Sony Looks to Spider-Man to Boost PlayStation 5 Console Sales

Earlier releases in the series from Insomniac Games have sold more than 33 million copies

(Bloomberg) — To meet its sky-high sales forecasts for the PlayStation 5 this year, Sony Group Corp. will look for help from a superhero.

On Thursday, Sony will release Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, its biggest game of the year and one of the most important moments to date for the PS5, which launched in November 2020. During its first two years on the market, Covid-related supply shortages made the PS5 difficult to purchase, and Sony decided to release several lavish PS5 games, such as Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok, on the PlayStation 4 as well — potentially undermining some players’ urgency to upgrade. So far, the PS5 has sold around 40 million units, lagging behind the sales of its predecessor. 

This fiscal year, with the supply chain issues resolved, Sony is hoping to sell 25 million PS5s and last week unveiled slimmer new models, aiming to juice purchases over the holiday season. The arrival of Spider-Man 2, one of the first games to be released exclusively on PS5, will also help. The game will be promoted in a sales bundle with the console. 

Spider-Man 2, developed by Sony-owned Insomniac Games, is the third installment in the series, following 2018’s Spider-Man and 2020’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The first two games have sold more than 33 million copies, making Spider-Man one of the PlayStation’s most lucrative franchises, and expectations for the new iteration are running high.

Recent PlayStation games have cost more than $200 million to make, according to Lewis Ward, a research director at the International Data Corp. Ward said the new superhero sequel “may be in that same range.”

“Spider-Man 2 has to be a system seller,” he said.

In the new game, an alien parasite called the “symbiote” infects hero Peter Parker, giving him extra strength but also making him nastier and more aggressive. The symbiote turns out to be a supervillain, known as Venom, that Parker must battle in order to save New York City and, presumably, the world.  Befitting the title, Parker is joined by a second Spider-Man, Miles Morales. Together, the duo patrol the city — which now includes not just Manhattan but also Brooklyn and Queens — equipped with all sorts of new gadgets, including a set of wings that augment the traditional web-swinging mode of navigation. (There aren’t many buildings to latch onto when you’re trying to cross the East River.)

So far, reviewers have been raving, ranking it among the year’s best.

The game arrives during a turbulent time for Sony’s PlayStation division. Last month, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan announced that he plans to retire at the end of this fiscal year. Meanwhile, chief rival Microsoft Corp. recently closed its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard Inc., once one of Sony’s top partners, in a deal that Ryan strongly opposed.

Spider-Man 2 leaves several dangling narrative threads, tailor-made it would seem for additional sequels. Based on the critical reception and significant early hype, it seems likely that Spider-Man 2 will be a hit even though it is arriving on a console with significantly fewer users than the PS4 had when the first game arrived.

“My spidey-sense tells me that this game will eventually sell tens of millions of copies,” Ward said. 

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