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Friday, December 8, 2023

Sony's Old Mascot Lives With Xbox Now

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After Microsoft’s shopping spree of studio acquisitions over the last few years, there’s a long list of video game licenses that are now technically first-party Xbox properties – but possibly the weirdest is that PlayStation’s biggest competitor is now the home of its original mascot, Crash Bandicoot.

If you grew up in the ’90s, Crash and PlayStation were almost synonymous. Not only were the first few crash games amazing tech demos of what Sony’s first console could do, Crash himself was an extremely vocal hype-man; the mascot platformer became a literal mascot for the PS1 and millions of people likely heard about Sony’s new console from a guy in a fur suit yelling through a megaphone about it in TV commercials.

The first three Crash games were published by Sony but the rights to the bandicoot himself belonged to Universal Studios’ video game publishing wing, Universal Interactive, which also happened to hold the leash of Sony’s second-most popular platformer, Spryo the Dragon. In 2001, Sony acquired Naughty Dog – the studio that created Crash – and Universal Interactive merged with another company to become Vivendi Universal Interactive Publishing.

After another merger in 2008 Vivendi became part of Activision Blizzard, but after a bunch of mediocre games and the decline in popularity of 3D platformers, the custody rights for Crash weren’t at the forefront of most peoples’ minds.

Sony's earliest, most recognizable characters have officially packed their bags and moved in with their ex’s worst enemy."


Then, at the 2015 Playstation Experience, head honcho Sean Layden appeared on stage in a Crash t-shirt, and a generation of PlayStation fans went N-SANE. Was the prodigal bandicoot returning home? 2016 turned out to be the year of the bandicoot and Crash’s 20th anniversary victory lap saw him popping up all over. He appeared in a Naughty Dog game for the first time this century, (okay it was an Uncharted game, but still…) then he was the guest of honor in Skylanders: Imaginators. Y’know, the Spyro spinoff that spun out of control.

Then finally, Activision Blizzard opened the nostalgia floodgates: full modern remakes of the original trilogy and Crash Team Racing paved the way for the long-overdue sequel It’s About Time. It seemed like Crash Bandicoot and PlayStation had rekindled that special connection they had in the ’90s… I mean, it was an open relationship so Crash could be on other platforms but still, the spark was back.

At least that’s how it felt until Microsoft ran off with Activision Blizzard, bandicoots and dragons and all. Sony might own Naughty Dog and Insomniac, the studios that created some of PlayStation’s earliest and most recognizable characters, but those characters themselves have officially packed their bags and moved in with their ex’s worst enemy.

Who knows? Maybe the next time we see Crash he’ll be in the parking lot of PlayStation headquarters, yelling through a megaphone about the wonders of Xbox Game Pass in front of a pickup truck full of series Xs. After all, stranger things have happened. There was a time when the idea of playing a Sega game on a Nintendo consoles was practically blasphemous and now that’s not only commonplace, we’ve got six whole games about Mario and Sonic at the Olympics.

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