Housemarque, the critically-acclaimed developer of the recent PlayStation 5 exclusive “Returnal,” has joined the PlayStation family of first-party studios, Sony announced this morning.

Founded by Ilari Kuittinen and Harri Tikkanen, the company was established in 1995 and combined two of Finland’s first game development studios, Bloodhouse and Terramarque. For the 80-person studio, this acquisition provides access to Sony’s full support and resources, including a motion-capture studio Housemarque already used for “Returnal”, as well as the promotional power of being a marquee developer under the PlayStation brand.

“When we were develolping ‘Nex Machina,’ our self-published title [from 2017] ... we started to think about what our next direction would be,” Kuittinen said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Then, you know, these fools at Sony wanted to sign with us and give us money. This is my dream.”

Housemarque is the 13th studio to join PlayStation, a network that includes Guerrilla Games, Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog. The studio is known for fast-paced, arcade-like shooters. They’ve also featured a new release around the launch of a new Sony console since the PlayStation 3 years.

Housemarque’s pedigree in arcade shooters connected them with an icon from the golden age of gaming, Eugene Jarvis, who created “Defender” in 1980. Jarvis served as a creative consultant for “Nex Machina.”

“It’s pretty hard to imagine a launch of a PlayStation platform without there being something from Housemarque,” Hermen Hulst, head of PlayStation Worldwide Studios, told The Post. “They’ve really been great at building showcases, not just talking about visual appeal, but on the audio side as well. .... Just like all the other teams in place, Housemarque has their own distinct style and brand, their own distinct culture. The games they create are just so different from everything else we’ve got, so I love the diversity of the experiences that we’re able to offer.”

Sony said the acquisition cost is not being disclosed due to “contractual commitments," and that day-to-day operations at Housemarque will be run by current management together with PlayStation Studios External Development.

While Housemarque only has one AAA, big-budget game in the recent “Returnal,” Hulst said this acquisition will enable them to continue to pursue ambitious projects. Being a first-party PlayStation studio means Housemarque will have access to Sony’s motion-capture facilities, testing and focus groups, as well as administrative assets for acquiring new talent, among other matters.

“To increase your ambition level, execute on that during a pandemic with everybody working from home? And you ship a game like ‘Returnal’ with the PS5? That’s hats off to me,” said Hulst, who added he first worked closely with Housemarque in 2006 to create “Killzone: Liberation" for the PlayStation Portable while he was managing director of Guerrilla Games, another Sony studio. “They’ve earned the right to make whatever bold, creative choices they need.”

Hulst also said Housemarque’s location in Scandinavia would help in seeking talent, as that part of the world has been a growing incubator for studios. Sweden in particular is home to many successful studios, including Avalanche Studios, EA DICE, and Bethesda’s MachineGames, which is now under the Xbox family of studios.

“Their ambition is to grow the team further," Hulst said. “Obviously they’re not going to be a giant 500-man team, that’s not the goal. We’re just going to help them fulfill their creed and strong vision. We’ve already collaborated on a lot of areas in the past, the technical side, production management, creative. But we’re looking for them to maintain their strong identity because we love their core gameplay style.”

Kuittinen said discussions began before “Returnal” was being developed, and Sony was already offering assistance for it. Because it’s a small team, Housemarque asked to finish “Returnal” first before diving headfirst into acquisition talks.

“With the help of Sony’s backing and all the knowledge we can share with them and learn from the other studios, it’s certainly a stepping stone toward even bigger things,” Kuittinen said.

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