Xbox 'passed' on Marvel first-party games in 2014, according to executive
Xbox's focus on its own IP may have led to Spider-Man on PlayStation.
What you need to know
- Spider-Man games on PlayStation have been a critical and commercial success for Sony, Insomniac Games, and Marvel.
- According to an excerpt from a book featuring Marvel executive Jay Ong, Microsoft also had an opportunity to make first-party Marvel games.
- Microsoft "passed" on the offer, as the company's strategy was, reportedly, "to focus on [Xbox's] own IP."
- Marvel also negotiated the Spider-Man IP away from Activision Blizzard, leading to its home at PlayStation today.
Some of the most well-known and most beloved first-party "AAA" games on PlayStation belong under the Spider-Man umbrella from Insomniac Games. Now two games strong, with a third on the way, Spider-Man on PS4 and PS5 feels natural. In an alternate universe, however, Xbox might have been the company developing Spider-Man games with Marvel.
According to an excerpt from The Ultimate History of Video Games, Volume 2 by Steven L. Kent, detailed on Resetera, Microsoft actually "passed" on an opportunity to potentially work with Marvel on first-party games for Xbox, leading to the superhero company to turn to Sony PlayStation. The book features Marvel's vice president of games, Jay Ong, who immediately began exploring expanding Marvel's reach in video games after taking over in 2014.
The only two companies Ong felt were a suitable match for a long-term licensing deal with Marvel were Microsoft and Sony. Today, we know that Sony and its first-party studio Insomniac Games have done wonders with the Spider-Man IP, most recently with Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS4 and PS5, but in 2014 the future wasn't as clearly defined. Ong approached both companies regarding the offer, but Microsoft turned it down in order "to focus on [Xbox's] own IP."
Activision Blizzard, now in the process of being purchased by Microsoft, was the previous licensee of Spider-Man, but Marvel negotiated a mutual agreement to walk away from the deal, as the publisher apparently wasn't content with the sales of its Spider-Man games. Afterward, Marvel began working with PlayStation and Insomniac Games to create what the Spider-Man games are today. The next step is Spider-Man 2 on PS5, releasing sometime in the future. Insomniac Games is also working on adapting another superhero for PlayStation with Marvel's Wolverine.
It's interesting to consider a reality in which Xbox Game Studios' created Marvel games could be among the best Xbox games on the platform, but millions of players love what Sony and Insomniac Games have accomplished with Spider-Man on PlayStation. While it's not impossible for Xbox to build games with Marvel in the future, it's clear Sony and Marvel have a great working partnership. Xbox fans have plenty to look forward to, though, with a plethora of games in the works from Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda.
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.