Between cancellations of events from crises that will go unnamed, Sony Worldwide Studios president Hermen Hulst suddenly confirmed that Horizon Zero Dawn would be coming to PC this Summer. In hindsight, this isn’t the first time that PlayStation-platform exclusives have made this move.
The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was exclusive to the PS4 in 2015 and would be published by PlayStation Mobile on PC in 2016. Ditto for Arrowhead’s Helldivers in 2015. Sony published Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human for PS3 and PS4 through the years. While the developer did self-publish the recent PC ports for these games, you have to believe there’s some agreement with Sony to prevent them from going to, say, Xbox One.
However, this is the first time that a big, triple-A, first-party PS4 exclusive title is coming to PC. It’s a big deal and showcases some acknowledgment from the publisher about the platform’s importance. Sort of. Regarding ports of other titles for PC, Hulst said that it’s “important that we stay open to new ideas of how to introduce more people to PlayStation, and show people maybe what they’ve been missing out on.”
He also added that, “To maybe put a few minds at ease, releasing one first-party AAA title to PC doesn’t necessarily mean that every game now will come to PC. In my mind, Horizon Zero Dawn was just a great fit in this particular instance. We don’t have plans for day and date [PC releases], and we remain 100 percent committed to dedicated hardware.” Pretty innocuous and self-reserved, appeasing those who still invest in PS4 hardware without making them go insane that a three-year old exclusive can be enjoyed on PC. Well, most of them anyway.
The overall move comes across as “testing the waters”, seeing if the sales and reception to Horizon Zero Dawn on PC are worth pursuing further initiatives. While one could easily point to Microsoft’s PC gaming push and say that this prompted Sony to take action (as Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter recently theorized), it’s important to remember Microsoft’s early initiatives. The PC platform was more or less ignored for years and years by the company, especially when it came to beloved properties like Flight Simulator and Age of Empires.
When Phil Spencer took over as boss, we started to see the company slowly veer towards adding more Xbox integration into Windows. Several titles like Quantum Break, Gears of War 4, the canceled Scalebound and so on were announced to becoming to PC with the Play Anywhere initiative – which provided a free PC digital copy if you owned the Xbox One version and vice versa – really pushing things forward. The announcement of Xbox Game Pass and all first-party exclusives releasing on the same day for the service, coupled with Steam releases for games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Gears 5 and the upcoming Grounded and Bleeding Edge, further cemented the company’s renewed PC stance.
I would argue that the loss to PS4 in the console hardware sales war forced Microsoft to rethink its core gaming strategy and consolidate a base that it already had a strong presence in. Recent decisions, significant as they may be, are the result of years of effort though and Microsoft should be commended.
So what does this all mean for Sony, if the company isn’t going all-in with PC ports to start with? How will this impact the PlayStation 5? Here’s where we get to the fun stuff because Sony has a strong back-catalog of PS4 titles that it could bring to PC down the line. Yes, you can play a number of first party titles like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, God of War and inFamous Second Son on PC with a PlayStation Now subscription…up till January 2nd 2020. And now you can play Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition till April 7th.
But launching on platforms like Steam and potentially GOG, the Epic Games Store and so on down the line is huge since it can open up a whole new stream of revenue for PlayStation’s digital market. It could lead to measures like cross-save and cross-platform play getting a jolt in the arm. Certain franchises like Sly Cooper (if The Sly Collection ever comes to PS4, that is), Gravity Rush, Concrete Genie and even DriveClub could potentially find new life on PC.
The PS5’s impending release is an interesting spanner in these potentially complex works. We could see The Last of Us Part 2 announced for PS5, followed by the announcement of the original game coming to PC. This could galvanize PC players down the line into picking up the console to experience the sequel (if everyone and their mother, brother, extended family member doesn’t own a PS5 by then already).
It’s a simple method – heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the plan for the inevitable announcement of Horizon Zero Dawn 2. If enthusiasm is strong enough, it could lead to The Last of Us Part 2 coming to PC. Perhaps with the launch of the game’s supposed multiplayer mode somewhere down the line with some cross-platform play enabled?
Take Dreams as another example. The game’s toolset on PS4 is already fairly extensive – throw in a PC version with cross-platform sharing of creations and you get an even more budding community. How far down the line this will happen and whether it can occur while enthusiasm is still fresh remains to be seen but that’s a challenge for any game with a long-term plan.
What it may not result in, at least immediately, is the introduction of a Play Anywhere-style initiative for its PC ports. It’s funny because Sony was the first to really pioneer this style, making certain titles purchased on the PS4 also playable on the PS3 and/or PS Vita (though it was mostly for a number of smaller titles and indie games). This further reflects the company’s current desire to distinguish between PC and console players. Which is a mistake, because if Microsoft learned one lesson over the years, it to provide more avenues for the player to experience their games.
One could say it’s too early to really go wild with speculations but that’s what makes it so exciting. What if Sony delves into PC-centric development, bringing the Killzone franchise back as a real-time strategy game that could give Halo Wars a run for its money? Maybe bring back Jeanne D’Arc in a brand new tactical RPG? What if Bloodborne 2 launches, if ever, for PC and PS5 simultaneously? What if ports for PS4 titles supported PC-compatible VR headsets? Heck, what if PlayStation VR supported PC VR games?
Even if immediate progress is slow, there’s no telling what small steps can lead to further down the line. There could be an overhaul coming to the likes of PlayStation Now to further facilitate PC titles. Debates over “de-valuing exclusives” which have formed a strong part of Sony’s console marketing will inevitably come up. For now though, the possibilities are endless.
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.