In the world of gaming, Sony is more than just the manufacturer of the popular PlayStation console. It also has more than a dozen premium game developers under its wing. Some of these companies have brought us iconic games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, The Last of Us and God of War.

Now the Japanese gaming giant wants to expand. Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida said the company is interested in acquiring Asian developers and creating games for the Asian market. Of all the gaming studios that Sony owns, it doesn’t yet have one from Asia outside of Japan.

Shuhei Yoshida said SIE Worldwide Studios, the group of gaming developers owned by Sony, is now looking to make games for the Asian market. (Picture: Bloomberg)

The comments make sense given Sony’s recent strategy of deepening investment in China’s gaming industry. So if Sony is looking to China as part of its new Asia strategy, there are a few Chinese game developers I think Sony might want to consider putting at the top of their acquisition list.

UltiZero Games

If Sony wants to own the most anticipated console game in China right now, it should buy UltiZero Games. This is the developer behind Lost Soul Aside, an action RPG game that looks like Final Fantasy XV crossed with Devil May Cry.

Sony is already an important backer of Lost Soul Aside, which is one of the first games from the company’s China Hero Project, an incubator program that supports Chinese developers. 

UltiZero Games and Sony first came together back in 2016 when a diehard Final Fantasy XV fan named Yang Bing stunned the world by releasing a trailer of Lost Soul Aside. At the time, the game was something Yang built himself over the span of two years. But that five-minute trailer would go on to amass 3.4 million views on YouTube and score Yang a US$600,000 investment from Sony.

Lost Soul Aside looks like Final Fantasy but plays like Devil May Cry. (Picture: UltiZero Games)

Lost Soul Aside continues to be talked about as the crown jewel of the China Hero Project. No longer working alone, Yang said last year that he’s looking to turn it into a series of games.

Surgical Scalpels

Sony’s large catalog of single-player games might please traditional console players, but some critics worry that Sony is neglecting online multiplayer games, which look set to dominate the future of gaming. Sony could solve this by buying Surgical Scalpels.

This Shenzhen-based studio is behind the space-based, tactical online shooter Boundary, another member of Sony’s China Hero Project. The game looks like the Sandra Bullock film Gravity, but it plays a bit like Rainbow Six Siege in space. Players get to face off in deathmatches while drifting in zero gravity.

We haven’t seen any realistic-looking space shooters since Shattered Horizon. (Picture: Surgical Scalpels)

Surgical Scalpels was founded by former employees from Tencent and Codemasters. In another tie to the Chinese market, the game’s global publisher will be Chinese live-streaming giant Huya. If Sony acts fast, it could buy up the studio in time for Boundary’s release next year on PlayStation and PC.

Beijing SoftStar

If Sony wants a surefire way to make a splash in the Chinese gaming community, it should pick up SoftStar Technology, the studio behind the blockbuster franchise Chinese Paladin, also known as The Legend of Sword and Fairy.

Chinese Paladin is kind of like a Chinese Final Fantasy for PC, bearing some similarities with the popular Square Enix franchise. First introduced in 1995 as a DOS-based RPG adventure game, Chinese Paladin has become a huge franchise in its own right. It’s spawned more than 22 sequels and spin-offs (including two MMOs, and several management sims) on both PC and mobile and three TV shows.

Chinese Paladin has been a favorite among Chinese PC gamers for many years. (Picture: SoftStar)

SoftStar Technology was originally born out of the Taiwan-listed company Softstar Entertainment Inc., but it’s now controlled by Chinese company CMGE. As a bonus to Sony if it does buy SoftStar, the studio has another popular game franchise called Xuan-Yuan Sword, which has spawned numerous games on PC and mobile and a TV show. 

Pathea Games

If Sony just wants a gaming studio with a proven international track record of success on consoles, it should look no further than Pathea Games.

This is the company behind My Time at Portia, a cartoony crafting game and perhaps the most successful console game that you didn’t know is Chinese. It’s a bit like Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, but in 3D. You play as a young builder in a town called Portia, which looks like it’s been plucked from a Hayao Miyazaki film. The developer has admitted to being inspired by films like Castle in the Sky.

If you like Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, My Time at Portia is perfect for you. (Picture: Pathea Games)

Pathea Games, which is based in both Memphis and Chongqing, has an adept understanding of how to make its games appealing to international gamers. As a result, My Time at Portia wound up being published by the famous British game company Team 17. The studio’s Planet Explorers also found some success after being funded on Kickstarter, and it’s currently working on a game called Super Buckyball Tournament.

Yilong Games

If Sony is in a giving mood, it could really do Chinese gamers a solid by buying up Yilong Games.

Yilong Games is the developer behind Bloody Spell, a game that should have been much better than it was. The game was supposed to be the headlining title of the Chinese console Subor Z-Plus. Never heard of it? Probably because it never saw the light of day. Subor wound up in financial trouble and ultimately disbanded its console division.

At its core, Bloody Spell is a solid action game, which makes the poor UI designs and countless typos all the more jarring. (Picture: Yilong Games)

Bloody Spell is a roguelike action RPG in which you play as a swordsman who battles ninjas and orcs. Unlike the Z-Plus, the game did get released, but development was severely hampered. 

After being released on Steam Early Access, the game received encouraging reviews in China. But it couldn’t be saved from feeling like a half-baked product with its poor UI and localization. All things considered, Bloody Spell is still a fun game. It hints at what Yilong Games might be able to accomplish with more support.

How about it, Sony?