We’re almost halfway through the year, which means we are now nearing the all important Fall and Holiday seasons, which are the critical games shopping season, traditionally. This is also the crucial period where Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo stack their lineups for their platforms to maximize their appeal and get the bulk of their annual sales. A lot of the times, we get major first party games from all three in the second half of the year to have compelling exclusives to prompt shoppers to pick up their consoles.
This year is especially important on this front for Sony and Microsoft because they both have new consoles out, and they want to be able to put their best feet forward for those machines. For Nintendo, of course, it is paramount to be able to keep the now four year old Switch in the conversation, and not let it be lost in the hype surrounding the shiny new tech of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, and the easiest way to do that is by getting some killer games out. What this means is that the onus is on all three platform holders to actually get some impressive first party lineups stacked up for the remainder of this year.
Which is what makes it surprising that Sony’s is curiously muted for the remainder of 2021. Sony is the company that has truly started to stand out because of its high quality first party offerings in the last few years, and the PS5’s insane sales success can be attributed to the reputation for first party excellence Sony enjoys. So it’s really curious to see that they only have one game slated for the remainder of the year – Horizon Forbidden West – and that they aren’t even committing to that game actually being able to hit the 2021 release.
Now, to be fair to Sony, their original plans were to have Horizon, Gran Turismo 7, and God of War Ragnarok all hit in 2021 (on top of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal, and Destruction All-Stars, all of which are already out). That they have been hit by delays – in an era where every industry and workplace across the world is struggling with the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – is not something I can hold against them, particularly given that they have actually had an amazing run of first party releases in the last year so far, even while their competition stumbled.
It’s also important to note that even while Sony’s first party lineup for the PS5 may stumble in the back half of 2021, the PS5 still has a fair few notable exclusives coming out thanks to third parties and independent developers. Deathloop is supposed to come out this year, as an example, and that’s a major PS5 exclusive. We have a whole lot of great indie titles, such as Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Solar Ash, Sifu, and Stray. A new Ghost of Tsushima on the same scale as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Uncharted: Lost Legacy is rumoured to hit this year on the PS5 as well. Death Stranding is getting a PS5 exclusive re-release. Plus, unlike Microsoft or Nintendo, Sony hasn’t had a mid-year show yet – they skipped E3, after all, and their analog show to it is rumoured to be in early July. So far all we know, the situation gets significantly better for the PS5’s back half of the year lineup.
Even if it doesn’t, though, the PS5 is well-placed: it has a lot of hype as the hottest gadget at the moment, it’s already received a steady stream of great exclusives, and even in the absence of big Sony first party games (which isn’t a given, since Horizon and probably Ghost are both likely to come out this year), there is enough coming out to keep the PS5 going.
Which makes it a good thing that Microsoft is now, finally, beginning to put out exclusives for the Xbox Series X too. A lot of what Microsoft showed off at their E3 show earlier this year was focusing on titles that will hit PS5 too, or will come a ways down the line, but there is still an impressive variety of games hitting Xbox from here on out. Halo Infinite is Microsoft’s big Holiday title (though, much like Horizon, it hasn’t committed to a firm date yet). After a rather dismal showing last year, it actually seems to be coming along really well now, so that’s going to be a big win for Microsoft if they can get it out this year. Microsoft Flight Simulator finally hits consoles with an Xbox port in late July. And, of course, Microsoft also has the latest entry in its by now indisputably best franchise, Forza Horizon 5, due out later this year. That’s three big new first party releases, not counting exclusives for the Xbox ecosystem from third party and independent developer partners, such as Tunic, Sable, and 12 Minutes.
In the here and now, if we are to only compare the first party lineups, Microsoft would take it (though of course, if Ghost of Ikishima is real, and actually confirmed for this year, I think the scales tip over to Sony); taking into account the availability of other major exclusives on both systems, as well as the fact that Sony has already gotten a half-dozen first party releases out on the PS5, versus… one for the Xbox Series X, it becomes a lot more even. That said, neither Sony nor Microsoft really compare to Nintendo’s first party lineup, predictably enough.
For the remainder of the year, Nintendo has Mario Golf Super Rush, Advance Wars: ReBoot Camp, WarioWare: Get It Together, Mario Party Superstars, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, and, of course, the long awaited Metroid Dread. That’s a fantastic lineup of some pretty great new games in major or fan-favourite franchises all hitting in a six month period, and it doesn’t count re-releases such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, or exclusives for the Switch from third party partners, of which there are a shocking many at this point – the long awaited No More Heroes 3, the even longer awaited Shin Megami Tensei 5, the surprising Monster Hunter Stories 2, or major indie titles such as Oxenfree 2.
The Switch’s standing gets even stronger when you consider that Nintendo has been releasing major first party exclusives for the console this year so far (we’ve gotten Super Mario 3D World and New Pokemon Snap this year so far, most notably), in addition to major third party exclusives it has also received (titles such as Monster Hunter Rise and Bravely Default 2).
Now to be fair, this comparison is between a mature platform with a thriving ecosystem of software versus two just launched ones; the Switch should come out ahead, because something would have to have gone terrifyingly wrong for Nintendo for it not to. And yes, it is ahead; but that is, at this point, to be expected (it’s also something that has been generally true ever since the Switch launched, barring 2020, where Sony’s amazing showing with the PS4’s final year put them ahead). But as a straight answer to the question of which platform has the best and most exciting exclusives lined up for the remainder of this year, the answer is the Switch – even more so if we were to limit it to just first party games, in which case the entire competition becomes almost unfair.
Any and all of this could change; any and all games slated for this year could be delayed; we could get another game announced with a short reveal to release window, like we did Age of Calamity last year; third parties could announce some games assumed to be exclusive will actually be Multiplatform. Any number of things could happen to change how we stand right now. But in the here and now, if we were to look at what console will have the best exclusives lineup for the remainder of the year, I’d give it to Nintendo and the Switch, with Xbox and Microsoft taking second place, and Sony and PS5 coming in at third.
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.