The announcement of Death Stranding for the PC has sent shockwaves through select hardcore communities, despite the title technically being confirmed for computers back when Hideo Kojima signed his contract with Sony. It is, I suppose, an odd situation: this is a game trademarked by the Japanese giant, running on a proprietary PlayStation 4 engine designed and engineered by one of its flagship first-party studios.
The suggestion I’ve seen thrown around is this: why even continue investing in the PlayStation ecosystem when the exclusive software will make its way onto the PC anyway? It’s a conundrum that Microsoft itself has faced in recent years, as it continues its commitment to bringing all Xbox One software to Windows. Of course, the Redmond firm is compelled to support its operating system just as much as its console, so the situation is slightly different.
The confusion in PlayStation’s case has been compounded by recent comments coming out of the company: ex-Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden admitted that the organisation may need to lean into a “wider install base” with some of its titles, while subsidiary Media Molecule has suggested that it’d like to release creation engine Dreams elsewhere. All of this makes for a somewhat muddied message that I agree upsets the status quo of what we know.
The thing is that it’s been clear for a while now that the Japanese giant doesn’t really see PC as a competitor; it owns the likes of Helldivers, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and Detroit: Become Human, but it’s still allowed them to release on computer-based storefronts such as Steam. Why is that? There’s one common thread connecting all these titles: they were developed by teams not under PlayStation’s umbrella.
I think what we’re seeing with some of these games is an exception rather than a rule: Sony may not have been able to secure Hideo Kojima’s signature at all without compromising and eventually accepting a PC release. In the case of Quantic Dream’s titles, it will have had the option to block the Steam versions of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, but that could have ruined a long-standing partnership with a long-standing developer, and lost it money in the process.
It’s worth remembering that in all of these instances, the manufacturer is either licensing the products out or publishing them elsewhere itself; as a result, it’s actually making money from allowing these titles to launch elsewhere. So why doesn’t it extend that philosophy to the likes of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Days Gone? The answer is simple: it still has a commitment to move as much PlayStation hardware as possible, as it’s through software sales and subscriptions that it earns the bulk of its bread.
The situation is complicated further by the recent alterations to PlayStation Now, meaning that titles like God of War and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End can now technically be streamed on computers. But the Japanese giant needed tentpole software to push this service back in the mainstream, and it’s worth remembering that every membership is money in the organisation’s back pocket – regardless of where the titles are played.
The bottom line is that the company is not about to throw away its unique selling point; the firm has iterated on multiple occasions that exclusive software is key to its success as a business. But not every game needs to be treated the same: Death Stranding is coming to the PC, but it may not exist at all without compromise. I think it’s important to look at things on a case-by-case basis, before jumping to conclusions about what some decisions may mean.
Do you think we'll see Sony bring more PlayStation exclusives to PC? Would this affect your investment into Sony's ecosystem? Load up Steam in the comments section below.