Earlier today, Sony announced it had acquired Returnal developer Housemarque. GQ Magazine managed to get together with Housemarque Cofounder Ilari Kuittinen and Head of PlayStation Studios Hermen Hulst to discuss the deal. Kuittinen confirmed this will now allow them to be even more ambitious with their games, while Hulst denied they’re now in a race to acquire studios to compete with other companies.
Before Housemarque, Sony hadn’t added another studio to their collection for a little while. The last one was Insomniac Games in August 2019. However, at the same time the Housemarque acquisition was announced, rumors started circling that Bluepoint Games will also join the club thanks to a mistimed Tweet from Sony Japan. Seeing as Microsoft had recently acquired Bethesda and Facebook has picked up a number of VR studios, Hulst was asked if Sony was in an “arms race” to make studio acquisitions:
No, not at all. We’re very selective about the developers that we bring in. Our last new acquisition was Insomniac, which has worked out very well. I’m always looking for people that have a similar set of values, similar creative ambitions and work very well with our team that we can further invest in and help grow as creators. It’s not like we’re going around and just making random acquisitions.
They’re very, very targeted acquisitions of teams that we know well. The amount of collaboration between our external development group and Housemarque on the technical side, the production management side and even on the creative side has been so deep. So for us, it just makes so much sense to do that.
Negotiations with Housemarque began last year while the world was in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The result is the deal has been completed without the two companies meeting at any point during the process. What both are now certain about is it will help the developer to progress, as Housemarque has recently “started to do something bigger, something more ambitious” according to Kuittinen. They collaborated with various studios and liked the results. Sony is now “the partner that’s best positioned to help develop even further”.
For Sony, the deal was a great idea because the developer filled “a unique part of our slate of games” according to Hulst. The games “always have that super-intense, arcade style, but they’ve been able to innovate by creating their own genre with a roguelike that’s got a nicely layered story on top”. Housemarque has also been an important part of launching PlayStation consoles. Their shoot ’em up Super Stardust HD released seven months after the PlayStation 3 console was launched and was the first game to ever get PlayStation trophies. The game was later ported to PSP and was a launch title for the PlayStation Vita. Resogun helped launch the PlayStation 4 console, while Returnal released just five months after the PlayStation 5 console arrived.
As for what the studio is up to right now, support continues for Returnal although they still “can’t share anything at this point” about that controversial save system. Kuittinen described Returnal as “kind of a stepping stone for us” from which they can make “even bigger and even more ambitious” titles. Only time will tell what the collaboration manages to produce.[Source: GQ Magazine]