So, the Sony State of Play just happened. We got a good look at some really awesome games. Some games I have on my radar are Stellar Blade, Judas, and the newest game announced, Sonic X Shadow Generations.
But therein lies the problem: with the exception of Sonic X Shadow Generations, Silent Hill: The Short Message, and a couple of PSVR2 titles, we already knew every game that is scheduled to launch soon. Foamstars and Helldivers 2 are days away from release. Stellar Blade got pushed out of 2023 without a notice, but has an imminent launch. We already knew about Rise of the Ronin coming in March as well as the existence of Silent Hill 2, Judas, Zenless Zone Zero, Death Stranding 2, and to some extent, Dave the Diver.
“But Ty, they delivered on their promise! They gave us forty minutes of game announcements!” Indeed they did. Fallout 76 also delivered on giving us a live service Fallout, and look how that turned out. But my issue with Sony right now isn’t exactly State of Play itself. Rather, it’s the lack of new announcements. Specifically, the lack of first-party announcements.
Sony State of First-Party
For the last several years, Sony has been fronting an image to players via PlayStation Studios, an image that says “We are a brand that strives on quality games that entertain and innovate”. Sony has been chasing their own Apple-like identity and trying to ensure that their brand is synonymous with what we the people imagine a “premium AAA” game to be.
Well, it is damn near impossible to think that when you don’t have any games coming out!
Yes, they did show a lot of third-party exclusives coming to PS5 within the next year or two. Problem is that these are not the studios Sony talks about when they bring up their “PlayStation Studios” banner. When Sony brings up the banner, they are doing so when talking about first-party games. Games like Returnal, God of War, Horizon, Ratchet & Clank, and even Death Stranding as much as I don’t consider it to be a PlayStation Studios game.
Year 4 Review
We are now in Year 4 of PlayStation 5, and when it comes to first-party, we have gotten jack. Sure, we did have Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Demon’s Souls, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, God of War: Ragnarok, Horizon Forbidden West, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Returnal, Gran Turismo 7, Astro’s Playroom, and of course, MLB The Show.
Of all of these titles, only FOUR are exclusive to PS5. The rest are cross-gen or in MLB’s case, multi-platform. Of these titles, the only studios that have put out a game are Santa Monica Studio, San Diego Studio, Guerrilla Games, Housemarque, Polyphony Digital, and Team Asobi. Sackboy was developed by Sumo Digital. And no, I am not counting the abundance of faux-makes like The Last of Us: Part I. Nor am I counting anything with a “Director’s Cut” as an excuse to nickel and dime us.
Sony, Where Are Your Games?
We have seen a FRACTION of PlayStation Studios, and we are roughly halfway into the PlayStation 5’s life cycle. We have yet to see anything from Sucker Punch Productions, Naughty Dog (again, not counting those faux-makes), Media Molecule, Bend Studio, or even London Studio. All we know that’s coming are two live service games: Fairgames from Haven Studio and Concord from Firewalk Studios, both brand new to the label and both only ever being shown ONE TIME. We also know about the new Twisted Metal game that has yet to even be publicly acknowledged and revealed by Sony. Hell, we haven’t even heard from Team Asobi or Bluepoint Games, and they launched games alongside the PS5!
Mind you, I do understand that we live in a vastly different industry than it was when I was a kid. You can’t churn out a game every year or two now. Games now take five years minimum to finally reach the public. They require massive budgets, time to make assets, time to squash bugs, and make sure the game is functioning correctly.
But…do they really have to? And what reason is there behind this insane amount of time?
Indies Get It DONE
See, I wish I could believe that games need a lot of time to cook. But I have friends who are indie developers, and they have shown me how quick it truly is to make something as simple as a building with collision detection programmed into it and everything. It takes them 15 minutes, and they did that without purchasing any assets. They threw a whole city together with a player character flying around in it within an hour.
There are plenty of other examples of indie devs taking two or three years to pump a game out and still reach the same level of quality, sometimes exceeding expectations even. Hades took roughly three years to develop, the same timeframe as their previous works, Pyre and Transistor. Dredge took two years to develop, starting in 2021 and finally releasing in 2023. The recent smash hit Palworld spent about three years in development and has been exploding for the last couple of weeks. Even Choo-Choo Charles, which was made by one person within the span of two years and still launched a little unpolished and lacking in certain features, still raked in the big bucks and delivered an experience many thought wonderful in its own scrappy way.
We Out Here Smokin’ Symbiotes…& Wallets
So, what’s Sony’s excuse? Budgets? This is where I have to scoff at the idea. Especially after Insomniac suffered a massive data breach exposing company assets and data. Among the assets that leaked was a chart showing the budgets of various games from Insomniac.
Having played through Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, I found it quite ludicrous that it cost Sony over $300 million. I know that maintaining staff is the priciest aspect of the budget. I’m not insinuating heads need to roll to keep costs low. No, when I see that number and I think about all the moments that added nothing to the experience like bike rides with Harry or carnival games at Coney Island. Or the abundance of collectibles and currencies locking powers behind skill trees, that’s where my frustration grows. It worsened when I sat through the end credits and saw an obscenely long list of assets that were licensed from places like Shutterstock.
Rendering Peach Fuzz
Sony and other companies want to sit and tell us how expensive games are to make. Yet when I hear about the main protagonist having peach fuzz rendered on their face or see that a Spider-Man game is loaded with hundreds of assets licensed from outside sources, I have to wonder what’s really inflating the budget to a ridiculous degree. I have to ask if games really do take longer to make or is everyone simply wasting time on the most trivial details so some Neanderthal can enjoy them for two seconds on their 8K TV. And above all, if you’re going to be silent about what half of your first-party teams are doing for years upon years, what kinds of games are you having everyone make?
My suspicions about this especially doesn’t help when I see Sony signing checks for Kojima, Konami, and all of these other studios. You say that budgets are making games unsustainable. You say that development has become super expensive. You say games are taking longer to make. And yet you keep footing the bill for games that aren’t yours just for the sake of having something like timed-exclusivity or marketing rights. You keep footing the bill just so Aloy looks like a real ginger from Georgia (game recognize game, though) and the suit in Spidey’s fabric is visible at an intense zoom-in.
So, if the games are getting more expensive and taking longer to make, then why not let some of PlayStation Studios work on smaller projects? Like, have Media Molecule make a bite-sized game every two to three years. Or let Housemarque go back to making arcade-y games like Stardust, Dead Nation, or Resogun? Does every one of your studios need to be making a live service or a “cinematic” open-world action RPG? Pixelopus could have put out something truly special today had Concrete Genie not gotten squashed by Sony announcing PS5 details on its launch day.
Look, I will admit that I don’t know everything that happens behind the scenes at any of these studios. However, Sony’s silence is deafening and has gotten frustrating now. Aside from Fairgames, Concord, and Marvel Games–I mean, Insomniac, we have not one iota of what Sony’s first-party is doing right now. And when there are execs complaining about budgets and how long games take to make coupled with assets licensed from outside sources and artists wasting time on trivial details like peach fuzz and fabric seems, it all looks fishy. And I don’t hear a peep from Nintendo or Xbox about any of these problems.
So, I’ll ask one more time, Sony – where are YOUR games?
Not third-party stuff. No more faux-makes or Director’s Cuts.