To say that the gaming industry will never be the same after this week would be an understatement. When Xbox purchased Zenimax Media for $7.5 billion last week, it decimated social media. This was something no analyst or “insider” had seen coming. It completely blindsided everyone and could potentially change the landscape of the industry in a big way.
While Xbox and Zenimax have been very transparent regarding the purchase, there has been one massive question mark. Will future published titles from Bethesda come to PlayStation 5? The answer is not as complicated as some may believe. Phil Spencer confirmed that they would be honoring Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. There was some very clear PR lingo used, though, when it came to future titles such as Starfield, and of course, the upcoming Elder Scrolls 6.
Phil Spencer also confirmed that these titles and future titles would be on a “Case by case basis.” It left many PlayStation players wondering if they will no longer be able to play future Bethesda titles. It’s hard to imagine a world where Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored, and more titles aren’t in the PlayStation ecosystem. But it very much could become a reality.
PlayStation needs to brace for this if it becomes a reality. This is an extensive library of beloved titles that could skip the platform. Many PlayStation fans have been very vocal that Sony needs to make a massive acquisition to counter Xbox. Publishers like Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar, and more have been thrown around. While these acquisitions would be massive for Sony, I think their money could be better invested elsewhere.
Secure Your Longtime Partners
One of the smartest investments PlayStation has made this generation was the acquisition of Insomniac Games. Insomniac Games is a workhorse in terms of the studio’s output and quality. This is apparent with both Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales being huge launch window titles for the PlayStation 5. Even though Insomniac Games has had a long working relationship with PlayStation, some questioned why Sony would spend the money locking them down. The answer is relatively simple. There are more sharks in the water hunting for talented studios than ever before.
For a long time, Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox have dominated the console platform space, along with mega publishers such as Activision, EA, and Take-Two. However, in 2020 more publishers and investment firms are looking to purchase gaming developers and publishers. The industry is expanding rapidly, which has caused massive companies such as Tencent, Google, Amazon, and Facebook to take an interest. Both Xbox and PlayStation have had to make purchases in order to protect studios that had long been partnered with them. While many fans have called for PlayStation to purchase Rockstar and Square Enix, I feel like there are other studios they should protect ASAP.
Demon’s Souls – Gameplay Trailer On PlayStation 5
Studios that have been essential to the PlayStation 4 brand that Sony should be looking into locking down are developers like Bluepoint. They have had a massive impact on the PlayStation 4 with their caring remasters of classic PlayStation IPs. From the Nathan Drake Collection, then to Shadow of The Colossus, Bluepoint has done an incredible job of showing their journey of continuous improvement. This has become even more obvious with the reveal of Demon’s Soul Remake. The game looks like a brand new experience while also paying a remarkable homage to the original. This is a studio that could bring back classic PlayStation IP’s in a big way. Bluepoint is not a studio Sony can let slip through their fingers.
Another studio that has been a massive part of the PlayStation ecosystem is, of course, Housemarquee. Previously the studio had been focused on delivering terrific arcade-style twin-stick shooters. After the reveal of Returnal at the PlayStation 5 event, it is clear that they have massive AAA ambition. Incredibly impressive, story-driven AAA games have quickly become PlayStation’s identity this generation. Giving these highly creative smaller studios, the financial backing and assistance to succeed could lead to incredible games. Housemarquee has the talent that will draw the attention of Sony’s competitors. I think Housemarquee has incredible potential and would be a massive gain for PlayStation as an addition to their first-party lineup.
Grow The Talent You Already Have
Xbox and PlayStation were in two very different situations this generation. Xbox essentially had to purchase and re-build their first-party lineup. Even with all things considered, much of their first-party titles were handled by third-party studios such as Epic Games with Gears of War. PlayStation is in a very different situation with its own first-party. They have many studios that have proved time and time again that they can produce massively successful games. This was no better proven than with Guerilla Games this generation. A studio most renowned for the Killzone franchise completely changed gears when Killzone: Shadow Fall missed the mark for many fans. Horizon Zero Dawn was a massive risk and step in a different direction for the studio.
The result was arguably one of the most successful new IPs of this generation. The creativity and diversity of PlayStations Worldwide Studios have been a shining light during the PlayStation 4 generation and behind all of these amazing games from God of War to The Last of Us Part II. These studios are packed with creative and talented developers who are itching to make their mark in the industry. We have already seen this tactic coming in to play with rumors pointing to Sony Santa Monica having a second team working on a project outside of God of War.
From The Ground Up
While creating a brand new studio is expensive and a massive risk. As a fan, I would love to see PlayStation take the risk and make their version of Xbox’s The Initiative. Collect high-level talent and try to create something the industry has never seen before. We have witnessed studios like Naughty Dog already compete with the best studios in the industry, while also pushing gaming forward. The Last of Us Part II had some of the best accessibility options in the industry. Keep innovating and pushing with the incredible talent that you already possess.
Another direction PlayStation can go in is creating new ambitious teams from the best of your already proven teams. It feels like this is something more and more publishers and platform holders are embracing. This form of natural progression will hopefully become a positive trend in the industry. While many long time studios struggle with crunch and poor working conditions, these new studios have the opportunity to start something new, and thus build a healthy culture from the very beginning.
Evaluate Services and Offerings
As we have seen with Xbox Game Pass through Xbox, if you offer your customers an incredible value through your services, the service will practically market itself. PlayStation needs to evaluate PS Now and the value that it brings to the ecosystem. PS Now is already a much better value then it was a few years ago with the improvements PlayStation has already made. From the ability to download games to also improving the streaming quality of titles significantly. However, the biggest improvement was the massive price drop that happened last year. There is still a lot to do to improve the service and make it more attractive, though.
PlayStation Now Who?
Marketing and talking more about PS Now would be a massive boost to the service, as it does not lack games. Most consumers are simply unaware of the service and the games that are offered. PlayStation is currently sitting on over 110 million PlayStation 4 units sold. With PlayStation Now sitting roughly at 2.2 million subscribers as of an announcement in May. Considering PS Now has been on the market since 2014, this is not a number that the company can potentially be happy with. Especially with the runaway success of Xbox Game Pass. PlayStation will most likely not put their first-party games in the service day and date, unfortunately. Without doing that, it would be tough to drive those numbers higher at a rapid rate. But some important quality of life improvements could help push the service forward.
One aspect for PlayStation Now that I think could be a massive draw for people like myself is the elusive PlayStation 3 titles in the service. You cannot download the PlayStation 3 titles in PS Now. This most likely has to do with the cell processor that caused many problems for the PlayStation 3. If Sony were somehow able to make PlayStation 3 titles downloadable, that would be a massive step forward for the service. Allow fans to play fantastic franchises like Resistance, Sly Cooper, God of War, Infamous, and many more. Playing a lost generation of PlayStation classics natively instead of streaming them would be fantastic. Meaning no matter what your internet quality is, you would be able to enjoy the service to its fullest.
PlayStation and Xbox Need To Be Different
Often in the discourse of Xbox versus PlayStation, many fans echo the same basic rhetoric. I wish (insert brand here) was doing the same thing as (insert brand here). Now some valid criticism can be drawn from this conversation. Such as PlayStation’s confusing messaging surrounding PlayStation 4 backward compatibility. Or that Xbox needs to make more AAA based games. I think both companies in the coming months will address these criticisms. However, the important thing is that both Xbox and PlayStation continue to forge their own direction heading into the next generation.
While Xbox and PlayStation share many similarities, their differences are often what make their platform unique. For example, PlayStation’s dedication to the VR market is a unique feature, and their commitment to making massive AAA cinematic games. In contrast, Xbox Series X will be one of the first from the big three to be able to play games from 4 generations of consoles. At the same time, Xbox’s first-party looks to deliver one of the widest genre diverse lineups in the industry. These are things that make these platforms and ecosystems unique. We should never wish them all to blend together and be clones of each other.
PlayStation Needs To Stay Hungry
PlayStation has a great head start with the Ps5 in terms of mindshare amongst the gaming populace. However, that does not mean they should grow complacent, especially when their competition is making massive deals like the Bethesda acquisition. PlayStation, however, should not go out and buy up a big publisher. Unless the investment fits and makes PlayStation more, well… PlayStation. Keep making the games that the fans want, while also delivering on new experiences they didn’t know they needed and making ecosystem improvements that make the experience front to back enjoyable.