It’s high time the PS5 ushered in the next generation of gaming. Wait, what?
Sony’s home entertainment system will now have to deliver on a 2020 promise and it better do it in style from here on out
Sony Interactive Entertainment has already had quite a busy year: from launching a new pro-grade controller for the PS5 or the powerful PlayStation VR2 virtual reality platform, to publishing several PC versions of past PlayStation hits – including Returnal, The Last of Us and Ratchet&Clank – to announcing a new portable device and an impressive array of future games, the company managed to maintain media coverage momentum despite not releasing any first-party games for the PS5 up until now. With the last quarter of the year fast approaching, though, it’s clear that this can only go so far: Sony will have to deliver on the exclusive games front, too… and Spider-man 2 is expected to do just that in October.
There’s another reason why Spider-man 2 is shaping up to be Sony’s most important release of 2023, though: it will strive to be the AAA megahit that ushers in the next generation of PlayStation gam-
The blessing and the curse of cross-generation
Well, yeah. It’s not that the last 3 years don’t count, because – technically speaking – they do: Sony launched the PS5 in November 2020, kickstarting a new generation of PlayStation entertainment… in theory. In practice, what we all witnessed unfolding was something rather different and highly unusual: a number of exclusive high-quality Sony-developed titles were made available for its new console over the first 24 months, sure – such as the remake of Demon’s Souls, Ratchet&Clank and Returnal – but none of the company’s “big guns”, the ultra-popular game franchises that historically worked as system sellers for a new PlayStation, were PS5 exclusives. They were also made available for the PS4, essentially breaking tradition for the first time in Sony Interactive Entertainment’s 25-year history.
The discussion regarding those cross-generation PlayStation releases is a complicated and controversial one. Yours truly changed his mind about it several times himself, initially publishing a piece titled “The next-gen you are looking for does not start in November” back in October 2020, then examining the effects of Sony’s choice in another piece titled “Sony, Microsoft and the great cross-gen debate” in March 2022. Both stories are still relevant, their points still valid: the “next-generation” of video games did not start in November 2020, while the debate over Sony’s and Microsoft’s original intentions regarding their new games being released on legacy platforms is ongoing.
When it comes to Sony’s games in particular, though, if asked to express an opinion on this subject today, yours truly and most other people would probably offer the shrug emoji – you know, the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ one – as an answer. On one hand, the whole situation was not fair to the first 25 million or so consumers who got their hands on a PS5 during that period: those gamers deserved to enjoy a few PS5-exclusive titles sooner, just like all PS4 or PS3 early adopters did. Given how hard it’s been for so many people to track down and buy a PS5, disappointment on their part due to the lack of games made specifically for it is rather understandable.
On the other hand, the same situation worked out much better for the PlayStation community as a whole, as dozens of millions of consumers owning a PS4 got to enjoy Sony’s trio of AAA blockbusters – Gran Turismo 7, Horizon: Forbidden West and God of War: Ragnarök – as the best possible farewell they could have asked for their system. So one can easily see why so many people have mixed feelings about Sony’s cross-gen strategy and why, at the end of the day, it probably came down to whether those people got a PS5 early or not.
Will the real next-generation please stand up?
It now feels, though, that it’s high time the PlayStation5 finally pulled ahead. The availability issues the system faced during the first two years are officially resolved, the PSVR2 is out, development software has greatly evolved in terms of supporting the most powerful PlayStation’s advanced capabilities. The time has come for Sony to reclaim the status – and responsibility – of the platform holder leading the way with its own top-quality exclusive productions. Not only is there no point in the company investing resources on the PS4 anymore, but doing so would needlessly hold the PS5 back just when it’s getting into its stride. It’s time for the latest PlayStation to become the only PlayStation, if Sony means to deliver true next-gen gaming experiences.
Even more than that, Sony should focus on a single PlayStation while keeping in mind that PS5 owners are still owed the next-generation games the company promised back in 2020. The graphical upgrades, faster loading times and better control schemes offered by the PS5 versions of AAA titles over their PS4 counterparts are all well and good, but people invest in a PS5 expecting to see what it can really do in games developed around its hardware. Games made specifically for it. These are the only reason why around 100 million consumers currently still on PS4 would consider getting a PS5. Otherwise, what’s the point?
That is why Spider-man 2 will be so important to Sony come October. It is the first AAA, exclusive, blockbuster-level game belonging to a mainstream franchise, developed by PlayStation Studios and marketed by Sony itself, that will not be released on the PS4. It will be PS5-only. This means that expectations will be even higher than before and that PS5 owners – early adopters and recent buyers alike – will be eager to play a game that the PS4 simply couldn’t offer.
If Spider-man 2 meets those expectations, then yes: it will officially introduce millions of players to the actual next generation of video games on PlayStation, to the generation that’s leaving the PS4 behind in order to offer more. Here’s hoping that Insomniac will deliver and, crucially, that Sony has already planned how to follow that potential success with more PS5-only exclusives. Twenty five million consumers deserve to be rewarded for their patience, no?