Spider-Man is a great property to have at your disposal. Sony itself knows this, as it has the rights to his movies and video games. However, things could have turned out very differently in the latter’s department. According to The Ultimate History of Video Games, Volume 2 (via ResetEra and VGC), Marvel Games executive Jay Ong did not just approach PlayStation for a partnership. The studio also approached Xbox, which passed up an opportunity to work on the Spider-Man franchise.
Ong stated that Marvel was not happy with the quality of Activision’s Spider-Man games towards the end of their partnership. When Ong told Activision, “I’m going to find a better home for it,” the company responded with, “Good luck finding your unicorn,” which would prove to be a terrible choice of words.
Marvel Games then approached both Xbox and PlayStation for a Spider-Man collaboration. Xbox rejected the offer, stating it wanted to focus on its own IP. So Ong met with PlayStation, saying, “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.” PlayStation offered to do an exclusive Spider-Man game with Marvel and tasked Insomniac with developing it. The deal paid off, as Marvel’s Spider-Man sold more than 20 million copies, while the spin-off Miles Morales has sold 6.5 million. Now, a sequel is set to hit PlayStation 5 in 2023, and Insomniac is creating a Wolverine game as well.
I bet Microsoft is kicking itself right now. This just goes to show there are big ramifications in the video game industry for passing up a project. The so-called console wars would be quite different today if Xbox took that deal.