Following the release of data stolen from Spider-Man 2 developer Insomniac, files have revealed Sony-owned studios were recently under pressure to make staff cuts amid big development costs that shine a light on the state of triple-A development.
This week, the hackers who breached Insomniac and vowed to release confidential data unless they were paid 50 BTC, or around $2 million, made good on their threat. According to Cyber Daily, the ransomware group released 1.67 terabytes of data, made up of more than 1.3 million files containing a variety of videos and images showing upcoming game Marvel’s Wolverine, Insomniac’s entire release slate up to the early 2030s, and even company contracts. But, most worryingly, the data also includes staff information such as passport scans.
As reported by Kotaku, the files also contain meeting notes that claim “there will be one studio closure” at PlayStation Studios. It is currently unclear if this claim remains valid. Sony and Insomniac are yet to comment.
Elsewhere, files show Insomniac was under pressure to make budget cuts, with 50-75 layoffs earmarked for the studio. Insomniac staff reportedly discussed how to “remove 50-75 people strategically”, as requested by Sony, with the best option supposedly to “cut deeply” into the Wolverine and Spider-Man 3 teams, and replacing staff with team members from the unannounced new Ratchet & Clank game and a new unannounced IP.
According to the leaked documents, Sony has called on staff cuts across its first-party studios. Officially, we know of a number of layoffs at PlayStation Studios, including a wave of redundancies at Dreams developer Media Molecule, significant cuts at Destiny developer Bungie, and layoffs at The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog.
Meanwhile, the documents reveal internal concern at the growing development costs of Insomniac’s games. According to Kotaku’s report on the breach, Spider-Man 2 development costs ran $30 million over its original $270 million, and ultimately needs to sell 7.2 million units to break even. Spider-Man 2 was able to sell more than 5 million units in its first 11 days after release.
The leaked documents show the increasingly precarious nature of triple-A video game production, which some experts have called unsustainable. And Insomniac is not alone in spending hundreds of millions of dollars on individual titles. In June, documents released as part of the Xbox Federal Trade Commission lawsuit revealed The Last of Us: Part II and Horizon Forbidden West each cost more than $200 million to develop.
According to the documents, The Last of Us: Part 2 cost $220 million to develop, with a peak headcount of 200 full-time employees. Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Forbidden West, meanwhile, cost $212 million to develop and utilized more than 300 developers. Insomniac reportedly stressed the need to keep the budget for future triple-A games at $350 or less in a slide quoted in Kotaku’s report.
With such huge costs associated with the creation of blockbuster video games, anything less than equally huge sales can be catastrophic. Sony announced Spider-Man 2 is the fastest-selling PlayStation Studios game over a 24-hour period after it sold more than 2.5 million copies in a day, but it is now clear that these types of games need to sell in the tens of millions in order to provide a significant return on investment.
A difficult year for game developers
The Insomniac security breach comes amid one of the toughest years for the video game development community on record, with thousands losing their jobs across companies such as Fortnite maker Epic, Total War developer Creative Assembly, and of course the various studios owned by Embracer.
It’s also worth contextualising Sony’s triple-A, single-player development with its live service ambitions, which appear to have suffered a number of recent setbacks. Last month Sony president Hiroki Totoki said the company was reviewing the 12 live service PlayStation games it had in the works, and committed to launching only six of them by the end of March 2026. Totoki said Sony is still working on when the other six live service games will come out, adding: “It’s not that we stick to certain titles, but for the gamers quality should be the most important.”
One has already fallen away completely, however, as Naughty Dog cancelled The Last of Us multiplayer game to focus on single-player titles.
Sony has spent big on studio buyouts as part of its live service drive, bringing in Destiny developer Bungie and Jade Raymond’s Haven Studios, among others. Sony worked with Bungie, which has live service expertise with the Destiny series, to assess its portfolio, and reportedly scaled some live service projects back as a result.
Bungie is working on Marathon, a PvP-focused sci-fi extraction shooter; Haven Studios is working on Fairgame$, a competitive heist game about robbing the ultra-rich; and Firewalk Studios is working on Concord, another sci-fi PvP multiplayer game. There’s also a Horizon multiplayer game from Guerrilla and a co-op action game from PlayStation’s London Studio. And we know from the Insomniac data breach that the developer planned a number of multiplayer games itself, although the status of these projects is unknown.
While the PlayStation 5 is currently on track to outsell its predecessor, the PlayStation 4, and is outselling rival consoles the Xbox Series X and S three-to-one, it’s clear Sony, like much of the video game industry, is looking to cut spending. For video game developers, though, that means scaled back-teams and layoffs.