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Sony swung a Spider-Man deal because Xbox wouldn’t park ‘er

Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of those PlayStation exclusive games that got the Xbox gang asking “Why can’t we have a Spider-Man game like that?” But let me tell you, y’all got pretty damn close to having one. In fact, Marvel was willing to give it to you on a silver platter. But according to Jay Ong – head at Marvel Games – Microsoft was the one to dismiss the offer, giving PlayStation the perfect opportunity to have a swing at it.

It all started way back, in a time when Spider-Man was still licensed to Activision and things didn’t look that great for our friendly neighborhood spider. The franchise just didn’t work out well. Why? Who cares? It just didn’t, and both Marvel and Activision weren’t really feeling it anymore. As excerpted in Steven L Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games Vol 2 and shared on ResetEra, Ong untangled the web on that awkward situation.

Marvel decided to approach Activision about terminating the contract early. As they negotiated the request, Ong explained that Spider-Man needed new talent, a bigger budget, and fresh eyes. We finally negotiated a deal for them to walk away. It was a mutually beneficial deal. When we shook hands on it, they asked, “So what are you going to do with this IP after you get it back?”

I said, “I’m going to find a better home for it.”

They replied, “Good luck finding your unicorn.”

—Jay Ong

Marvel tried finding that unicorn at companies that had an eye for long-term investments. Companies that hadn’t adopted the “crappy licensed games” mentality. Three companies came to mind: Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation. Since Nintendo mostly developed games based on its own intellectual properties, Xbox and PlayStation seemed like more plausible candidates.

Being from console first-party in my past, I pinged both sides, both Xbox and PlayStation, and said, “We don’t have any big console deals with anyone right now. What would you like to do?” Microsoft’s strategy was to focus on their own IP. They passed.

I sat down with these two execs from PlayStation third-party, Adam Boyes and John Drake, in August 2014, in a conference room in Burbank. I said, “We have a dream that this is possible, that we could beat Arkham and have one game at least and maybe multiple games that could drive adoption of your platform.”

—Jay Ong

Luckily, PlayStation was more than willing to house Peter Parker, handing his legacy over to Insomniac. Even though Insomniac was technically an independent studio back then, it was (and still is) one of Sony’s top developers. The end result was a Spider-Man game that couldn’t be missed, but one that unfortunately must be missed by Xbox players.

To think that all of this could’ve been the other way around. Yeah, Spider-Man could’ve been an Xbox exclusive, but someone wasn’t willing to Park ‘er. Get it? Parker? As in Peter Parker? I’ll let myself out…