2023 seemed to be a normal, average, simple year for Sony. They continue to sell PS5 hardware units at a high rate, the PlayStation Portal has been somewhat of a hit, and Spider-Man 2 was the fastest-selling PlayStation game ever.
While PlayStation has had its collection of small successes, 2023 was crammed with bad news. Just some examples like; PS VR2 has been unable to stand out as a differentiator that separates the brand from Xbox and Nintendo. Sony’s “12 live service games” initiative has completely uplifted the company. More importantly, many games have been canceled causing layoffs and inter-studio consolidation.
A Changing of the Guard
The way 2023 ended, has set the stage for an entirely new era of PlayStation. By the end of the first quarter, PlayStation will have all new leadership. Replacing CEO Jim Ryan along with 34-year Vice President, Connie Booth will surely bring change to the brand. Both were with PlayStation from the very beginning. Their departures are sure to trickle down and start the beginning of a new direction for PlayStation.
What may be driving change at PlayStation is still to be determined however, it is either one of two things. First, it could be economic, following Sony’s new direction during the COVID-19 Pandemic, there was a wave of spending and growth in 2020 through 2022. The spending included having its major studios work on as many as four games at once, increasing staff everywhere. It also included acquiring several new studios.
Secondly, the other factor driving change could be Sony wanting to take two steps back, so it can take three steps forward. Leading a lot of PlayStation growth over the past three years has been this chase to create live service games in conjunction with the PlayStation games that fans know and love. Sony wants to have its money-printing franchise like, Fortnite, Fall Guys, and Dota. The one-time payoff for a $200 million game is no longer enough, they need games that can generate revenue when Sony publishing is idle.
Will the Live Service Struggle Continue in 2024?
Now that the chase has backfired, it is likely Sony will begin 2024 the same way it ended 2023 by canceling some of these live service-mandated games. So far we know Spider-Man Online has been canceled, along with The Last of Us Online. If even some of the rumors and speculation are true, five to ten games have likely been canceled along with a yet-to-be-announced studio closure.
The PlayStation house has been on fire for some time it seems. With the complete lack of transparency and even dishonesty given by Sony, we will likely not know the extent of change until its yearly financial call sometime in April. Typically Sony clearly states how many games are in production during its yearly IR call. There is one more financial call between now and April on February 14th, but it is likely irrelevant. We now know that Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki misled investors in November when asked about its live service games. When asked about the rumors of delays, he said yes six games were delayed and six are still on track. However, now we know that at that time many of the 12 live service games were already canceled.
Pro Plans this Fall?
Given the state of flux, PlayStation’s first-party studios are in, they will rely heavily on partnership titles in 2024. Sure they start the year with The Last of Us Part II Remastered but, there is no other first-party title dated for 2024. If Sony has nothing, it could lead to a problematic launch of the PS5 Pro console in the fall. Typically they would lean on Call of Duty and other large third-party holiday titles for content during the busy season. Now that its second biggest competitor owns CoD, Sony needs to shift.
At the same time, I believe Sony wanted to pair the launch of its PS5 Pro console with one of its live service games. The thought is to sell 120fps and competitive gaming to the hardcore audience via the new “Pro” hardware. They will have some time to come up with a system-selling game this holiday as the first half of the year is jam-packed with great games.
Major Releases in the First Half of 2024
- The Last of Us Part II Remastered – January 19th
- Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth – January 26th
- Tekken 8 – January 26th
- Persona 3 Reload – February 2nd
- Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League – February 2nd
- Helldivers II – February 8th
- Tomb Raider I-III Remastered – February 14th
- Pacific Drive – February 22nd
- Final Fantasy VII Rebirth – February 29th
- Alone in the Dark – March 20th
- Dragon’s Dogman 2 – March 22nd
- Rise of the Ronin – March 22nd
- MLB The Show 24 – March TBD
- Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes – April 23rd
- Foamstars – First Half 2024
How Will PlayStation Approach 2024?
I believe many of the games that PlayStation is working on should start to trickle out in 2025. In the meantime, having a strong announcement in early 2024 for its holiday plans will help get the PS5 to 100 million units sold. They just need that one game and a solid lineup of third-party games around the Pro. That momentum will carry it through to the end of the console generation.
While that challenge does not seem like a tall order, one tall order for 2024 will be to save PS VR2. Today, it does not seem like Sony cares to even bother with such a thing. While it is likely that 2024 will be the end of PS VR2, I am waiting to see how the new leadership handles the situation. It is a long shot but, maybe the new CEO will see it for what it could be and move some of these live service resources into VR.
One thing is for sure, PlayStation is hitting the reset button in 2024. Will it be “new year, new me” or will it be them just trying to get to 2025? Watching how this all plays out will be compelling entertainment alone in 2024.