PS5 Third-Party Talking Point
Image: Push Square

We can probably all agree that this current console generation has been a bit weird. Going by the data, the PS5 has been an obvious commercial success so far, but there's plenty of conversation surrounding the console's supposed lack of first-party blockbusters — true PS5 exclusives that really knock your socks off.

What's become clear is that Sony has been happy to establish big third-party deals in order to keep things ticking. But we're left wondering whether this approach is actually effective. Do these exclusivity deals with publishers like Square Enix fill the gap as we continue to wait on Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, and more?

We gathered the Push Square editorial team for their takes on the situation, and as always, we invite you to have your say as well, both in our poll and in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

"A Double-Edged Sword"

Rise of the Ronin

Sony’s recent reliance on third-party exclusives has been a bit of a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, it’s great to have access to a sweeping variety of exclusives from the epic Final Fantasy 16 to the hilariously addictive Helldivers 2. But on the other hand, titles like Rise of the Ronin or the seemingly ill-fated Foamstars, have the potential to chip away at Sony’s prestigious reputation for must-play exclusives.

That’s not to say any recent examples have been decidedly bad, but there is a certain expectation of pedigree quality that comes with the label of “PS5 exclusive”. Maybe we’ve just been spoiled over the years, with most exclusives attaining high review scores.

Ultimately though, the PS5 needs a steady flow of new reasons for players to buy and stick with this console – and on that end the third-party deals are seemingly doing the trick. Ballooning budgets and expansive development times mean it’s not possible to receive a new Naughty Dog, Santa Monica Studios or even Insomniac Games release every year. I just hope that as Sony turns to third-party deals, the power that the term “PS5 exclusive” currently holds doesn’t fade.

- Aaron Bayne, Video Producer

"I'm Not Convinced"

Final Fantasy 16

I'm torn, to be honest. Part of me is happy that Sony has played an active part in the development of games like Final Fantasy 16 — a favourite of mine from last year — and generally speaking, I think the company is great at cherry-picking high quality titles in order to bolster its release schedule. But at the same time, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have titles such as Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and Stellar Blade stacked up alongside proper first-party blockbusters. It does feel like something's missing when it comes to the PS5's current software lineup.

I think Sony's lack of communication gives way to this perspective. At this point, we're all well aware of how secretive the PlayStation side of the business is, and so far this generation, we've been waiting on anything from so many first-party devs — the studios that helped define the PS4 as an incredible console. God of War Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West are top tier, but their cross-gen status definitely subtracts from their overall prestige. We need to see what the PS5 is really capable of — but we're three years in and Sony's obviously padding things out with third-party deals. Here's hoping that everything will change now that Stellar Blade is out and PlayStation's marketing schedule is cleared.

Have Sony's third-party deals been effective? Overall, I'd say yes. But have they made up for the clear lack of first-party excellence on PS5? I'm not convinced.

- Robert Ramsey, Assistant Editor

"Sony Has Never Relied Solely on Its Studios"

Demon's Souls

Sony has a long history partnering with third-party, independent outfits to pad out its portfolio of exclusive PlayStation games. During the PS3 era, some of its most defining software was created by external entities, like Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain or FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls. Many of these titles were created with assistance from internal support units like XDev and the now-defunct Japan Studio, and occasionally the relationships have been so strong that the developers have eventually been acquired, like LittleBigPlanet’s Media Molecule and Returnal’s Housemarque.

I don’t think the strategy has changed at all, but perhaps in lieu of true independently developed titles from the likes of Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch, it feels like it’s all PlayStation has to offer on the PS5 at the moment. Personally, I don’t mind it: Helldivers 2, developed by Arrowhead Studios, has – against all expectations, I must stress – gone on to become one of the biggest co-op shooters in quite some time. Meanwhile, Stellar Blade – from a Korean studio with no prior console experience – has a throwback energy to it that’s hard to dislike. Even Rise of the Ronin, undoubtedly the ugly duckling of this year’s selection so far, has resonated relatively strongly with a small, enthused audience.

Sony has never relied only on its stable of internal studios, and I don’t think it should. This is how new relationships are formed, and fresh projects are discovered. And heck, if the past has taught us anything, some of these teams will end up fully-fledged first-parties in the future anyway.

- Sammy Barker, Editor

"PS Studios Have Been Too Quiet for Too Long"

Ghost of Tsushima

As Sammy rightly points out, Sony bolstering its lineup of exclusive software with third-party efforts is not a new thing; in fact, it dates all the way back to the PS1, when PlayStation was boosted by games like Crash Bandicoot. Nowadays, though, the company's group of first-party studios means it's able to produce many titles in-house, although of course it still does enlist exclusives from external teams. While that plan has balanced out quite nicely for Sony in the past, it's hard not to notice the strategy has changed in the last few years.

We've had several fantastic PS5 titles coming out of PlayStation Studios proper, but a lot of teams have been conspicuously quiet. Sequels and retreads have defined PS5's first-party games thus far, with third-party developers providing the sorts of original and experimental games PlayStation is known for. Even Returnal, developed by Housemarque, was an externally-made game at the time of release.

Alongside these great but safe sequels like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok, exclusives from outside sources have become a more important part of PlayStation's catalogue than ever. There's obviously nothing wrong with that, and the likes of Stellar Blade and Helldivers 2 have proven to be very successful. However, as a longtime fan of studios like Sucker Punch and Naughty Dog, I'm missing the Sony that wasn't afraid to test new ideas itself. PS4 saw new IPs Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon, Dreams, Marvel's Spider-Man, DriveClub, Astro Bot, Blood & Truth, Concrete Genie, Days Gone, and, yes, Knack — all developed in-house. On PS5, new IPs purely from internal teams amount to... well, nothing so far.

So, for me personally, I suppose I'm conflicted. Some of PS5's best games are external exclusives, and I think Sony leaning on them in this quieter time has been smart. However, I selfishly just really want more from PS Studios. They've all been too quiet for too long.

- Stephen Tailby, Assistant Editor

Well, we've given you our opinions, and now it's your turn. Vote in our poll, and then offer an honest take in the comments section below.

Have Sony's third-party PS5 deals made up for its lack of first-party games? (1,194 votes)

  1. Yes, the third-party games have been great22%
  2. Yeah, they've mostly filled the gap19%
  3. Kind of, but I'd like more first-party games35%
  4. Nah, they're just not the same12%
  5. No, not in the least12%