2018 has been a stellar year for Insomniac Games. With their release of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Marvel’s Spider-Man in September, the Burbank developer succeeded in bringing one of entertainment’s most recognizable IP to a playable form that has been widely accepted by all.
Though the company has always been closely associated with Sony’s first party stable of developers, they have never had exclusivity with the console manufacturer, resulting in projects appearing on multiple platforms. With Marvel’s Spider-Man release come and gone, eyes are now set on the future and what projects are in the pipeline for the developer.
With Stormland, a VR experience for Oculus Rift, being the only title with an official release date attached, the future seems quite open with the plethora of IP the company owns. Yet, with the overwhelming support found this year in Marvel’s Spider-Man, where does Sunset Overdrive go from here?
Released on the Xbox One on October 28th, 2014, Sunset Overdrive is a unique experience to say the least. A mashup of several genres, the Insomniac Games developed project puts players in the middle of the raddest apocalypse in the world (or as the game puts it, the ‘Awesomepocalypse’). Grinding and shooting your way through waves of zombie-like enemies, Sunset Overdrive is a thrilling roller coaster ride that mixes third person shooting/melee with the feeling of a Jet Set Radio entry. So many of Insomniac’s games can be felt in the game, such as the wacky wheel of weapons of Ratchet & Clank fame.
Though the game received positive reviews and has been played by ‘millions’ (via Games with Gold), word on a follow up to the Xbox One exclusive has been all but quiet. In September 2018, Insomniac CEO Ted Price stated during a community live stream that the developer is open to a Sunset Overdrive sequel, but stated a new publisher would be needed for that. “Sunset is something that I know a lot of our fans talk about wanting to see the sequel” Price responded when asked on if any of the studio’s inhouse IPs could see a return. “We need a partner for that. That’s a big game; Sunset 2 would be a very large-scope game.” Previously Price had insinuated a poor relationship with Microsoft from a publishing aspect, by stating “ask them” when questioned on a continuation of the series, but given the importance placed on Spider-Man’s release that may be a two way street.
While Insomniac and Microsoft may be at a standstill over the publishing minusha of the matter, it really could be the perfect time for a Sunset Overdrive sequel. With Marvel’s Spider-Man’s astronomical sales numbers as an exclusive, many are getting their taste of the developer’s offering for the first time. Sunset Overdrive can be found in a multitude of aspects of Spider-Man. Ranging from the seamless flow of traversal to the quick and snappy combat, the DNA of the Microsoft produced title can be seen miles away. Bryan Intihar, creative director on both projects, insinuates that one wouldn’t exist without the other; as Spider-Man’s swinging mechanic took many influences from Sunet’s traversal, and the experience with the scope of Sunset was needed to be in a position to make Spider-Man. Yet, as Price stated, it seems to be the publishing end that puts the series in limbo currently. With hindsight being 20/20, ownership of the Sunset Overdrive IP seems to be the biggest downfall for Microsoft. During the original pitch of the game, Insomniac insisted on retaining all major rights to the IP, which led to many publishers opting out of negotiations on the project. Microsoft loved the premise of the game, and obliged Insomniac’s request. Fast forward over four years later, now with the emphasis placed on developing exclusive titles, it seems as though the IP would’ve been a no-brainer for the Seattle-based console manufacturer.
While still very unlikely, it’s not unthinkable for Microsoft to express interest in purchasing the rights to the IP from Insomniac. With the game’s single player mode recently coming to PC, both through Steam and the Windows store, it may be a toe in the water to gauge interest on the post-apocalyptic thrill ride. The most likely scenario to happen at this time is Insomniac goes third party, making the possible sequel a multiplatform release. It’s a truly interesting situation that Insomniac finds themselves in, when referring to their relationship with Sony. Due to the massive success of their PS4-exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man and past working experience, it seems obvious that the developer makes the jump to first-party after so many years. Yet, freedom and flexibility seem to be a tent pole for the company, which they may forego leaving the unique situation they’re currently in. From the sound of Price, it doesn’t seem like their mindset is changing anytime soon, leaving hope for another entry in the Sunset Overdrive series on the table in some fashion in the Microsoft ecosystem.
For now, Xbox One owners can play the zany console exclusive on Game Pass, or purchase it via the Xbox digital storefront.