Insomniac Games, makers of Ratchet & Clank and Resistance are, as of today, no longer a weapon for PlayStation fans to wield when arguing about which console is the best. The studio is making Xbox360 games now too. But PlayStation and Insomniac fans, history says you shouldn't panic.
PlayStation fans may have one less studio to claim verifies the PS3's advantage over the Xbox 360.
Fake Sony spokesperson Kevin Butler will no longer be able to drop Insomniac's studio name as part of his fake talking points.
Here's Sony's real talking point, by the way, their statement on Insomniac's decision to create a new universe of games with EA Partners and put them out on the PS3 and Xbox 360: "Sony Computer Entertainment and Insomniac Games will continue to build upon a strong, successful 14-year partnership that has led to more than 35 million games sold and enjoyed by fans around the world. We look forward to unveiling Insomniac's next PS3 exclusive properties in the near future."
Insomniac boss Ted Price even told Kotaku: "We are going to continue to support Ratchet and Resistance."
So no worries, right? Easy for me, a gamer who has every console, to write. PS3-only fans may be worried, like I was back when I only had a Nintendo and a certain uncommon studio left the fold.
But let's look at other examples of development studios that used to only make games for one platform changing their allegiance in some way.
Maybe we can compare Insomniac to another studio and learn something. Today's news must have precedent, no?
It's Not Quite Like Rare
If you want to look at the premiere example of a platform-loyal studio shifting plans and possibly panicking fans, look at the Rare-Nintendo split.
In 2001, Rare essentially changed teams. Since the mid 90s, with financial and creative investment from Nintendo, the British maker of Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie had been a Nintendo-only outfit. They made hits for the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. But, in late '01, Nintendo sold its piece of Rare and Microsoft stepped in. After a brief period of overlap, during which there were Xbox and Game Boy Advance games from Rare, the top-flight studio became Microsoft-only.
The original conventional wisdom was that this was a bad move by Nintendo. Rare had been a hit-maker on the Nintendo 64 but would be all but absent from the GameCube era. The GameCube may have suffered from having just one game from Rare, but the studio's first Xbox efforts, Grabbed By The Ghoulies and a remake of Conker's Bad Fur Day were so delayed and disappointing that a new conventional wisdom emerged: Rare was the party worse off from the break with Nintendo.
In the years since, Rare's games have become better; Nintendo's post-GameCube console has been a phenomenon. Lesson for Insomniac-watchers? If things go the Rare way, maybe they'll dip, but they'll recover.
It's Not Quite Like Bungie
Maybe the better comparison for Insomniac would be Bungie, the studio that made Halo and is walking away from that franchise later this year. Bungie was bought by Microsoft about a decade ago, and then regained its independence in 2007. Unlike Rare, it seemed like this was a case of the development studio wanting to wriggle free, not the other way around.
But Bungie's post-Microsoft projects weren't the ventures into independent production that some may have expected. The studio kept making Halo and, given the criticisms of 2009's Halo 3: ODST, maybe not making it quite as well as it had in the past. This year's Halo: Reach, a full-scale project instead of a quickly-made splinter, is the hoped-for return to magnificence. And then? Bungie, like Insomniac will retain its independence as it starts a 10-year deal with Activision. Like Insomniac, Bungie will own the new universe it is creating for its new games.
But unlike Bungie, Insomniac doesn't seem completely done with the franchises it made for its former exclusive platform allies. Bungie isn't making Halo games long-term. But, it seems, Insomniac may still be the Ratchet and Resistance console studio for Sony. Neither Insomniac nor Sony is ruling that out for the short-term or the long-term.
It's Not Quite Like Square
Oh, but maybe this Bungie comparison is also wrong. Maybe this situation is really more like that of Square. Like Insomniac, Square was never owned by a console-manufacturer. Square just liked to stick with one console at a time, as it did with Nintendo machines (no games for Sega!) until Sony made the coup of the late-90s console wars and secured Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation.
Square eventually came around to supporting all consoles, as it does these days by releasing big games for Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and even Apple's platforms. The analogy's got some problems, though, because Square abandoned Nintendo for Sony (some would say Nintendo's decision to stick to cartridges for the Nintendo 64 pushed Square away). Insomniac does not appear to be bailing on one ally to go to another.
If there's some optimism for Insomniac fans to take from all of the Square maneuvers it's that Square's quality of games does not appear to have taken a big hit from any of that. Final Fantasy games have had their critical highs and lows, but none of that appears to be tied to any of the company's shifts in which platforms it makes games for.
Maybe This Is A First?
Perhaps there is no precedent for what Insomniac is doing. Every comparison fails.
A Factor 5 that was independent but Nintendo-only before doing a deal with Sony, then shutting down, while flirting with multi-platform development, doesn't match up.
A Sega that once made games just for their own machines but now for everyone else's doesn't work either.
No, this is new. Insomniac, a studio that makes top-flight games will have its logo unthinkably appear on another platform. Booting up an Xbox 360 and seeing the Insomniac full moon will be as odd as seeing the Bungie logo arc across a PlayStation 3. But if all of those rough comparisons make two things clear, it's that the studio that stops being platform exclusive usually winds up okay and the platform they no longer pledge full loyalty to will probably be just fine with or without them.
Console warriors on both sides, take note. There's no need for anyone to gloat; no need for anyone to panic. History says, for the most part, everything's going to be all right.