A new report claims that the PlayStation exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man could have ended up in the hands of Xbox, not Sony. Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac wowed gamers and comic book fans with its 2018 open-world action title that many felt captured the freedom and excitement of playing as Spider-Man like no other. This work would continue in the 2020 spin-off Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Both these games are exclusive to Sony-owned consoles, with Miles Morales even serving as a PS5 launch title.
Before the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4, video games based on the iconic web-slinger were largely multiplatform affairs that were published by the now-controversial Activision. While this partnership initially provided gamers with beloved titles like Spider-Man (2000) and the Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in game, later releases would decrease in both quality and sales. This ultimately led to Marvel Games severing ties with Activision in 2014, not too long after the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game that was seen as just as derided as its theatrical source material.
According to an excerpt from Steven L Kent’s 2021 book The Ultimate History of Video Games Vol 2, shared by ResetEra user Nightengale (via VGC), the decision to part ways was mutual, with Activision higher-ups reportedly telling Marvel Games CEO Jay Ong, “good luck finding your unicorn,” when Ong explained that he would “find a better home” for the Spider-Man video game license. It’s claimed Ong moved into talks with both Xbox and PlayStation to see if either company would be interested in having Spidey as a console-exclusive property – an offer that Microsoft reportedly turned down due to a desire to focus on its own in-house IP. Sony was apparently far more receptive to these talks, and soon then-third-party developer Insomniac was granted the reigns to make a AAA, PlayStation-exclusive Spider-Man title that Ong hoped would rival Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series.
This partnership would prove extremely fruitful for both Sony and Marvel Games, as 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man launched to critical acclaim and record-breaking sales – and ultimately helped lead Sony to acquire Insomniac as an in-house studio for future projects like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Insomniac’s successful line of Spider-Man games will continue with next year’s Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, and the developer is even branching out further into the comic book universe with the upcoming Marvel’s Wolverine. Both these new Marvel games will take place in the same continuity, finally giving fans a video game equivalent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It is safe to say that Marvel Games found its unicorn in PlayStation and Insomniac, but one can only wonder what would have happened had Microsoft not turned down Jay Ong’s offer and welcomed Spider-Man as an Xbox-exclusive franchise. Recent rumors have suggested that Xbox and Bethesda are working with Disney to produce several video games based on the House of Mouse’s many characters and IP, and in an alternate timeline, Spidey could have been one of them. As it stands now, fans can look forward to swinging back into Insomniac’s superhero universe when Marvel’s Spider-Man sequel arrives on PlayStation 5 in 2023.