Talking Point: Should Sony Release Less Exclusive Games?
Posted by Sammy Barker
If variety is the spice of life, then the PlayStation 3 is a particularly posh brand of pepper. Arguably more than any other platform holder over the past five years, Sony has provided its system with a stream of high quality content. From big-budget blockbusters like Heavy Rain and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, to smaller endeavours such as Starhawk and Siren: Blood Curse. But with such a vast roster of releases in its catalogue, is the company spreading itself too thin? Indeed, would the Japanese giant be better off focusing on a few tent-pole titles as opposed to such a broad spectrum of content?
There’s a common opinion online that Sony doesn’t do enough to support its stable of first-party exclusives. Smaller releases tend to come and go with very little fanfare, and while the company does its best to drum up enthusiasm on the PlayStation Blog, it’s rarely enough to transform a niche title like Twisted Metal into a colossal success. Stronger marketing in the traditional channels – online, television, and cinema – would no doubt improve the fortunes of the company’s lesser known brands, but that’s where it finds itself stretched.
Just like all other organisations, the platform holder must prescribe to certain financial limitations. It can’t spend millions of dollars marketing a game like LittleBigPlanet Karting, because that will take resources away from other products. Consider the sheer size of Sony’s first-party release schedule at times, and it leads to some software simply getting lost in the shuffle.
Contrast the situation to Microsoft, which focused all of its efforts on Halo 4 this year. Granted, it had Forza Horizon, Dance Central 3, and Fable: The Journey to stretch its attention – but the American manufacturer’s concentration was primarily pointed at 343’s big-budget sci-fi shooter. Due to that singular approach, the company was able to strike deals with Domino’s Pizza, Mountain Dew, and Doritos – everyday brands that helped turn the title’s launch into an event. It may seem cynical on paper, but it was hard to avoid Master Chief’s iconic armour during the run-up to launch. When is the last time you were able to say that about a Sony property?
Even massive releases such as Uncharted and God of War struggle to maintain the retail presence that Microsoft’s few franchises enjoy worldwide. Sony has partnered with Subway and Slurpee respectively in the past, but the promotions have never seemed as forceful as they should. Given each franchise’s critical status – and the eye-watering production budgets behind them – they should be household brands. But they’re not.
Looking forward to next year, we’re worried about how Sony is going to balance its line-up. Never mind the rumoured arrival of the PlayStation 4, in the first couple of quarters alone it has God of War: Ascension, The Last of Us, and possibly Beyond: Two Souls to promote. All three of those games would be banner releases in any other publisher’s schedule, but will the company have the available resources to ensure that’s the case? Frighteningly, the query ignores the arrival of lesser titles such as Until Dawn, Puppeteer, and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, all of which are due out in the same time-frame, too. There’s little doubt that they’ll all be excellent games, but should the platform holder be investing resources into Sanzaru Games’ platformer when it could be using those finances to highlight Naughty Dog’s latest blockbuster? And is it fair on the anthropomorphic adventure – which is shaping up brilliantly – if it gets thrust onto store shelves without a proper campaign to back it?
As gamers, we adore the variety that being a PS3 owner affords us – but we’re not entirely convinced that Sony’s insane catalogue of first-party content is sustainable. Perhaps it’s time that the company tightened up its output, and started to focus on creating a smaller selection of really big hits.
Do you think that the PlayStation 3’s catalogue is too big? Would you rather Sony focused its attention on a handful of blockbuster titles? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.