Reaction: Sony's PS5, PC Live Service Strategy Won't Work If It's All Samey Shooters 1
Image: Push Square

We’ve been one of the few publications defending Sony’s live service strategy because we don’t think the idea is inherently bad. A lot of fans treat the booming Games as a Service segment as a genre, but it’s important to underline that it’s a business model instead. In fact, there’s enormous variety in the sector – no one would sanely say Rocket League is the same as Fortnite, for example – and it’s something PS Studios boss Hermen Hulst has alluded to himself.

But during last night’s PS Showcase, the platform holder didn’t help itself – in fact, it revealed two titles that fit the very definition of what sceptics feared its strategy would be all about. Aside from being tone-deaf, Fairgame$ looked like the blandest squad-based shooter this side of XDefiant and Hyenas – in fact, so generic did it appear, that you could quite literally have closed its trailer with the title card of either of those aforementioned titles and we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.

Concord was arguably even more egregious, as while the vibes of Haven’s studio made us want to gag, we had to await a press release to understand what Firewalk’s debut is actually all about. TL;DR: it’s a sci-fi PVP shooter with a strong social focus, because of course it is. While we’ll maintain an open mind until more information is shared, neither project really struck us as particularly innovative or original – a huge issue in an increasingly competitive environment.

Reaction: Sony's PS5, PC Live Service Strategy Won't Work If It's All Samey Shooters 1
An actual screenshot of Concord, signed off by people on big salaries and uploaded to the PS Blog.

Sony has said that it’s making 12 live service games for PS5 and PC, and it’ll almost certainly know they won’t all survive. This is quite literally a case of the platform holder throwing as much sh*t at the wall as it possibly can, knowing that it only needs one to stick to find its golden goose. The manufacturer’s spotted on its balance sheet that there are more people spending money on microtransactions than full-priced games these days, and it just needs one Fortnite-style hit.

The problem is that we’re slowly beginning to see the live service boom self-implode, and not even the good games can survive anymore. Take a title like Knockout City, which is a legitimately fun competitive effort with a novel concept that couldn’t sustain itself. Recently, we also got news that the vampire-based Bloodhunt was going to end support less than a year after release – it also failed to find an audience, despite having a pretty enticing alternative take on the Battle Royale concept.

If these games, with attractive and tangible identities of their own, can’t survive, then what hope does Sony’s seemingly copycat shooters have? Obviously the marketing muscle of PlayStation can’t be ignored, but both Fairgame$ and Concord are going to have to return to the drawing board when they’re ready to be re-revealed, because we’d argue last night’s CG trailers did more damage than good.

Reaction: Sony's PS5, PC Live Service Strategy Won't Work If It's All Samey Shooters 1
XDefiant? Hyenas? No, it's the annoyingly named Fairgame$!

The biggest problem of all is that Sony did absolutely nothing to assuage the fears that fans have had ever since it announced its intent to develop a string of live service titles. As we said at the top of this article, Games as a Service is a business model and it’s not inherently bad: titles like Disney Dreamlight Valley and Genshin Impact may have obvious shortcomings, but they’re ever-expanding affairs with their own identities that fans play week-in-week-out because they always offer something new.

If all Sony is going to do is bankroll a bunch of shooters, then it’s got an uphill battle ahead of it. We’re not sure who’s signing the cheques, but we could have told the platform holder the response to Fairgame$ and Concord would be abysmal – and we’re not on seven digit salaries with market research diplomas in our back pocket. If the manufacturer truly believed this was the right way to introduce a controversial initiative, then it’s more out of touch than we ever imagined.

There’s still time for it to turn this around. While it will be yet another shooter, we have confidence The Last of Us’ standalone multiplayer game will have more than enough of an identity to entice players – although God only knows what’s going on with that. Hopefully, the handful of other titles it has in production are a bit more original. As we said at the top of this article, we’ve defended Sony’s live service strategy – but on the basis of last night’s showing, we’re going to find it a lot more difficult moving forward.

How are you feeling about Sony’s live service strategy now a couple of titles have been introduced? Are you happy with the software on show, or are you more concerned than ever about its decision to go down this path? Let it all out in the comments section below.