PlayStation Studios Spotlight: Insomniac Games

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,

Update Log:
17/09/2021 — Marvel's Wolverine and Marvel's Spider-Man 2 added to current projects.

Insomniac overview

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Insomniac has a long and strange history with Sony. The team made not one, but two all-timer 3D mascot platformers for Playstation: Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank. It worked on the Spyro trilogy for three years between 1997 and 2000.

The purple dragon's first outing was a big hit on the PlayStation critically, but also among its younger target audience. Indeed, Spyro's battle against Gnasty Gnork proved so popular that a second game — Ripto's Rage! — was released a year later. The platformer had a little more content compared to the first game and ironed out a few issues that 3D platformers traditionally struggled with in that era. The third game — 2000's Year of the Dragon — added fresh environments and activities in order to continue fleshing out the Spyro experience. The formula hadn't yet tired and the game took home universal praise. All three Insomniac developed games are now available in a remasted package from 2018 called the Reignited Trilogy.

After this, Insomniac moved on to Ratchet & Clank. Between 2002 and 2021 the studio produced 12 games (including two stop-gap games) in the series across the PS2, PS3, PSP, PS4, and PS5. To help you negotiate the series, we put together Two Crude Dudes: A Ratchet & Clank Compendium for you. Needless to say, Ratchet and Clank have become PlayStation icons, even in the modern era, helping provide first-party goodness in the PS5 showcase game Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

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Insomniac also somehow found the time to put together a trilogy of one of the most underrated modern PlayStation exclusive IP, beginning with 2006's Resistance: Fall of Man. The FPS was a hard turn left at the door of the mascot platformer, but still ushered in the PS3 era with an unforgettable bit of box art. Indeed, the game was good, too. The story was gripping, focusing on an invasion of Chimera aliens that started in the 1950s. Imaginative weaponry dominated the destroyed dystopic cities, and there was even a 40 player multiplayer mode. Resistance 2 kept pace with the first game when it was released in 2008, though there was definite dissent from some who thought that the story and gameplay had shifted a little too far from the original.

2011's Resistance 3 moved away from the militaristic focus of the first two games and lent hard into the horror of the Chimera and the unfolding apocalypse. Despite solid reviews, a poor commercial outing killed the series then and there. Now, we live in hope of a fourth game. We miss you Resistance!

Bend Studio took on the development of the PSP spin-off Resistance: Retribution in 2009. It was very well received. On Vita in 2012 came Resistance: Burning Skies, developed by Nihilistic Software. This game had the opposite fate to its predecessors, being slated by some critics and receiving average grades from others.

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Then came a really weird period involving mobile, virtual reality, and big publishers. Insomniac got in bed with Activision and made the rather terrible Fuse in 2013. The studio tried its luck with Microsoft and made the very good — but only moderately financially successful — Sunset Overdrive in 2014. Insomniac also brought the much smaller Song of the Deep to life through the GameTrust scheme in conjunction with Gamestop.

Then there were the few efforts at games for the Oculus VR headset, with Edge of Nowhere in 2016 and Stormland in 2019. We don't even know how to untangle some of the other games out of Insomniac and mobile subsidiary Insomniac Click between 2012 and 2019. There was Outernauts, Fruit Fusion, Bad Dinos, Digit & Dash, The Unspoken, Feral Rights, Seedling, Strangelets, and Slow Down, Bull. We didn't even know about three-quarters of those before writing this.

Then, in 2018, Marvel's Spider-Man was released on PS4 and it all changed for the Insomniac teams. The web-swinger had come to life in a delightful open-world game, with a comic story to die for and the beauty of a thousand cobwebs shining in the early morning sun. So, Sony finally sealed the deal and bought the studio for a reported $229 million in 2019. Since then, the team has made Spider-Man: Miles Morales for the launch of the PS5 as a spin-off to the main entry. But, make no mistake, the game trimmed the fat into an unmissable experience. What a studio and what a legacy!

Insomniac's previous projects:

Burbank Team — Spider-Man: Miles Morales

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As a PS5 launch game based upon an incredibly successful PS4 exclusive, the game could do no wrong. It told a great story and stripped away all of the fluff that occasionally crept into the first Spider-Man. Also: Miles is a legend. A score of 85 on Metacritic speaks for itself.

North Carolina Team — Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

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The game is now the PS5 game to own. It holds not only a great Metacritic score of 89, but our Editor Luke absolutely loved it in his review, saying that “it's the game your PS5 was born to play.”

Insomniac’s current projects: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Marvel’s Wolverine

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In a surprise move, Insomniac revealed not one, but two projects that we believe to be coming out of the Burbank team. The first is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, currently slated for 2023, which seems to feature co-op action as the in-engine trailer features both characters simultaneously. Also, there is Venom out and about for the sequel, voiced by Candyman actor Tony Todd, who stated that the game will be “massive.”

Marvel’s Wolverine is much more secretive at this stage. We know it will be “dark and mature,” because the creative director Brian Horton tweeted about it. Horton’s involvement suggests that Burbank is now split into multiple teams working on Marvel projects because the creative director was formerly working on Miles Morales. That might free up North Carolina for other, as of yet unknown, creative endeavours.

Insomniac in 2021

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Insomniac has been wrapped up in both Ratchet & Clank and Spider-Man for so long that there is actually minimal news coming from either team. Rift Apart had strong gameplay chart numbers, and a long time ago Resistance 4 was cancelled. Former Xbox exclusive Sunset Overdrive might make a move to PlayStation, though that is still a shot at the moon for the moment. A quiet year for insider news, all-in-all!

Where does Insomniac rank?

Insomniac Games is a developer operating at the highest level, with two studios — one in Burbank, California, and the other in North Carolina — that can keep a constant roll of games. We have seen this already with Spider-Man coming out one year and Ratchet & Clank the next. Insomniac has already become invaluable to Sony after only three years of making great first-party games under its ownership. While we would love to see the team tackle a new IP outside of the Marvel or Ratchet & Clank stable soon, it does not take away from their current output. A complete trophy list for the PlayStation Studio.

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A studio that has achieved it all in game development to the highest tier possible

Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Hey, I'm Kes! I'm a Staff Writer, and I've been here since 2021. What do I like? The Outer Wilds is top notch. The Witcher 3 blew my mind over the course of five years completing it. I want Burnout back — I really miss crunching mechanical wonders into walls to the sound of Guns N' Roses. Cool, now we are acquainted, I'll see you around.