When you consider that PlayStation already plays host to every third-party property that matters, we suppose it’s a bit silly for Sony to be chasing trends with exclusive titles. This is something it did in the past, with so-called “Halo killers” like Killzone and Resistance – but more recently it’s started singing to its own tune. There’s no doubt that the platform holder makes amazing story-driven games, and that’s where its emphasis has been. Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden says that will continue moving forwards.
“I don't want to get into me-too, it seems like I think the world's got all the Battle Royale it needs right now,” he said when asked about the success of Fortnite by CNET and whether the manufacturer is looking at Epic Games for inspiration. “I think we've done a lot over the last three or four years to get us to a place right now where we're building fewer games per year than ever before, but we're spending more time, more energy, certainly more money on making them.”
It’s true that PlayStation’s output has been less prolific than in the tail-end of the PlayStation 3 days, where it would sometimes release a new exclusive every month. But the quality has also generally gone up, with the likes of God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Marvel’s Spider-Man not only attracting enormous critical acclaim but also setting cash registers alight. Layden reiterated that it’s all part of the platform holder’s “first, best, must” philosophy, which is something that he’s touched on in the past.
“If your title is going to be ‘first’ and creating a genre, or ‘first’ and creating a new game activity, let's look at that,” he explained, perhaps alluding to a project such as Dreams. “If you're going to make an action adventure game, it better be ‘best’ in class. And we have the third category called ‘must’, which is we must support the platform, we must be present when new technology comes out.” Something like Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a good example of a “must” title – it’s obviously proven a big sales driver for PlayStation VR hardware.
Looking at how hard it is to make games now, we think Sony’s philosophy is right. Last generation it invested a lot of effort into lower-tier titles like SOCOM 4, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, and Twisted Metal – games that were decent, but demanded budget that in hindsight probably could have been better invested elsewhere. We reckon last year’s lineup is the bar for PlayStation exclusives – if it can deliver like that annually, then we don’t think anyone can complain.