Developer FromSoftware has historically enjoyed what certainly seems to be a great relationship with Sony and PlayStation. FromSoftware’s first franchise, King’s Field, was exclusive to the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable, and PC fans aren’t going to let you forget that Bloodborne remains a PS4 exclusive. Over the years, though, the studio has shown more interest in making its biggest games (most recently, Elden Ring) available for as many platforms as possible. However, a recent investment by Sony has some wondering if one of the most developers in the world could eventually join the PlayStation Studios family.
Earlier today, FromSoftware’s parent company, Kadokawa Corporation, announced that Sony Interactive Entertainment had purchased 14.09% of FromSoft, while Tencent subsidiary Sixjoy Hong Kong had bought 16.25% of the same company’s shares. While Kadokawa still owns the remaining 69.66% of FromSoftware, Sony’s purchase surprised many gamers. Why buy so many shares, and why buy them now? The potential answer to that question lies in legal jargon as well as some of Sony’s previous video game acquisitions and investments.
Early in the press release announcing the purchase, you will find a section called “Purposes of and reason for the Third-Party Allotment.” This third paragraph is crucial to understanding Sony’s rationale:
“Sony and its subsidiaries (Hereinafter the “Sony Group”) and the Company have developed a collaborative business relationship across a wide range of areas related to the Sony Group’s global Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) business operations, branded hardware business, and games business. In February 2021, the company conducted a third-party allotment with Sony as the allottee with the aim of strengthening its relationship with the Sony Group over the long term, creating new IP of the Company, and maximizing the utilization of the existing IP in anime and game fields.”
Some key phrases immediately pop out, namely “strengthening its relationship with the Sony Group” and “creating new IP.” Judging by the wording, my best guess is that Sony purchased shares of FromSoftware in order to, in part, have a little more input regarding the studio’s future. While Elden Ring is currently FromSoft’s most critically acclaimed title to date, the aforementioned PlayStation exclusive Bloodborne previously held that title. While Sony didn’t purchase enough shares to start demanding that FromSoft make more PlayStation exclusives, this investment arguably increases their ability to have at least a little more say in (and knowledge of) the company’s future creative efforts.
Of course, the one inescapable conclusion we can draw from this document is that Sony invested in FromSoftware to profit off the studio. In the simplest possible terms, this investment helps ensure that Sony gets to directly benefit from a greater portion of FromSoftware’s success. That’s the basis of most investments, and it’s obviously the case here. So far as that goes, this certainly looks like a good investment.
If you’re looking for something more dramatic…well, the truth is that there might not be a more dramatic reason behind this investment. At the same time, it seems reasonable to discuss the possibility that this move was at least partially inspired by Microsoft’s and Xbox’s recent buying spree.
As you may recall, Microsoft kicked off 2022 by announcing it was buying Activision Blizzard, which left the status of that company’s many properties up in the air. Thanks to the transaction, Microsoft officially became the owner of numerous franchises, including Crash Bandicoot, Warcraft, and most, important of all, Call of Duty. Gamers were desperate to know if that purchase would turn Call of Duty into an Xbox exclusive. While Microsoft has reassured fans that they intend to honor existing agreements between Activision Blizzard and PlayStation, it’s reasonable to wonder what the future will hold.
Mind you, Sony hasn’t exactly been inactive in the studio marketplace. In 2019, the company purchased Insomniac Games, and, in 2021, Sony acquired Housemarque (the studio behind Returnal) as well as Bluepoint Games. That buying streak has only intensified, as Sony’s latest acquisition, Bungie, was its biggest yet at an estimated $3.7 billion. While many of those purchases were made before Microsoft bought Activision, it’s worth noting that Sony purchased Bungie to become a “multiplatform business.” He also claimed the studio would “be a catalyst to enhance [their] live game services capabilities” which seemingly confirms their interest in investing more in that specific area.
Now, this is pure speculation, but what if Sony’s investment in FromSoftware represents a similar interest? At the very least, this investment ensures that Sony increases its interest in FromSoftware’s multiplatform releases. Given the PlayStation teams’ interests, and FromSoft’s growing popularity, though, it is certainly possible that, on some level, Sony hopes this investment will increase their leverage if and when they ever ask FromSoft to consider developing another PS exclusive. That doesn’t mean that FromSoft will create a straight-up Call of Duty killer or even a proper live-service game, but any kind of FromSoft exclusive would have to be considered a win for Sony and the PlayStation team.
There are no guarantees that this investment results in another PS exclusive from FromSoftware, but it’s hard to argue against what seems to be a fundamentally sound investment that leaves a little more room open for that possibility.