It seems fair to say that Sony has established itself as one of the finest publishers in the industry, thanks to its consistently high-quality output of games over the past generation. However, even the best plantations are bound to have a few bad apples here and there – and this analogy very much stands true in the case of Sony as well. Many would agree that the two games in the Knack franchise were missteps from the console, resulting into underwhelming experiences.
Interestingly, the Japanese gaming giant has recently filed a new trademark for Knack, which has given way to a ton of speculation about a possible third entry in the franchise. Of course, a trademark renewal is by no means a confirmation of a new installment in the franchise – it’s essentially just one of the many formal procedures to retain a company’s rights for an intellectual property. But the question of whether Knack deserves a third chance or not is one that’s definitely worth asking and investigating in detail.
To better understand whether Knack deserves yet another shot at life, we need to look back at its origins – the missteps and the criticisms which lead us to where the series is now. Developed by Sony Japan of Shadow of the Colossus fame, Knack was released to a lukewarm critical and commercial in 2013. Knack is an action-platformer that’s heavily marred down by uninteresting level design and a very basic concept. Leading up to its release, Knack was marketed as a showcase for the graphical prowess of the PS4 – given its exclusivity on Sony’s at-the-time current gen platform. It certainly looks great with high-quality assets and fluid animations, but it was too rooted in the traditions of something like a tech demo to be a worthwhile purchase for an asking price of $60.
Knack would return once again with a sequel aptly named Knack 2 that was released in 2017 to yet again, mostly middling reviews. That’s not to suggest there weren’t any improvements at all, but most of them like a co-op mode and fleshed out platforming felt like a half-step forward for the series. Suffice to say, both entries underperformed on a commercial front – with at-the-time SIE president Shuhei Yoshida expressing disappointment for the game’s financial front.
Cut to the present time, the critical and commercial failure of Knack has made the games a subject for a slew of internet jokes. However, it’s also important to know that Knack wasn’t as it was just because Sony wanted to try its hand at an action-platformer – it was a move at inviting younger players into the ecosystem once again, right at the PS4’s launch.
You see, when Sony burst onto the seams with its ambitious PlayStation 1 – games such as the likes of Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon were meant to welcome players of a younger age group into the ecosystem. The turn of the century marked a shift for the games industry, as developers pushed for mature, darker, and arguably violent experiences over the family-friendly platformers that dominated the past generations. Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s debut console the Xbox heralded this change with games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3 among others. That’s not to suggest that platformers were done with entirely – as games like Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper made sure to cover Sony’s paces for a young generation of gamers.
However, as we moved into the PS3 and Xbox 360 era – we see both of these now-established gaming giants built their platforms upon these mature experiences as Nintendo diverted itself into pursuing a separate target demographic entirely with the Wii – one that would value ease-of-use and family-friendly experiences over the violence and blockbuster spectacles that dominated rival platforms.
With the PS4 however, Sony tried to pivot itself once again with two entries in the Knack franchise -although it’s clear that the company’s plans didn’t pan out as well as they might have wanted it to. If I were to make a guess as to why both entries in the franchise failed, it’s because Knack itself isn’t just as interesting or recognizable mascot as say, Spyro or even Crash Bandicoot. The plot surrounding the battle between the Goblins and humanity and what have you is simply put, an uninteresting narrative with no charm whatsoever. A third entry might add a few new gameplay features, but in my opinion, it still wouldn’t be able to turn the tides for this platformer that just can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. I am not saying that it’s an impossible task and many average video games franchises have managed to do turn the tide around but Alleviating the recurring criticisms of the two games would require a major rethinking of core ideas – and I don’t think that’s a risk worth taking especially with a franchise that already has been given a couple of chances to shine.
Additionally, there’s also the topic of development. The two games were developed by Sony Japan, a prestigious studio that sadly isn’t anymore. Team Asobi is all that’s left of this once-promising studio, and the team is already hard at work on what’s being described as its most ambitious project yet. Splitting the already limited resources of this studio to pursue yet another entry in this mediocre franchise would be a meaningless endeavor. Of course, Sony could always outsource the project to an external development team or have another first-party studio make the next entry – but given how Sony only seems to take risks with known entities, that prospect looks unlikely.
With the PS4, Sony has established its reputation as the king when it comes to narrative-driven single-player blockbusters with the likes of Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon, and more. The PS5 seems to be building on these strengths with its big-budget releases like Horizon Forbidden West. Additionally, the Japanese gaming giant is also placing huge bets on live-service games, with the recent acquisition of Bungie and its plans to ship 10 live service games by 2026.
Developing an action platformer for portfolio diversification could most certainly be a great move on behalf of Sony, but a third Knack game doesn’t seem like a risk that the PlayStation of today will likely take, Especially when so many promising franchises like Jak and Daxter and Sly Cooper lie dormant for so long – who already have a much larger target demographic comprising of gamers who are both old and young and enjoy a ton of market credibility thanks to their long-standing legacies.
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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