paying $4 Billion to acquire the developers, with very few IPs (Basically Mortal Kombat) – if you want DC, Harry Potter, etc, you’ll need to pay a license fee.
In my opinion, the interest for Sony would be acquiring the developers and not the licenses in this case. I don’t see them going out of their way to get Harry Potter, DC, or Matrix for example. What would the developers work on? Well, anything is possible here. It’s hard to predict, but there are a plethora of devs under WB. There are LEGO/Family games, GAAS titles, open-world games, fighting game devs, and even a strong support network.
I have a hard time seeing that Sony wouldn’t be interested, if not only for Netherrealm and Rocksteady, a legendary duo of studios. But even aside from those, Avalanche’s previous work with Disney, and now with Hogwarts is enticing. Monolith has its Nemesis System, and we all know Sony loves its tech.
Do I think this acquisition is likely? Hard to say, I do think that if they sell, Sony will bid on them – the question is what other parties are interested in and how interested they are. We’ll probably learn more about WB Games’ future around late summer this year, so stay tuned for that.
The first Chinese developer on the list, and one of the biggest independent Chinese developers at that. If you don’t know miHoYo, they’re known for their work on Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact.
With Genshin, they totally blew up in size and popularity, with the game making around $800 Million of revenue in 2020, and reportedly around $1.5 Billion of revenue in 2021. You can compare that to the Bungie acquisition worth $3.6 Billion, with their Destiny franchise that makes around $500 Million in revenue each year.
There are two parts about acquiring miHoYo that makes it tricky.
miHoYo would cost *a lot*. The thing is, you’ll earn it back revenue wise fairly quickly all things considered, but we’re looking at the cost of an entire publisher. That’s fine, and perhaps even needed to pursue certain markets.
The second thing that makes it hard is China. I’m sure the acquisition would work out, but there’s definitely risks of investing such a large sum of money into a Chinese companies, especially looking at their laws. I’m also not entirely sure about how China handles acquisitions of large companies coming from other countries, but would love if anyone of my followers could chime in on that.
Otherwise, I think miHoYo is an exceptional acquisition. You get one of the best GAAS-developers in the world, and similar to Bungie, you get a developer that could support other teams in their progress.
The perhaps most enticing part regarding miHoYo is their brilliant Mobile-ports. You basically have the same exact game on PS5, PC, and mobile – and therefore you have a strong synergy.
Sony is looking into mobile, and I personally feel like Cloud gaming and ports are the way they’re thinking about it – rather than phone-exclusive spin-offs. (Like the new Wipeout is for instance)
All in all, it’s a pretty hefty acquisition. I do think the window of it happening might have passed already, but at the same time, they still haven’t accepted any kind of capital investment from Tencent or NetEase either. That might be because they’re committed to remaining fully independent, or because they’re looking into expanding by acquisition or partnerships? Only time will tell.
Sony is like “Final Fantasy, enough said”. But in all honesty, I don’t even need to explain this one, Square Enix is the second publisher on the list. To be entirely honest, I think Square Enix is the one that I as a consumer would want Sony to pursue, however, I think there’s another publisher that would be a lot wiser than Square to pursue. We’ll get back to that later.
First and foremost, there are a few brands that I think Sony would absolutely love to own – whether we’re talking about it through a gaming lens or a multimedia one.
Tomb Raider & Final Fantasy are the two IPs I think Sony would have the biggest interest in. Kingdom Hearts furthers their relationship with Disney. Dragon Quest furthers their PC push, as well as taking back marketspace in Japan. And there are also IPs overflowing with potential, ranging from Deus Ex, NieR, MaNa, Chrono, Forspoken, etc.
From a personal standpoint, Square Enix is my favorite company in the gaming industry aside from PS Studios, they make a lot of games that speak directly to me. But my logical part of the brain also see their problems
Between certain releases like VII Remake, XIV Expansions, NieR, and Guardians of the Galaxy – Square has a tendency to release very bad games. Some of them I even question how or why they even got greenlit in the first place.
Balan Wonderworld, Babylon’s Fall, Avengers, etc… How could these titles end up as they have?
The worst part is that even their great titles like Tomb Raider 2013, NEO The World Ends With You, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc – they either get sent out to die, or they have such unreasonable expectations put on them and Square ends up throwing the developer under the bus because of it…
The drawback on an acquisition like this is frankly that I don’t think Sony would allow Square Enix to pursue their smaller games, ie. Basically, every Square Enix game comes to Nintendo platforms. We’re talking Bravely, the 2D-HD games, the “smaller” budget titles. That’s not because those titles lack quality, it’s because Sony has a problem supporting smaller titles at this point.
The thing that would be scary with an acquisition like this is if the developers working on titles like that would be laid off, the hope would be that they either get to continue working on it – or that they’d get reshuffled to other places in the company.
The good part is that Luminous, Eidos, and Crystal Dynamics would all thrive under the PlayStation Studios label in my opinion. Creative Freedom, big budgets, extensive marketing, and partnership with other world-class developers seem to be the exact thing these devs need to (once again) flourish.
Square Enix would also get help in their decision-making, thank god. The way I view it is that the studios mentioned above join the PS Studios lineup, while Square Enix becomes an SIE brand similar to Bungie, which will release their games on PS5 and PC.
Do I think this is likely to happen? Actually, I very much do. In my opinion, I feel like Sony is acquiring one publisher this year, and it’s bound to be Square Enix in my opinion. Their price isn’t too high, they have a large amount of IPs, they have multimedia potential, they need help in areas, and they own Final Fantasy. (lol)
It’s the perfect acquisition for Sony!
And the final one on the list. Capcom is another company that doesn’t truly need any introduction. The thing is; while I do think Square Enix is the more likely acquisition of the two, I do think that Capcom would be the stronger one because of their current situation.
Capcom is doing very well. Resident Evil is back and stronger than ever, Monster Hunter is a massive brand at this point, Street Fighter is returning to form, Devil May Cry is alive and is doing well, and they’re finally doing a new IP with Pragmata.
Capcom earns good revenue each year, and their titles are generally very well-liked. They also (mostly) do good decisions, apart from the eventual RE Multiplayer spinoffs and terrible Street Fighter 6 logo.
I think that acquisition of Capcom from Sony would basically result in them getting a company that has very little they need to fix or change, you basically have a very well-oiled machine ready to produce killer content for you from the get-go.
Capcom has already pursued a multimedia approach as well, with Resident Evil and Monster Hunter both having recent movie-spin offs.
And aside from that, they’re generally pretty strong at the multiplayer scene as well with Street Fighter and Monster Hunter essentially carrying the torch for the company.
There’s not a lot to dislike with Capcom, but what speaks against it? Well, they did take a roughly 5% investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment fund last week. This doesn’t really de-confirm it happening, and in theory, it could also be a move by SAPI to earn money in the event that Capcom does sell.
The thing that I mostly feel is that Capcom and Sony truly don’t do much together partnership-wise. The occasional marketing deal, the Village mo-cap situation, Aloy in Monster Hunter, Street Fighter V – there’s definitely a few. But compare that to Square Enix and its night and day, it feels like the majority of the big-budget Square Enix games either have marketing or straight-up exclusivity clause with Sony at this point.
Do I think it’s likely to happen? I actually don’t know, not in 2022 at this point. If a publisher-sized move happens this year, I think WB Games and/or Square Enix are way more likely, even though Capcom would probably be the strongest choice.
Aaaaand we’re done with the bad and good investments. But this article is far from over… Have I missed talking about a few rumored studios? Indeed, and I saved them for another segment in which we’ll talk about developers I think its hard to place on either side for different studios.
Let us talk about it in…
The Grey Area (Not bad, nor good?)
This segment will be short and focus on 6 developers that are either rumored or heavily speculated to be part of an acquisition by Sony. I’ll go over them quickly instead of the previous chunks. This is simply to address them.
No time to waste; If I were you, I’d die reading this, lol. Let’s get to the point!
CD Projekt Red is heavily rumored to be a target for Sony. Their worth is at a low point because of recent drama and internal struggle.
The thought process is that in a similar way to Bungie and their FPS games, Sony is also lacking in the WRPG genre and CDPR is the biggest available developer in it.
The best part about them is that they have the potential to become a Naughty Dog/Rockstar kind of developer, the worst part is the internal struggles and the massive price point it’d take to get them. I have a hard time placing them on either side and could frankly see it going both ways as well.
Arrowhead is a PlayStation partner, with their work on PlayStation exclusive Helldivers. They’re also rumored to be working on Helldivers 2 under the PS Studios banner.
A multiplayer-focused developer that could bring a lot to the table, so where’s the hesitancy from me?
Well, to be frank, they’ve been quiet for years at this point and it worries me. It’s their first AAA game, and they were rumored to have rebooted development in 2018 on their new title. But I can’t shake the feeling that there are some forms of troubles at the studio. They’re often compared to Housemarque, and even at their lowest point, Housemarque never felt as unsure to me.
I do however think that Arrowhead could be one to watch as time moves on!
Wushu Studios is next on the list. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with them, they’re still a very young studio. So far they’ve been working a lot as a support team, recently for Destruction All-Stars.
Why are they on this list? Well, they’re working on their first big AAA game on their own, and it’s rumored to be with PlayStation. They also have enormous growth plans according to their own employee, Shinobi602. It looks like the studio might hit triple digits this year, which reminds me a lot about Firesprite – the recently acquired PS Studio.
The reason I can’t place them anywhere is that we have no clue on what they’re doing, how their project is shaping up, and if it even is with PlayStation or not.
Lucid Games is next on the list. They are known for their work on Destruction All-Stars, a very mixed bag review-wise.
As you might know, I have a soft spot for Lucid and believe that if given another chance, they would give Sony an amazing game.
The rumors regarding what they’re doing are all over the place as well. It was initially reported that they were developing a reboot of Twisted Metal, but since then it has reportedly been switched to Firesprite Games instead.
There are contradicting reports as well, of Lucid never having worked on Twisted Metal in the first place, and there are even reports that they are still working on a game alongside PlayStation.
As much as I love them, I kinda feel like it’s unlikely to happen at this point. The rumors being all over the place usually doesn’t bode well either, in my opinion.
Sloclap was initially on the “Good acquisition” list, but the moment I realized they were owned by gaming publisher Kepler Interactive, it went from “happening”, to “most likely not happening”.
If it could happen I think they would be a great acquisition. Low-cost, low-risk, high upside.
Sloclap makes smaller scaled games similar to Ember Lab, and I think both of these studios would fit very well in at Sony in a similar way to how Pixelopus does. Make big-budget titles, that are smaller, cheaper, but bring a lot of worth and diversity to the lineup of games.
Remedy is next on the list. I was so close to putting them on the “Good” list but ended up placing them here.
To be frank; Everyone would be happy with Remedy joining PS Studios, they’re a great fit – and is a great studio as well.
However, I frankly believe that the ship has passed. It’s no secret that Sony and Remedy were in deep conversations around 2018-2019, and I’ll be entirely honest and say that if Shawn Layden & Shuhei Yoshida didn’t helm SIE at the time – I think that they would’ve joined PlayStation Studios.
What makes them a potentially bad target today is multiple things. They went public, and seem to be very happy about being independent, which means that their price point would be very high. The other area which might speak against an acquisition is the fact that they’ve signed contracts with multiple publishers at this point and are tied to obligations for many years ahead. That’s an issue you could overlook with a great team, but still worth bringing up.
Whichever way I feel or think about them, I think the chance of it happening is close to 0. That ship sailed in 2019, and they seem to be happy where they ended up in the end anyway, which is great!
Take-Two is the final company on the grey area list. Here’s the thing; T2 is very similar to EA, but I actually thought they were a good fit… Until they acquired Zynga.
Sony has a mobile initiative, but if you’re expecting them to pursue the market with the games Zynga produces, I think you’ve mistaken their interest.
But aside from that, Zynga almost doubles Take Two’s worth. While they still won’t be quite as expensive as EA, they’re still a very hefty acquisition.
The upsides are a bunch of big IPs, Bioshock & Borderlands, and of course the Rockstar brand and IPs. They are also filled with sports licenses, similar to EA.
In the end, the way I feel about Take-Two is similar to EA; It’s a reactionary move that I don’t think is necessary for Sony to make. Very expensive, lots of risks tied to it, and with Zynga included – I don’t think the deal seems as attractive as it previously did.
We’ve now looked at around 20 developers, and if they would be a good fit or not. But there are still some questions remaining. The next thing we should be looking at is the Partnership Studios, and what the strategy should be regarding them going forward.
In 2021, SIE revealed 3 new partnerships with newly formed development teams. Haven Studios, headed by Jade Raymond. FireWalk, headed by vets from Respawn and Bungie. And Deviation Games, headed by vets from Activision.
All of these 3 partnerships are very smart moves by Sony, essentially they do two things: Give Sony access to world-class development teams, and grow their brand in areas in which they’re weak. (For example, First-person shooters & Multiplayer / Live Service games.)
Which begs the question; Shouldn’t Sony acquire them now, to avoid another situation similar to Kojima Productions?
First and foremost, I definitely think Sony has some form of security in their agreement with the respective developers. I’ve got to imagine that their contracts with the studios give Sony them first-hand talking opportunities whether it’s through acquisitions or future gaming deals.
In an interview with French site le devoir, Jade Raymond revealed that Sony had actually begged them to make 3 different pitches for large-scale projects and they greenlit one of them. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that a deal already has been signed for multiple games.
I suspect that these types of partnerships will continue during 2022, and I have previously predicted that another batch of 3 teams will be revealed this year.
A likely target I brought up is Casey Hudson’s new studio, Humanoid Studios. A dev-team consisting of vets from Bioware.
Because in the end, I think it’s a brilliant initiative to bring in world-class developers and development teams, and if they succeed, potentially bring them in as full-fledged PlayStation Studios.
I suspect that FireWalk will be the first one to reveal their project, and it’s worth mentioning that they’re a special case compared to the others because they’re owned by ProbablyMonsters. The speculation around ProbablyMonsters however, is that they’re incubating teams to potentially sell them away later on.
In any case, I’d assume that FireWalk’s game, and what happens afterward will be the first piece of “proof” on what could happen with these partnerships. So keep your eyes peeled for that!
Should Sony pursue Asian markets more?
A topic that is often discussed is if Sony should pursue Asian markets more. In my “Good acquisitions” list, the majority are actually Japanese companies, and there’s also a Chinese one.
For the purpose of this segment, I’ll actually separate Japan from the topic. It’s obvious that I want/think that investing in Japan is a good idea. The two territories I want to focus on are Korea and China.
We’ve seen Sony try to pursue China, and grow their brand there. It started with the SIE “Chine Hero Project”, which consists of helping out Chinese developers with their projects and thus gaining exclusivity in return. Its been a fairly successful project that has resulted in titles such as F.I.S.T that launched to positive critique last year.
We also saw Project Eve, from developer Shift Up, at the PlayStation Showcase last year – a project that went on top of many people’s radars after an impressive showing. So shouldn’t Sony try to pursue these markets?
The answer isn’t as easy as yes or no to me. There’s plenty of talent, so I think setting up a base there, and growing your influences in both countries are frankly needed.
Frankly; with Sony’s push in China, I feel like we’d already seen something materialize acquisition-wise from the territory.
When looking at the current landscape, I think the best course of action is actually to pursue China through XDEV. Basically, get talented teams like Ti Games that developed F.I.S.T and get them on to make a PS Studios title with XDEV.
This way you keep them out from signing deals with Tencent or Netease for the time being and can develop the studios as well as your partnership and expertise in the region. However, something is seemingly already happening in Korea.
JunHo Lee that has worked as a Third Party Relations manager previously, has changed his position to Associate Producer of XDEV in South Korea. While it might not seem like much, to me it shows that Sony is taking Asian markets more seriously than they previously did. (Especially Korea, in this case)
What this tells me is that we might see XDEV expand to Korea, and hopefully China. And if that materializes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony start acquiring in the region after a while. Is Shift Up and/or Ti Games a possibility? Yeah, maybe! At least for a title alongside the XDEV brand, I’d say.
What will happen in 2022 (and beyond)
We’re reaching the end of this article, but I wanted to talk shortly about what could happen during 2022, and perhaps beyond.
The true answer is; I don’t know, and if someone says they do, they’re probably lying. Acquisitions, M&A, deals like this are extremely secretive and you rarely get information unless the reveal leaks (Which happens around the same day)
However, there are things we can speculate and make educated guesses on. I’ve been saying since around the summer of 2021 that for the rest of that year, Sony would pursue Support Teams and Partner studios. I’m on record in multiple articles saying that 2022 will be the year when Sony breaks out of its shell and get “aggressive” in its investments.
With Bungie opening the year for Sony, I think it’s a good viewpoint on what’s to come. That’s not to say every investment will be a multi-billion deal either, while I’m sure those will exist I wouldn’t be surprised to see deals like Ember Lab & Arc System Works being revealed and bring forth quite an impact on their own.
Bungie included, I think that Sony will acquire around 8 companies in 2022. Again; I base this on nothing in particular, and it’s purely based on speculation. My initial target was 10 companies, but I have a strong hunch that they might make a big move, which reduces this number.
The big question on everyone’s mind is: Will Sony acquire a publisher?
Whether it’s this year, or 2023, I definitely think that it’ll happen at this point. A lot of people seem to think that Sony doesn’t need to, or have the funds to do it. I don’t know if I think Sony needs to do it, but I do think that Sony feels like they kind of have to at this point.
As I said, the two most likely to happen in my opinion are Warner Bros Games, and/or Square Enix. The latter seemingly being the most likely to happen in my eyes. And I do think that there’s a fair chance the deal lands in 2022, strategy-wise it could be wise to pursue a publisher while Microsoft is handling its takeover of Activision/Blizzard which most likely will keep them occupied for the time being.
But I don’t necessarily think that a publisher needs to be seen as the big thing. In my opinion, bringing in beloved developers like Ember Lab, Arc System Works, and From Software would be massive moves on their own.
In the end; When you’re looking at why PlayStation is beloved, it’s because of their lineup of Studios and IPs, and bringing in more independent developers to further that is just as good as bringing on an entire publisher in my eyes.
To cap this off, I’ll also say that I expect Sony to acquire something entirely unexpected like Asobo, the developer behind A Plague Tale, or WhiteMoon Dreams, a support team that also works on a bunch of VR games. And speaking of that; I’ve nearly ignored VR entirely, even though there are prospects like First Contact Entertainment, Polyarc, Impulse Gear, or Camouflaj that would fit well.
It’s a vast world, and I could in theory make this article infinitely long by going over every potential candidate. But yes, Sony is going to acquire studios in 2022, and I do strongly believe they’ll acquire a publisher as well.
To conclude this article, I want to say that while the recent trends in the industry make for great headlines, and are frankly very interesting to read about, I do think it’s scary as well.
The industry is rapidly changing, and we’ve seen 3 large-scale acquisitions in the span of a few weeks. The fact that the acquisition of Bungie, worth $3.6 Billion, somehow is small-ish news says a lot about the current climate of M&A.
I think it doesn’t take a genius to say that Sony of course will acquire more things this year, and as I said previously I fully expect them to make a publisher-level move in the future as well. However, the same could be said about companies like Amazon or Tencent.
The industry is rapidly changing, and I don’t suspect that will change anytime soon – especially not after Microsoft acquired Activision/Blizzard.
I want to finish by saying that in the midst of gaming news, M&A, and the changing industry, I think the conversation about employees and their wellbeing is often forgotten. This is true in this article as well. Having gone through an insanely hard time in my private life recently, barely making it out alive, I want to finish by saying that you that read this: It’s gaming, it’s entertainment – take care of your developers. They aren’t trading cards, they’re human beings.
And of course: If you’re doing bad, feel free to reach out to me, or use any of the following help-lines by pressing the orange text here!
I care about you.
Thank you for helping me, and thank you for all the nice comments. I’m here in part because of you. <3