Our expectations are too high. I can’t blame the gamers for having them, especially with a company like PlayStation spending the previous console generation defining itself as an industry leader with untouchable exclusives like The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon Zero Dawn, and God of War. The majority of its exclusives are blockbuster slam dunks, and after years of them it’s natural to expect more at a similar cadence. But realistically, it will never happen again.
Games now take longer to make and are more expensive than ever, and even with assets and expertise carried over into sequels production cycles will last several years at the very least. Yesterday’s Showcase was Sony’s annual presentation of all the big hitters coming our way in the months and years to come, but except for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Helldivers 2 it felt like an event dominated by third-party titles.
To Sony’s credit, it was transparent before the show even kicked off that players should go in expecting a mixture of things ranging from upcoming PS5 titles to PS VR 2 experiences, playing it cool on what would be there, hoping not to encourage inflated expectations. Those developed anyway, and even during the show I noticed underwhelming reactions online, with dismissive comments demanding unrealistic games appear. Days Gone 2 is a foolish dream to have, while it’s still too soon for Ghost of Tsushima 2 to break cover. Factions 2 is the only glaring omission I could think of, or Silent Hill 2 if I really started clutching at straws.
All things considered, this was a solid hour of new reveals peppered in with a few updates and surprises that helped solidify the variety PlayStation has on offer, and how it seems to be embracing multiplatform efforts far more than usual in recent years. Fans were quick to notice that a lot of the games shown were also coming to PC and Xbox, a point that even the trailers made note of during the presentation. Xbox poked fun at this through a tongue-in-cheek social media post, an ironic gag given its exclusive offerings have been on life support for the better part of a decade now. Sony shining a light on games going multiplatform isn’t a bad thing though, even if it temporarily paves over the cracks of a lacking roster. If anything, it only served to make the showcase much more interesting.
I wrote ahead of time that PlayStation exclusives just don’t excite me anymore, which is still true even if Marathon piqued my interest a smidge. Spider-Man 2 looks great, but it’s gonna be the same ultra beautiful, ultra impressive, ultra predictable open world adventure that its predecessor was, obediently filling in the exclusive mould Sony dictates is necessary. What we saw of it this week was all expected, and thus it left me hollow.
The real meat was in unexpected reveals like Phantom Blade 0 or Sword and the Sea, or killer indies along the lines of Plucky Squire, Neva, and Revenant Hill. Even the big games that were present but not in the exclusive camp like Alan Wake 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Dragon’s Dogma 2 were still treated with equal reverence.
Either through recognising its own hubris or the harsh reality of modern gaming, Sony was forced to bring smaller players - and even competitors - along for the ride. Titles most of us will be playing on our PS5 consoles alongside the likes of Spider-Man 2 and the next God of War, so why not recognise their value and how they inevitably make up part of a portfolio that helps this industry sing?
This week’s Showcase reminded me of older E3 conferences that threw everything at the wall with a human touch. Jim Ryan popping up to say hello was never enough, and I would have loved additional presenters guiding us forward, but an effort was made to make this feel like a production worth caring about, and how behind this hobby sits more than faceless computers making things possible. It’s about people, and the stories they seek to tell in the games we play.
I want to see more of this from PlayStation, an active player in making it clear this medium thrives on variety and unpredictability. Without it things only threaten to stagnate, a condition Sony has been teetering toward much too often these days.
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