PS5 battle lines drawn as Sony escalates console war by buying Returnal studio

The PS5 vs Xbox Series X next-gen console war just reached DEFCON 2 thanks to a brand new Sony studio acquisition

PS5 Sony PlayStation 5
(Image credit: Sony)

I wrote recently about how Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda for its Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S video game consoles was a bad thing for gamers, with the move locking a large number of long-running and popular game series exclusively to "platforms where Game Pass exists". And now that IP grab has, inevitably, started to be directly countered by Sony, with it purchasing PS5 game Returnal developer Housemarque.

The news, which has been officially confirmed by Sony, sees Housemarque fall under the command of PlayStation Studios and, while nothing regarding its future output has officially been confirmed, clearly to me at least tasked with producing more exclusive games for the PlayStation 5 family of consoles.

Speaking on the the acquisition, Ilari Kuittinen, Co-founder and Managing Director, Housemarque said that:

"We are so excited to finally join the PlayStation Studios family! We can’t wait to show everyone what will be in store in the upcoming years, and we hope to usher in more lasting memories and exhilarating titles for the next quarter century and beyond."

Of course, when Ilari says "everyone" he almost certainly means "PS5 gamers", who will be the ones enjoying the future fruits of Housemarque's labours. To be very clear, Sony has not confirmed that Housemarque will be producing games exclusive for PlayStation, but it's bloody obvious isn't it. Returnal was a PS5 exclusive and, if you were to hold a gun to my head and ask me if its sequel or follow up IP was going to be, I'd say yes every single time.

After all, why would Sony go and spend big bucks on a studio only to then share its output with its biggest rival – a rival that has just aggressively taken away the following game series from its PS5 gaming platform: DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, RAGE, and Wolfenstein.

Remember, Phil Spencer went on record to say that future Bethesda games will be exclusive to "platforms where Game Pass exists", and Game Pass is not on PlayStation. As such, unless there is a massive u-turn from Microsoft then PS5 gamers aren't getting any new Bethesda games going forward. That, as I've said before, is a huge blow to PlayStation owners.

And sure as night follows day, the re-entrenchment of the exclusive culture that Phil Spencer himself once said was "completely counter to what gaming is about" is now at a seemingly unstoppable momentum, with more and more studios being snapped up by either Microsoft or Sony so they can lock games away from gamers on other platforms.

It's all so depressing, and especially so in light of the fact that millions of gamers are still struggling to buy just one of the PS5 or Xbox Series X for RRP due to a scalper and component shortage-driven next-gen console apocalypse.

The inevitable crowing about exclusives will surface itself online once more, with both PlayStation and Xbox gamers pointing to their own studios and IPs, all the while the dream of cross-platform shared gaming experiences increasingly disappears over the horizon.

The next-gen console war just reached DEFCON 2.

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.