PS5’s Launch Lineup is Solid, But Plays it a Little Too Safe

Contrary to what Sony says, the PS5’s launch lineup isn’t really the best in PlayStation history.

Posted By | On 23rd, Nov. 2020 Under Article, Editorials

A launch lineup can make or break a console’s first impression for early adopters. Given that consoles are at their most expensive when they first launch, it makes sense that the launch lineup of games should be as compelling as possible to justify those high-end prices – and that’s not even counting the ridiculous amounts of money that scalpers make out with. Launch lineups, and how good they are – or aren’t – to any given person is largely about taste. If you are a fan of first-person shooters and a console launches with six of them, odds are, you were going to enjoy that launch line up yourself quite a bit. But there is also something to be said for the objective value in variety and overall quality of a lunch lineup.

Having a series of games that are all well-made, show off what that particular console can do, and display a nice sense of variety are ultimately what seems to matter the most when gauging how successful any given launch lineup will be. With that being said it’s more than fair to compare the launch lineup of the PlayStation 5 with that of Sony’s previous consoles, and as the console war rhetoric continues to fly freely, and all sorts of crazy proclamations are being propagated, let’s take a more reasonable look at this launch lineup with biases aside. The console is out, the games are available, and there’s no other way to really get a perspective on how good the PS5 launch lineup is without comparing it to the launch lineups of systems past. So how does it stack up?

Like most major console launch lineups there are a lot of games technically available at launch but we’ll be focusing on the more notable PlayStation 5 games to characterize their launch lineup here, and those are; Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Astro’s Playroom, Demon’s Souls Remake, Giant Squid’s The Pathless, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, Godfall, Bugsnax, Observer: System Redux, Call of Duty: Cold War, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and of course Spider-Man: Miles Morales. All of which are great games in their own right, but let’s examine this list a bit. It’s mostly made up of third-person action adventure games which Sony is obviously known for now, so that makes sense, and we have a couple of re-releases of older games like Observer, and a couple of expansions with Beyond Light and Miles Morales.

We also have Sackboy and Bugsnax rounding things out with calmer, more widely accessible family-friendly games. Not a bad lineup by any means, but let’s compare that to the PS4 which had Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Resogun, Killzone Shadow Fall, Call of Duty Ghosts, Flower, Need For Speed Rivals, Contrast, DC Universe Online, Knack, Battlefield 4, and more. See much of a difference there? The first thing that jumps out at me is the sense of variety that the PS4 had at launch when compared to the PS5.

While the PS5 does have a Call of Duty game, and it is arguably a better one than the Call of Duty game the PS4 launched with, the PS4 still had Killzone Shadow Fall and Battlefield 4 on top of Call of Duty for shooter fans. Three very different types of shooters to choose from instead of just one Call of Duty game. A Rainbow Six Siege PS5 version is coming, but we don’t exactly know when. On top of that, where is the Resogun equivalent? Where’s the artistic and experimental mentality of Flower? I suppose you could say Bugsnax has a little of that energy, but that’s not exactly apples to apples, and depending on how you feel about remasters and remakes counting as “new” games or not, that could bring down the PS5’s launch lineup to you a bit more, especially when compared to the PS4’s.

call of duty black ops cold war

The PS4 was a bit of a juggernaut though. Perhaps an outlier. An aberration in launch lineups that no launch lineup should ever really be compared to. I don’t personally think that but, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that’s true. How did the PS3 launch go? Well, despite the PS3’s many problems that became beyond obvious as the seventh generation rolled on, the PS3 didn’t have a bad launch lineup at all. Resistance: Fall of Man, Genji: Days of the Blade, Blast Factor, Call of Duty 3, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Ridge Racer 7, Tony Hawk’s Project 8, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom and Need For Speed Carbon had a good sense of variety, but it was a shorter list overall, which grew frustratingly slowly for the next couple of years. So it has slightly less games than the PS5 does at launch, however it does span across more genres and more of them were exclusives, making the PS3 launch lineup feel somewhat more prestigious than the 360 at the time. You could argue this one is a wash though since it is a shorter list.

If you compare further down the line to the PS2 launch lineup then you’ll see a much starker, and harder to ignore difference in just about every way with games like Armored Core 2, Dead or Alive 2, Dynasty Warriors 2, Evergrace, Kessen, Midnight Club, Moto GP, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing 2, Ridge Racer 5, Silent Scope, SSX, Smugglers Run, Street Fighter EX3, Tekken Tag, Timesplitters, Unreal Tournament- it goes on and on and really shows up the PS5 in terms of the amount of games and the amount of genres it includes. If you were to compare the PS5 launch line up to the PS2 and ignore everything else then you would still have to really stretch to come to the conclusion that the PS5 launch lineup is the best in PlayStation history. The PS2’s launch lineup is easily PlayStation’s best, at least in those terms, to date.

While the PS1 launch lineup wasn’t particularly impressive with Air Combat, Kileak, Rayman and Ridge Racer being the standout titles, it still had a better sense of variety than the PS5’s seems to have. So is it fair to say that the PlayStation 5 launch lineup is the best PlayStation has ever had? Well, again, it depends on your taste. If you can’t get enough of remasters and third person action games, then you’ll be more than happy with the PS5 at launch. But in a general sense, I struggle to find a reason to think the PS5 is PlayStation’s strongest launch lineup, in fact it seems easier to argue the opposite.

marvel's spider-man miles morales

Where PlayStation’s previous consoles bravely rolled the dice on at least a couple of oddball games in each launch library and went out of its way to represent as many genre types as they could while still covering the basics, I’m not really seeing that same sort of focus this time around for them – at least at launch. The PS5 is largely banking on the big-budget third-person action adventure genre, a few remasters, and two family friendly games to carry it into the holiday season with barely any representation in the racing, shooter or puzzle genres. but seeing as how the market has clearly spoken on that approach, and that seems to be what enough PlayStation gamers want from Sony to buy their consoles, it’s not looking like a bad bet at all.

And, as can normally be expected of a PlayStation console, it won’t take very long for the library to fill out in all the other areas that this launch lineup might not represent particularly well at first. A console’s launch lineup ultimately means little despite the impact it can make on initial sales. Where the PS3 started out with a very slow drip of new games, it ended up being one of the best libraries of all time with several MotorStorm games, God of War 3, Killzone 2 and The Last of Us. The PlayStation ecosystem is nothing if not consistently focused on quality and variety over time, so if you don’t see anything you like in the launch lineup right away, odds are, with a little patience, you will eventually start to notice things that you do like popping into the library as time goes on.

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.

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