There's been a lot of great games, some huge announcements (good grief, the NGP!) and a lot of familiar sentiments around the online gaming community since I left you. One thing that's really been yanking on my metaphorical chain is the idea that all game franchises should be multiplatform. For me system exclusives are what define the entire ethos of a platform. Take that away and the PlayStation (as well as XBOX and current Nintendo platform) become nothing more than set-top boxes. Yet, it's something the gaming community — and what's more the vocal, hardcore gaming community — seem to be gunning for. My question is why?
I understand that as development budgets rise, so too does the necessity for big third-party gaming franchises to go multiplatform. I recently read a story that suggested Metal Gear Solid 5 would maintain its PlayStation exclusivity, but I'm not necessarily convinced. Metal Gear Solid is a big enough franchise to transcend install-bases, and while the continuation of Snake's story is unlikely to resonate with XBOX 360 owners as strongly as it will with PS3 players, there's still a million sales (if not more?) Konami would be leaving on the table if they didn't make the latest Metal Gear Solid title multiplatform.
While that makes business sense from a third-party perspective, it's also why I feel the growth of Sony's Worldwide Studios is of enormous importance. Critics are often quick to point the finger at the failures Sony's made in the transition from the PS2's dominance, but if you're willing to scratch the surface, there are positives to be uncovered. The growth of Sony's first-party is one of them, which is really beginning to show its strengths in 2011. If you cast your mind back to the hazy days of 2008, you may recall the common consensus being "PlayStation 3 has no games." How times have changed.
Yet the industry seems keen on dismissing the importance of exclusive games. One insipid forum thread I was reading this week contained a fan's excited regard for the Yakuza franchise. "I've always been a fan of this series," read the post, "Loved the first two games on PlayStation 2. Two of my favourite games of the last generation." But the tone of the post quickly turned, "SEGA are idiots for not putting this out on XBOX 360. I bet it's easy to port over and it would sell more copies there."
Which takes me to the crux of this article: why is multiplatform now expected? I wouldn't buy a PlayStation expecting to play Super Mario. Nor would I purchase an XBOX and demand a Wipeout title. Each console (whether you're a fan of it or not) has its own ethos and personality. Something you can look at and say, "Yes, that is PlayStation," or "XBOX," or "Nintendo." To me, PlayStation has the most intriguing personality of them all. While Microsoft and Nintendo can point to Master Chief and Super Mario respectively, I don't necessarily think Sony has that same stand-out mascot character. Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet and Sackboy have all come close, as has Kratos and Solid Snake — but none of them quite fit in the same way as Master Chief and Mario does. For me, the PlayStation ethos comes through in "feel". It's a superficial thing that most probably don't even notice, but it's always there. Look at the Wipeout and MotorStorm franchises for example — two distinctly different PlayStation-exclusive arcade racers, but yet similar in tone and attitude. The trend-setting music, the unique feel of the vehicles; both completely different games, but inherently PlayStation. It also comes through in stuff like LittleBigPlanet, Heavy Rain and Shadow Of The Colossus. Again wildly different games, but they have PlayStation at their very core.
If you suck the exclusive content out of any platform, you're left with a shell. Gaming has transcended bedrooms and become part of mainstream culture. It's now that I feel platform exclusivity is more important than ever. When the original PlayStation launched it set trends and embedded itself into 90s culture through smart marketing and a unique personality that differed from anything Nintendo and SEGA were producing at the time. It had a different feel to it.
I worry that gamers are intent on taking that personality away. The one-platform future might sound enticing, but it'll suck the soul out of gaming. Console preferences — like other consumer electronics — will come down to specific hardware features rather than must-have software. It's not a future I want to be a part of.
It's rumoured that "Twiggy" has spent the past several months touring with avant-garde dance troupe Cirque Du Soleil. The anonymous PushSquare columnist is still on the run from the British monarchy on account of treason. "Twiggy" was last sighted eating an Asda branded ham and cheese sandwich in Grimsby.