The arms race between Microsoft and Sony shows no signs of slowing down: after the Americans acquired Zenimax Media (of over half a dozen top-shelf development studios) in September 2020 and did the same with Activision-Blizzard a couple of months back, the Japanese acquired Bungie and now… Haven Studios. Most people would be forgiven for staring at the screen in puzzlement, as Haven is seemingly not anywhere near as important as the companies mentioned earlier. So, what gives?
Haven is the development studio that Jade Raymond — one of the key people behind the creation of the Assassin’s Creed franchise — founded about a year ago, after leaving Ubisoft and having brief stints at Google and Electronic Arts. Haven houses more than 60 employees, it’s still growing and it will continue its day-to-day operations under the current management team and in close collaboration with PlayStation Studios’ leadership team. The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed “due to contractual commitments” of the company, so the actual cost of the deal is anyone’s guess.
Haven Studios’ first game has been in active development for some time now, but every important detail about it is a closely guarded secret: “a new live service experience built upon a systemic and evolving world focused on delivering freedom, thrill, and playfulness” is all we have to go on for now. Sony clearly believes in its potential, though, as on the same day that Jade Raymond announced the founding of Haven, she also announced that PlayStation is the target platform for its first title (after a sizable Sony investment obviously). Not much has been heard about the company since last March, apart from the persistent rumor that Haven’s first title will also be available on PC — which makes sense now that we all know about Sony’s intentions to be much more active in the PC gaming space.
Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO, noted that “Haven Studios is an emerging studio with an exceptional team of talent”, adding that SIE “is delighted to welcome them into PlayStation as its first game development studio in Canada”. “The studio’s focus on creating an original AAA multiplayer game will not only flex the power of PlayStation5”, Ryan claimed, “but will further expand upon the diverse catalog of gaming experiences that can only be found on PlayStation”. So there.
This is an interesting acquisition on Sony Interactive Entertainment’s part for one obvious reason: Haven is a development studio the Japanese have not worked closely with. That’s mainly because Haven was only recently founded, of course, but it is also unusual for Sony. The Japanese tend to acquire development teams in an organic way, proceeding only after that they have partnered with a studio in shipping a product at least once (often more than once actually) before committing to a deal. They seemingly try to make sure that their companies’ cultures and goals align, helping an acquisition work as intended (something that Microsoft has neglected to do in the past).
This is the approach the company followed with Guerilla, Insomniac, Media Molecule and Naughty Dog or, more recently, Housemarque and Bluepoint. Before acquiring even much smaller or “support” development studios, such as FireSprite, Nixxes or Valkyrie, Sony had worked closely with each one, often for quite some time. Sony must have seen something really promising in Haven’s first game, then, in order to initially invest in this new-found company and now make it a part of the PlayStation Studios family, all in less than a year.
The only question is: will this title be a PS5 exclusive, as Jim Ryan seemed to imply, or will it be a Destiny 2-style, crossplay-capable production open to PC gamers too? The latter would probably be the smart thing to do at this point: being a live game means that software piracy won’t be an issue — no lost revenue for Sony there, in other words — while a PC version of the title would greatly help it build a sizable user base quickly. It’s been proven again and again — with Horizon and God of War, for instance — that a PlayStation game can make the jump to PC in a manner that’s both scalable and technically impressive. Haven Studios’ title is still early in development so it would be much easier to plan for a PC version of it to launch either alongside the PS5 one or at a later date. It just makes sense. Bets, anyone?