This is how they can have their cake, and eat it too.
One reason Sony’s first party games have become so popular this generation is that, in an era where so many publishers release games with half baked functionality or polish, relying on post launch patches and content drops to actually bring the title up to scratch, Sony’s games ship feature- and content-complete. Out of the box, you get the full game, with no necessity to spend any extra money to supplement the experience – just like how it used to be. This is evident when you consider how so many Sony games don’t really get any DLC or expansions – none for God of War, for example, or for Days Gone, or even for The Last of Us Part 2, which was their fastest selling game ever.
What Sony does do, however, even when they’re not delivering DLC drops, is support its games exceptionally well post-launch. Games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, Days Gone, The Last of Us Part 2, and God of War have received a whole lot of great, additional features in post-launch updates, from new extra hard or extra easy difficulty levels, to New Game Plus modes, to the addition of new control schemes and inputs (such as gyro-assisted aiming), and so on.
However, every other Sony first party game this generation so far may end up paling next to the kind of post-launch support Sucker Punch has lined up for Ghost of Tsushima. With the game itself having launched a few months ago and being met with critical and commercial success, Sucker Punch announced a new, free multiplayer expansion. The announcement promised a co-op multiplayer mode, but the true extent of just how full fledged this expansion would turn out to be was not clear until it finally launched.
Ghost of Tsushima Legends is basically a co-op loot game set on the island of Tsushima. It comes complete with different classes for your characters, countless pieces of gear, a whole new gear level system, weekly challenges, and even an upcoming raid that, by the way, supports matchmaking (take notes, Bungie). It’s a staggeringly expansive addition to the game, for free (and yes, it is free, since this mode lacks microtransactions or other forms of monetization), on top of an already expansive singleplayer campaign that can last dozens of hours. It’s the kind of thing that could give Ghost of Tsushima legs on the sales charts for years, assuming Sucker Punch has plans to support it beyond this first season of content.
It’s an extremely interesting strategy, delivering a multiplayer service in the most popular genre on the multiplayer market at the moment after first producing a full-fledged, singleplayer game which was unfettered by the constraints or considerations of also developing a multiplayer mode alongside it. Given that the market has a severe shortage of high quality big budget singleplayer titles (Sony, Nintendo, and maybe Capcom are the only publishers who put that style of content out with anything close to resembling a regular pace of releases), this automatically makes your game stand out, because there’s not much else like it to begin with. And then, on top of all that, add your free multiplayer mode to bring along other players who may not be interested in the singleplayer side of things, and keep those who already bought your game playing.
This isn’t a strategy unique to Sony (Nintendo released some multiplayer modes for Super Mario Odyssey for free after launch as well, as one example, and there’s this little game called GTA5 that employed the same tactic…); it’s not even the first time Sony has done this (we already knew that Naughty Dog had plans to ship a multiplayer component to The Last of Us Part 2 after launch). However, it is the biggest and most ambitious example of it from Sony we have seen so far, and it does, in its extensiveness, hint at a future direction for Sony first party games that we previously at most only had vague allusions to.
It is very clear that Sony has found its niche on the market as a software publisher – they deliver high quality singleplayer action adventure titles. Sure, they have other kinds of games too – look at Dreams for a user generated content based game as a service, or Gran Turismo Sport for a racing sim GaaS – but the marquee Sony games, the primary titles that get all the awards and the bulk of sales, those are all their singleplayer action adventure games.
However, there is the undeniable fact that there is money to be made with long term multiplayer titles and services as well. This, of course, does not mean that only multiplayer games are profitable, and that everyone needs to drop what they are doing to make the next Destiny or Fortnite clone (and, in fact, the success of so many Sony or Nintendo or Capcom or Atlus games this generation is as convincing a counterpoint as you need against that line of thinking); it just means that there is also money to be made in multiplayer service games.
Other publishers, even ones who do deliver single player games, have their fingers in the multiplayer services pie. Capcom, for example, has Monster Hunter World, while for every Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey Nintendo releases, they also have a Splatoon 2 or a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. As mentioned, however, Sony has so far sat this entire side of the market out. And it seems like they may have just tipped their hand about how they plan to rectify that without undermining the basis of their titles’ appeal and popularity with Ghost of Tsushima Legends.
Essentially, going forward, will anyone mind if Sony continues to deliver high quality big budget first party singleplayer games, that, a few months later, also get full-fledged independent multiplayer modes? Modes that can help the games enjoy longer lives on the charts than they otherwise would have, modes that help Sony keep their fingers in the multiplayer service games pie without basically forcing every single one of their games to become Destiny? I don’t think anyone would really care if the next Horizon had a multiplayer mode independent of the singleplayer game (and, in fact, developers Guerrilla Games were apparently hiring people for a multiplayer project).
Basically what I am saying is, going forward, we can see Sony deliver the same kinds of high pedigree games it is known for – that, after launch, also get a multiplayer mode on top. If you don’t care about that multiplayer, you can ignore it (especially since it’s not like the singleplayer was held back in any way, if Sony games continue to keep up their current level of quality). This would allow them to have some participation in the multiplayer/services games market, without needing to force the next Uncharted to become Anthem.
I have a feeling that’s what we will see happening more and more frequently going forward. And hey, if it helps get more people on board with Sony’s amazing games? I’m all for it.
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.