Sony is not a company that often acquires developers let alone publishers of the magnitude that people speak of. However having said this, the pressure has definitely been applied by Microsoft. So let's have some fun with this and see how we would run Sony.
Let's first look at the valuation of the following publishers.
Take Two: 19.10B
Bandai Namco: 15.53B
Square Enix: 5.81B
CD Projekt: 5.05B
Kadokawa Corp: 2.86B
Now that we have a general sense of the scale and valuation of these publishers, we can start to form a game plan.
My own basic rules:
Back in Q2 2021, Sony announced that it has 18.39B to spend on strategic investments for the next 3 years. So basically 18.39B to spend up to Q2 2024.
This means 6.13B per year. Now of course Sony doesn't just have PlayStation, but also many other branches. However, we know that PlayStation is the most important branch that Sony has. So for the ease of things let's just split 6.13 by 3. Going by this assumption, the PlayStation division has 2.04B to spend per year for 3 years max. The deal of the Activision Blizzard acquisition won't be finalized until June 2023.
This gives us the deadline to try to run Sony as well as possible for the coming 1.5 years by having (2.04 x 1.5) 3.06B at hand. But we have 5.10B to spend up to Q2 2024.
However, realistically speaking these numbers will also be used for other deals already in place, including timed exclusivity deals, upkeep, and whatnot.
So let's divide these numbers by 2. 3.06 / 2 = 1.53 and 5.10 / 2 = 255.
This means we have 1.53B dollars to spend until the Microsoft merger is done and 2.55B dollars until Q2 2024.
To look further into the future let's use the same numbers and calculate what we can spend after that. 1.53 is 1,5 years time. Meaning, we get to spend 1.02B every year that comes after Q2 2024.
With the rules established. I'll go ahead and start to strategize a plan that I think would work best for Sony.
With only a fraction of the money, we are able to spend on strategic partnerships compared to Microsoft, I feel we should focus on Sony's strengths to try to remove as many of its weaknesses as possible.
The weaknesses of Sony are pretty clear at the moment. Sony has no service that can compete with Microsoft's Gamepass. Sony also can't afford to spend the amount of time and money needed to create a service and infrastructure as well as market the service like Microsoft does. So what can we do?
Three key pillars attract people to Gamepass:
- The diversity of games that's on there.
- The number of games that's on there.
- The (low) price point you pay to access that vast library of games.
How to weaken the three key pillars of Gamepass.
- We can't do anything to Microsoft's pricing strategy. We can also not afford to decrease our own pricing strategy. As in a war where money is important, Microsoft will always win. So we just have to take an L here.
- BUT we can do something about the diversity of Sony's own games.
- We can also lessen the volume of games that Xbox can output on their service.
- We can add the volume of quality games to Sony's catalog.
- We can take away media buzz surrounding Gamepass and bolster our own.
Now let's focus on Sony's biggest strength first, the quality of its games. Even though the quality is already impressive, strengthening the volume of quality games would make Xbox games seem even less compelling. This is Sony's bread and butter. So this shouldn't pose too much of a challenge.
But we have a problem. And that's that all of Sony's studios are already busy developing games. So to create a bigger number of quality games we would need to acquire developers. And not just any kind, but the kind that can uphold Sony's standards in gaming.
But for that we need money. However, we only have 3.06B to spend until Microsoft's deal with Activision Blizzard is completed and 5.10B to spend up to Q2 2024. So how should we go about it?
Increasing Sony's volume of quality games:
As many of you probably noticed, Sony has great relationship management abilities. This goes for smaller development studios as well as with key individuals.
Sony often acquires smaller studios and somehow makes the studio perform in a way that far exceeds their previous projects once they join the PlayStation family.
Sony also has a way of capturing the right people and putting them in the right positions. When I think of Playstation and its franchises, I think of certain individuals as well. Neil Druckmann, Cory Barlog, Hermen Hulst and Nate Fox come to mind.
Now, if I were Sony, I would make an attempt to add Hideo Kojima, Jade Raymond, and Hidetaka Miyazaki to this already impressive list.
Kojima productions isn't a huge company as of now. Meaning it shouldn't be too expensive to acquire. As the boss of Kojima Productions, Hideo Kojima gets to hand-pick its employees.
Of course, he would pick people he trusts, relies on upon, and synergize with the most. One such person is for example Yoji Shinkawa. This means that Kojima Productions already functions incredibly well while staying small. This is proven by its short development time of Death Stranding.
It being small equals it being cheap, but more importantly there's no bloat. No bloat means no restructuring needed which means time saved, and no money wasted for buying non-essential parts of the company.
But what would the valuation be of Kojima Productions? It's tough to say as it is still a relatively new company. The only thing we know is that there are about 80 employees in 2019. I'd imagine that this number has grown by now. If I had to take a guess I would say the company has about 120 people. This is pure guesswork though.
As for sales data, the only thing we know is that Death Stranding sold over 5 million copies in total worldwide back in March 2021. Just for convenience sake let's say they sold 6 million to date for 60 bucks each. Now let's be even more generous and say that they made 30 bucks of profit for each game they sold. Meaning they made 180 million in pure profit. However, companies won't sell just for what they made in profit, plus Kojima Productions sells merchandise as well.
To keep things simple let's double that and say the valuation of Kojima Productions sits at 360 million dollars.
Now Hidetaka Miyazaki. Many people came to the conclusion that Sony should make an attempt to acquire Kadokawa.
Ain't gonna happen. Simple as that.
What people really want is FromSoftware anyways.
Oh no wait, most would probably say that they want FromSoftware because of its Soulsbourne games.
BUT NO AGAIN, because what people really really want is the soul and mind behind the Soulsbourne games. This means Hidetake Miyazaki himself and the people he works well with.
If I were Sony I would try my hardest to not buy Kadokawa, but poach Hidetaka Miyazaki and convince Hidetaka Miyazaki to take his trusted team with him. This way Sony would avoid all the bloat and spend only a tiny tiny fraction compared to buying Kadokawa, or FromSoftware, or even its IPs. Sony doesn't need those IPs. What Sony needs is the talent that created those IPs in the first place.
Compared to Kojima Productions it's even tougher to put a number on the cost it would take to poach Hidetake Miyazaki and his team. All we know is that Dark Souls 3 took about 200 people to make, including people who were used for outsourcing. Let's assume to keep the same quality of the game it would need that amount of people. But it wouldn't just be salaries, the goal is to make it function like its own studio with Hidetake Miyazaki at the helm of it.
Previously we established that Death Stranding took 180 million to make with 80 people. 200 / 80 = 2,5. 180 x 2,5 = 450. But it also takes money to restructure everything, buy inventory, arrange logistics pay rent, etc. Many of these things are already partially accounted for with the 450 million.
But let's round that up just to be sure and say this whole endeavor takes 500 million to pull off.
Even though getting Hideo Kojima and Hidetaka Miyazaki would increase the number of quality games Sony can output, it wouldn't make much of a dent into the library of Microsoft's games. So let's explore this further.
Decreasing Gamepass' volume of games:
To truly take away the volume of Microsoft's offering, we need something much bigger than just Hideo Kojima and Hidetake Miyazaki. We actually need a publisher for this. Which publisher? If I had to pick one, I would definitely pick Capcom.
Here's why I would pick Capcom:
- Capcom has a vast amount of IPs. These IPs are also multimillion-dollar games when it comes to the revenue they bring in. These include Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Mega Man, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Dead Rising, Monster Hunter, Sengoku Basara, Onimusha, and Ace Attorney.
- Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom would provide Sony 2 fighting games that Sony desperately needs.
- Marvel vs. Capcom might also strengthen Sony's relationship with Marvel. It's far-fetched, but at least there's a possibility.
- What's most important though, is that this gives Sony the talent needed to create a new fighter IP that will hopefully have a wider audience while using Evo to organize events and garner attention for this new IP as well as for Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom.
- Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Dead Rising, Monster Hunter, and Onimusha all have Western appeal. But it also strengthens Sony's appeal in the East. Which is another weakness of Sony.
- Mega Man, Sengoku Basara, and Ace Attorney would further solidify Sony's position in the East.
- Many of these titles have heavy ties with Nintendo. Owning Capcom would sever these ties and would not only damage Microsoft but also Nintendo in the process. Making Sony have a stronger position all around.
- IPs like Pragmata, Dragon's Dogma, Dino Crisis, Lost Planet, etc. might also be able to provide Sony with extra value in the future.
The valuation of Capcom sits at 4.82B. But to acquire Capcom this would take a lot of money and time. And because we don't have the money to do so yet. It would take even more time. Taking more time would mean that Capcom might get other bids and also give Capcom's stock prices room to rise. So we can't assume the valuation stays the same.
For simplicity's sake, I will just add another 20% to it, making Capcom's price tag 5.78B by the time we have the resources to buy Capcom.
As of right now we have bolstered the volume of quality games as well as taken away the volume of games from both Microsoft and Nintendo. And even though we increased our diversity of games with this, we are still lacking in the FPS genre as well as on the Games-as-a-Service side.
Increasing the diversity of games:
We already know that Guerrilla is working on an FPS game. But one FPS game doesn't hold a candle to Microsoft's offering. Especially considering the fact that Xbox will have Call of Duty on its side when June 2023 comes around.
Enter Deviation Games. Deviation Games is working on an FPS game and if things work out the way we hope, we probably have to acquire Deviation Games. Deviation Games has 131 employees. Deviation Games' annual revenue is at 26.9 million dollars. This isn't much. But I imagine that their revenue will skyrocket once their FPS game hits the market. I mean, we would want it to, as we will only acquire Deviation Games once it has proven to be a success. So let's not look at that as of right now. Let's apply the logic that we applied to Kojima Productions. As Kojima Productions is also a new studio with only 1 title released so far. According to Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding is deemed as a success. By the time we are willing to acquire Deviation Games, it would've put out 1 game. So the situation is comparable I'd say.
We assumed Kojima Productions took 360 million to acquire, with 80 employees. 131 / 80 = 1.64. 1.64 x 360 = 590.4 million dollars.
We now only have GaaS to tackle and then I'd say we are pretty solid. We know that Naughty Dog is working on a multi-player game set in The Last of Us universe. This will most likely be a GaaS title. But one is definitely not enough. So we need at least another one.
This is where Jade Raymond and her Haven studio come into play. Again, to keep things simple I will use Kojima Productions and Deviation Games' logic of valuation for Haven. With Haven, however, we don't have any info. No revenue figures and no employee figures. So to keep things fair let's add Kojima Productions' number of employees to the number of Deviation Games' employees and divide that by 2. 80 + 131 = 106. 106 / 80 = 1.33. 1.33 × 360 = 478.8.
So the valuation would be 478.8 million dollars.
Now we basically have the total amount of money we would need to achieve our goals. Let's see what that gives us:
360M + 500M + 5.78B + 590.4M + 478.8M = 7.7092B.
So let's round this down to 7.7B dollars in total.
We only have 3.06B to spend until Microsoft's deal with Activision Blizzard becomes a reality. So we would need to prioritize which studios to buy and which to leave out for a later date.
If I were to be in charge. I would with pain in my heart leave out Capcom. Time is of the essence. We can't wait to have enough money to be able to acquire Capcom. So what would the cost be if we leave out Capcom? 7.7B - 5.78B = 1.92B dollars.
This would mean that we can acquire almost every single studio, individual, and genre we need about half a year after the Microsoft deal is complete. Which is perfect timing, as we also need to wait and see how both Haven studio and Deviation Games performed anyways. Assuming that all goes to plan, at the end of 2023 we would have covered almost all of our weaknesses.
We miss out big on Capcom but having the studios that we have now, we are set to be in a position to create our own Capcom like games now anyways. And should Capcom remain independent for another 6 to 7 years, we can always make another bid on Capcom.
However, if I were Sony, I would actually forget Capcom for now and much rather try to acquire Game Science, the studio behind Black Myth: Wukong. Game Science has about 40 employees last year, considering that they put together a trailer to try to attract as many talented developers as possible, it would be safe to assume that they are double that now. Employing the logic I used for all the valuations, this would put the valuation the same as Kojima Productions'. Meaning it would cost 360 million dollars to acquire them. This would not only get Sony a great set of developers and hype but also bolster its position in China. By now we would've spent 1.92B + 0.32B = 2.24B dollars. I would spend the remainder of (2.55B - 2.24B) 310 million dollars to acquire other promising talents from China. I would then place employ their talents to make mobile, as well as GaaS games. By Q2 2024, Sony would have reached the point where it will finally begin to have a range of games to appeal to every market, every genre, and every area in the world.
So what do you guys think? I've made many assumptions, but this is the only way I'm able to come up with very rough estimates with the info we have.
Don't agree with my logic and basic ruleset? Make up your own ruleset. Let's hear your approach and master game plan. Remember this is only for entertainment purposes only. Keep things cordial and let's just have som