Indie game studio Sucker Punch, which makes the sandbox superhero game inFamous, has been acquired by PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment — transforming the popular inFamous titles into a first-party franchise.
Sony is still keen on picking up first-party developers for its console business. While the company has a host of first-party titles that are developed internally, it is still a hardware business at heart with the PlayStation 3 and the upcoming handheld PlayStation Vita game console. Having a slew of first-party titles is important for selling consoles — a strategy Nintendo has proved is very effective.
“Sony’s main business is consoles, they have to do first-party development,” ThinkEquity research analyst Atul Bagga told VentureBeat. “Having first-party games gives them an advantage over other platform owners.”
Sucker Punch is the 16th game development studio Sony has purchased to develop first-party titles for hits gaming consoles.
The inFamous series is one of the PlayStation 3′s most popular franchises. The company’s first inFamous title holds a score of 85 out of 100 across 98 reviews on review aggregating site Metacritic. Its first sequel released this year, inFamous 2, has a score of 83 out of 100 across 84 reviews.
Gamers take control of Cole MacGrath, a courier caught in the midst of a giant explosion in the first game. That explosion grants him superpowers and control over electricity. Players can decide whether Cole will save the city from gangs trying to take over after the explosion or take control of it using his own superpowers. Cole can explore any part of the city and gains new powers over time, and players can decide whether they want to be a jerk and kill random people or try to be helpful.
Sony competitor Nintendo likewise develops games like fighting game Smash Brothers and platformer Super Mario Galaxy as a way to encourage gamers to go out and buy the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS.
Sony acquired Naughty Dog, the developer behind Sony’s most popular Uncharted series, back in 2001, and those games are billed as one of the console’s main selling points.
The games industry is shifting to a market that takes advantage of online features for games, Bagga said. That not only includes the likes of free-to-play games like Zynga’s FarmVille, but also streaming game services like OnLive and Gaikai. Neither of those streaming game services requires the owner to buy a powerful console because all the heavy lifting is done on remote servers, which stream the video to a remote computer.
Sony would have extra advantage over other streaming companies if it has a host of first-party titles, should Sony decided to move in that direction, Bagga said.
“It would have made more sense to invest in a next-generation platform, which is online or free to play,” he said. “If they were to work on an OnLive platform, they will have a ton of content if they continue picking up first-party titles.”