Soapbox: Stop Sobbing Over Retail Releases and Embrace PS4's Smaller Titles
Posted by Sammy Barker
Sammy Barker reckons that you're overlooking the most exciting games
I tend to hate change. I’m the kind of curmudgeonly so-and-so that gets bent out of shape when the local supermarket stops stocking a certain type of biscuit and coerces me into buying something other than chocolate chip digestives and own brand custard creams. It’s not that I don’t like trying new things, I just get comfortable with the things that I like – and that expands to games. Before the announcement of the PlayStation 4, for example, I was terrified that Sony was going to significantly change the layout of its controller. I’d heard rumours prior to February’s big coming out event that the DualShock 3 was on the chopping block, and I had nightmares of asymmetrical analogue sticks right up until images of the revamped peripheral leaked. Similarly, I was one of the vocal minority planting pitchforks outside of Sucker Punch’s office when it temporarily decided that skin headed hero Cole MacGrath should look like the kind of model that would appear in a department store’s Christmas commercial. Sometimes, though, change creeps up on you.
The delays of DriveClub and Watch Dogs disappointed me this week – but not as much as I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, I was planning to purchase both titles alongside my next generation console, and was really looking forward to trying them out. However, while I can appreciate the commercial implications that the release setbacks will have on the impending platform, I’m not overly gutted that they’ll be absent from my launch day haul. For starters, I think both titles have terrific potential, and I’m relieved that their respective developers have been given the time required to realise that rather than rush out their products swifter than the next The Saturdays single. But more than that, these weren’t the releases at the top of my most wanted list. In fact, what I’ve realised is that outside of Killzone: Shadow Fall – and arguably Knack from a personal curiosity perspective – none of the PS4 launch games that I’m really looking forward to will ship on a disc.
We’re reaching a point where digital downloads are usurping their stuck-in-the-mud blockbuster brethren
If you’d have told me over at the start of the PlayStation 3 era that digital downloads would represent my most anticipated games moving forwards, I’d have rightly laughed in your face. But times change, and while we might not always like it, I feel like we’re very much travelling through a transition right now. Last year, my absolute favourite releases were Journey, The Unfinished Swan, and Velocity. These three games probably had a combined budget less than a tenth of any of 2012’s biggest titles – possibly even less – but entertained me more than anything that reached store shelves. They were original, clever, and warm. On the flipside, a lot of the blockbusters that are being released today – no matter how commercially spectacular and technologically advanced – feel like they’re being designed by committee, and are conceived to appeal to the lowest denominator. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as budgets and production costs soar, it’s happening more and more in the physical space. Digital downloads, though – whether they’re being funded by a publisher or a studio of five people – have an inexplicable freedom to them. There’s still a desire to succeed, of course – who wouldn’t want to create the next Minecraft or Angry Birds? – but with the commercial risks somewhat mitigated, that hunger is fused with a legitimate desire to surprise, delight, and innovate.
As PlayStation fans, we’re lucky that our preferred platform holder is willing to take those chances in the retail market. The likes of The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls are two of the most fearless blockbusters that I’ve ever played, and they stand against everything that’s happening elsewhere in the physical space. But those types of titles are few and far between, and there’s nothing quite like that within the PS4’s launch window if you focus your attention on retail games. Fortunately, that’s no longer the only sector that exists anymore, and I always find it baffling when people talk down the impending platform’s launch lineup without spending a moment to look at its more interesting titles – the ones that are poised to deploy purely via the PlayStation Network. Warframe, for example, is an exciting co-operative third-person shooter built around an acrobatic gameplay mechanic that makes you feel like a superhero even when you’re completing relatively mundane takes. Meanwhile, Contrast – the title that’s actually set to replace DriveClub as a day one PlayStation Plus giveaway – is a Casablanca-esque excursion through 1920s Paris. To me, these are infinitely more intriguing than another racing and sandbox game.
Push Square poster Bliquid asked me earlier in the week whether I would still be satisfied with Sony’s upcoming system if everything other than Resogun got delayed. It was that question that provided the basis for this article, and I’ve had ample opportunity to mull over the quandary ever since. The answer’s yes. Don’t get me wrong, it would be an absolute commercial disaster on an unimaginable scale if such a thing were to happen – and, fortunately, there’s no hope in Hell of that ever being the case – but as a thought exercise it’s made me realise just how much this new era of digital downloads means to me. Housemarque’s delirious launch title may be little more than a super-responsive shootfest set in a sparkly cylindrical landscape, but there’s no other game that I’d really rather play right now – and I can’t see that changing as its release comes and goes over the coming weeks. We’re reaching a point now where these smaller, tighter, and smarter titles are actually usurping their stuck-in-the-mud blockbuster brethren, and nothing illustrates that better than the PS4’s launch. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be excited to get your hands on Battlefield 4 and chomping at the bit to try Call of Duty: Ghosts – those games are going to be great, I’ve no doubt about that. But for me, the retail releases – delayed or not – are far from the highlight of the impending generation. Indeed, it’s the throngs of software on the PlayStation Store that I’m most looking forward to sinking my selective teeth into. And that's a change that I actually don't hate.
Are you looking forward to the PS4’s smaller downloadable games more than its big-budget retail releases, or are you hungry for some more meaty software to showcase your new piece of hardware? Do you agree that the digital download space is playing host to some of the system’s more interesting games, or are you utterly disinterested in the likes of Resogun et al? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Are you more excited for PS4’s retail releases or smaller downloadable games? (57 votes)
It’s the meaty blockbusters that I’ve got my eye on
The smaller downloads are right at the top of my list
Honestly, I’m looking forward to both types of titles
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