Sony’s September PlayStation showcase was one to remember…or at least its last 10 minutes. While the first 30 minutes of the digital show revolved around new trailers for upcoming games, the final one was more about epic revelations. Insomniac Games in particular stole the show by delivering the two biggest surprises: A Venom-filled trailer for Spider-Man 2 and a shocking trailer for the game Wolverine.
As a fan of Insomniac’s Spider-Man games, I can’t say I wasn’t interested in both of these projects. The studio has made two really great superhero games, which have always been a surprisingly weak genre. Flexible combat and satisfying webling bring Marvel characters to life in a way many other developers have struggled to do. It just makes sense that Sony wants to keep that momentum going and give Insomniac a crack at another Marvel hero. Wolverine is a great pick and I’m excited to see how the studio is using tight play mechanics to make the player real. feel like a drunkard with large claws.
As I was nervous about both projects, I couldn’t help but waste time with my lingering anxiety. I don’t want Insomniac Games to be a Marvel developer.
Insomniac Games has always been a sublime studio. It soon made a name for itself with Spyro the Dragon in 1998 and Ratchet & Clank in 2002. While the latter is the studio’s most popular, the studio has plenty of other hits in its arsenal. The Resistance series is a staple on PlayStation’s roster and Sunset Overdrive remains one of Microsoft’s best monopolies. Over the course of two decades, Insomniac has shown itself to be a flexible studio, brimming with creative energy. Any major console game it touches turns gold.
That becomes especially obvious with Marvel’s Spider-Man in 2018, was immediately hailed as one of the best superhero games of all time upon release. Sony took note and spent $229 million to put a ring on it, locking Insomniac as a first-party PlayStation studio. It’s clear that Insomniac has been a central part of Sony’s plans ever since. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the high profile launch game of PS5 and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the system’s first killer app. The fact that the developer is currently working on two huge Sony monopolies at the same time speaks volumes about Sony’s confidence in it.
Spider-Man 2 and Wolverine will keep Insomniac occupied for a long time. NS the first one is being introduced for 2023 and the second one will probably be out after that. It’s entirely possible that the studio is tied up in Marvel games for the next 5 years. If Wolverine is a success – and there’s no reason to think it won’t – there’s a good chance the studio will be working on a sequel soon after. It’s hard to imagine when it will have time to jump into a new Ratchet & Clank game or start plotting its next big original property in that timeline.
Marvel superheroes are slowly becoming as important to the PlayStation as Kratos or Nathan Drake. That makes sense when Sony has always been interested in Hollywood-sized action games. Games like Wolverine is a logical part of that philosophy, and Insomniac is the best-equipped studio for today’s work. Even Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart structured like a Marvel movie. There’s a good chance we’ll see the MCU equivalent of the game on PS5 by the end of this console cycle, with Insomniac playing Kevin Feige.
That’s where I’m left with mixed emotions. There’s no doubt that Insomniac will knock it out of the park, but it’s capable of more. Games like Sunset Overdrive shows that the studio is filled with spectacular creative energy. Characters like Spyro the Dragon aren’t just iconic for nostalgia; Insomniac knows how to create memorable worlds that stick with players.
The cool thing about video games is that a lot of its biggest franchises are original creations. Just as Marvel has its own mythology built around superheroes, the game also has its own roster of mascots. Super Smash Bros. are our Avengers. While I’d be happy to play any good asset-based game I enjoy, there’s something special about diving into a completely unfamiliar world for the first time and learning about it through interact. Insomniac has the potential to make Sony its own Marvel of games, not through licensed adaptations, but through the kind of original franchises other industries are vying for ownership of.
This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be Marvel games. By contrast, we’re long overdue with some really great superhero action in the MCU era. I just don’t want that to come at the expense of brilliant studios, the same way I don’t want to see talented directors like Chloé Zhao. associated with the Avengers movies for the rest of her career. We won’t have the next Ratchet & Clank unless studios like Insomniac continue to have the space to take creative risks.