Sony is gearing itself to dominate the market on a permanent basis with its emphasis on first party games.
Last week, Sony announced a worldwide restructuring for Sony Interactive Entertainment and Sony Worldwide Studios. The specific details of that have already been covered in the news post regarding these changes, and they don’t matter to the point that I am about to make- what matters is the intent with which these changes were made. By Sony’s own admission, these changes were made specifically with the intent to focus more and double down on first party game development. The idea was to get more synchrony across their divisions in Japan, Europe, and America, and get more, better, first party games out.
This is, in the end, a fantastic development, and one that is likely to bear incredible fruit for them in both, the long and the short term. As the successes of the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch have demonstrated to us over the last few years, ultimately, this is a games driven industry- systems with great games are the ones that will sell. And since the bulk of great games are available on all systems (since third parties can rarely be counted on to make exclusives anymore), it comes down to exclusives, almost always put out by first party studios, to differentiate, and therefore sell, systems to customers at this point.
Over the last decade and a half, Sony has done an exemplary job of building up its first party portfolio to being truly formidable and impressive in terms of mass appeal and system selling capacity. While they still aren’t close to Nintendo’s level of consistency, quality, or system selling capability (just ask the Vita how it fared when it had to sell on the basis of nothing but Sony’s games, as far as major support went), they are great differentiators that drive consumer interest in PlayStation platforms regardless. Sony, much like Nintendo, also has the right idea in understanding that, as a platform holder, they should invest in a wide variety of games, including those that may not be profitable in and of themselves, in an attempt to diversify and flesh out their system’s library.
"Over the last decade and a half, Sony has done an exemplary job of building up its first party portfolio to being truly formidable and impressive in terms of mass appeal and system selling capacity."
The long and short of this is that Sony’s exclusives drive sales and buzz around their systems- when a Horizon or a God of War or a The Last of Us hits PlayStation, and receives rave acclaim, Sony dominates the mainstream chatter for a while, while the great word of mouth compels people to pick up their console. Once someone has picked up a PlayStation, they are likely to get more games, including third party hits for it as well. They are likely to subscribe to PS Plus, and buy controllers and accessories for it. And when their friends have to buy a console, they are likely to buy the one that their friends have, so they can play with them- in this case, PS4. This has been a strategy they have used to devastating effect by Sony in the latter half of the PS3’s life cycle, and with the PS4- and it is the reason why the PS3 was able to end on such a strong note, and why the PS4 has managed to dominate the Xbox One so thoroughly.
So, with that understanding, when Sony says they are doubling down and focusing even more on their first party lineup, it’s something to take notice of. As things stand right now, Sony generally manages to put out one major game that captures the zeitgeist every year- Bloodborne in 2015, Uncharted 4 in 2016, Horizon in 2017, and probably God of War this year. Yes, they put out other games through the year too, but that one game becomes their tentpole. It’s a good strategy, it has served them well.
But now, for a minute, imagine that they could have two such big games every year- one near the beginning, and one near the end. Like how Nintendo had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild near the beginning of last year, and Super Mario Odyssey near the end. Nintendo still mostly relies on its (thoroughly excellent) first party games, with better than usual, but still weak, third party games to fill in the games. Imagine Sony pulling this off, on a console that not only gets their excellent first party exclusives, but also every major third party game- indie or AAA, western or Japanese- to boot. Imagine just how devastating this strategy can be. If you have two hits on the level of Horizon on a system in a year, plus FIFA, Call of Duty, Destiny, Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, Star Wars, and more- imagine how consistently sales interest in the PS4 will be driven. Conceivably, the platform could keep selling at mostly its current sales levels for years to come if Sony pulled that off.
"If you have two hits on the level of Horizon on a system in a year, plus FIFA, Call of Duty, Destiny, Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, Star Wars, and more- imagine how consistently sales interest in the PS4 will be driven."
This, of course, is contingent on the games themselves being great- and to be fair, Sony has a lot of duds in their portfolio. But, with the intent of their reorganization having been to achieve better focus on first party games, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that they would also improve the quality in addition to the quantity.
This would be a strategy to help them sell not just the PS4, which is in the final third of its life, but also the PS5, when it inevitably launches in a few years. This could be a strategy that helps them cement their total domination over the console market. Sony understands the value of exclusives in terms of driving sales- it understands the value of having a high quality differentiated library. By compounding that differentiation and the quality, sales of PlayStation could become unmatched for a very long time to come.
It would be in the competition’s best interest to keep their eye on Sony for the next few years.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.