Sony has announced that it has acquired Finnish indie developer Housemarque just two months after the launch of Housemarque’s Returnal as one of the highest-profile exclusives on the young PlayStation 5 console.
Housemarque has a long history with Sony consoles, dating back to 2007’s Super Stardust HD on the then-new PlayStation 3 and running through PS4 launch standout Resogun. Housemarque is also the studio behind the 2017 PS4 twin-stick shooter Nex Machina, which Ars’ Sam Machkovech gave an honorable mention in his Games of the Year list at the time. The last Housemarque game on a non-Sony console was 2008’s little-remembered Golf: Tee it Up on the Xbox 360.
“It’s pretty hard to imagine a launch of a PlayStation platform without there being something from Housemarque,” Hermen Hulst, the head of PlayStation Studios, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The games they create are just so different from everything else we’ve got, so I love the diversity of the experiences that we’re able to offer.”
Also speaking to The Washington Post, Housemarque co-founder and Managing Director Ilari Kuittinen said Sony was in talks to acquire the studio even before Returnal was released. Kuittinen also said that Sony offered assistance to the small team developing Returnal, which represented a turn toward 3D exploration and high-end production values for a studio previously known for simpler arcade shooters.
Hulst said Housemarque will be looking to expand its approximately 80-person studio in light of the acquisition but that “obviously they’re not going to be a giant 500-man team—that’s not the goal.” Sony is not disclosing the amount spent on the Housemarque purchase.
Sony’s last major gaming acquisition was the 2019 $229 million purchase of Spider-Man developer Insomniac. Microsoft, meanwhile, recently spent billions on Bethesda Softworks a few years after scooping up Psychonauts 2 studio Double Fine and several other indie studios, including Undead Labs (State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Ninja Theory (Hellblade), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few).
Speaking to British GQ, Hulst said he doesn’t see Sony engaging in an “arms race” where both console makers try to secure as many exclusive studios as possible. “We’re very selective about the developers that we bring in,” he said. “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.”
“With the backing of [Sony] and its family of studios supporting us, we can truly grow into our place in the industry and show what Housemarque can create with no limitations,” Kuittinen wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. “We can’t wait to show everyone what will be in store in the upcoming years, and we hope to usher in more lasting memories and exhilarating titles for the next quarter century and beyond.”
Listing image by Sony Interactive Entertainment / Housemarque