The reveal of Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man at E3 was one of the event’s best moments. While its PS4 exclusivity is unsurprising given Sony’s relationship with the Spider-Man license (it owns the rights to the web-slinger’s film portfolio), it’s rare to see such a popular third-party franchise and character get the exclusivity treatment. Lara Croft’s recent outing on Xbox One comes to mind, but that’ll eventually come the way of PS4 gamers.
Spider-Man, on the other hand, has a lot more going for it, and as such it could go down as one of the most popular exclusives across both the PS4 and Xbox One.
Gamers love Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games’ portfolio is about as diverse as you can get from a developer. There’s the platforming adventures of Spyro, the action-packed adventures of the Ratchet & Clank variety, the futuristic first-person shoot-em-up in Resistance, the cooperative mayhem of Fuse, and the wacky open-world chaos of Sunset Overdrive. There’s no doubting that Insomniac has proven themselves to be a studio with a diversely skilled repertoire. Their games are pretty popular, too: the Ratchet and Clank series has sold in excess of 24 million copies, Resistance clocked in at around 8.5 million across five games, while Sunset Overdrive managed a modest one million sales on Xbox One. Fuse was probably the only “failure”, with less than 200,000 sales, but that’s not really reflective of the game’s solid cooperative experience.
The studio’s Metacritic performance is solid at 78 percent, which is an impressive figure considering the company’s independence and confidence to go at it alone without first-party support. There’s a level of respect levelled at the studio, particularly after the outstanding reboot of Ratchet & Clank, which also went on to the be the fastest selling entry in the franchise while also being the most popular game in Australia for a number of weeks.
Spider-Man games have a pretty healthy history
You could argue that Warner Bros. Games set the standard for licensed games, but it was Spider-Man that really established the benchmark early on. Spider-Man on PlayStation, released in 2000, is a cult classic, while Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2, based on the film of the same name, is one of the best open-world games from the PS2 era. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was surprisingly good, while Spider-Man (2002), Ultimate Spider-Man (2005) and a handful of solid handheld offerings like Spider-Man 3 and Web Of Shadows, both on DS, help make Peter Parker’s video game portfolio one of the best in the superhero world.
Recent offerings have been fairly average, with The Amazing Spider-Man game tie-ins being similarly disjointed and unpopular as the source material. They’re okay, not great, but suffer from the same identity problems as most movie-to-game adaptations, which leads me to my next point…
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It’s free from the shackles of the movie tie-in
What we’ve seen with series’ like Arkham is that games benefit from having the flexibility to explore the lore and build a game around a developer’s own vision, as opposed to having to work within a film’s backstory and timeline. The Spider-Man films of the 2000s benefitted from having a great developer at the helm, but with higher production costs and longer development times, licensed games certainly benefit from being made separately from their film counterparts.
Spider-Man on PS4 should be no different.
There is the flexibility to build a great story
This point touches on what I mentioned above, and Insomniac has plenty of interesting directions to take this game to help make it the greatest superhero game yet. The more mature, established Peter Parker that we saw in Captain America: Civil War does away with the tired origin story that we’ve already seen twice over the past decade and a bit. Insomniac’s Bryan Intihar revealed at E3 that the Spider-Man in this game will be more “mature” than what we’re used to, which will probably shape (or has been shaped by) where the new film, Homecoming, is trying to take the character. Early Spider-Man battles often saw Parker tackle the likes of Doctor Octopus, the Vulture and the Green Goblin, which are villains even modest Spidey fans would recognise. They’ve been done to death. As we saw from Rocksteady with the Arkham franchise, Insomniac should be able to take more modern villains and twist them up a bit to suit their vision for the character. Without directly tying it into the film, they can add their own storytelling flair and humour. This would give the game a strong identity, and alongside its PS4 exclusivity, could make it a unique experience that helps define the console.
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It’s a recognisable character that is exclusive to one console
Even casual Spider-Man fans are going to see this and probably wonder if it’s anywhere near as good as the many great Spider-Man games before it, before noticing that it’s a PS4 exclusive and picking it up. And if they don’t have a PS4? Well…calling it a “system seller” is probably a stretch, but if you’re a diehard fan that doesn’t own a PS4 — and I’m certain that market exists — then you’re definitely going to take the plunge and buy the console. Considering Insomniac’s pedigree and the improving affordability of the PS4, Sony really has hit the jackpot with this exclusive, and it seems to have been revealed just at the right time.