Since the PS5’s launch last year, the conversation around Sony’s pricing model for its first party exclusives hasn’t really abated. The likes of Demon’s Souls, Returnal, and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart all received near-universal praise, but their $70 price tag has been a point of contention for many people. Meanwhile, expanded re-releases like the recently released Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut and the Death Stranding Director’s Cut don’t offer free next-gen upgrades for those who already have those games on the PS4, which, too, has proven to be quite controversial.
More than anything else, it’s become clear that Sony intends to fully embrace a costlier pricing model for its premium PS5 releases, where PS5 versions of the game will cost more, and free next-gen upgrades just won’t be a thing. Recently it was confirmed that Horizon Forbidden West, which is now set for a February 2022 launch, also will not support free next-gen upgrades for anyone who gets the game on the PS4. To be completely honest, this isn’t really a surprise at this point, because there’s been more than enough evidence over the last year that would suggest that this is the direction Sony is headed in. Even so, for a number of reasons, it’s still a bit disappointing.
It is, of course, disappointing for all the usual reasons, especially as Xbox continues to emphasize and utilize Smart Delivery to great effect. Even when PS5 games do allow for free and seamless next-gen upgrades, in fact, cross-gen save transfers can prove to be a hassle. But that’s a different, and frankly, well-worn topic. The bigger reason Horizon Forbidden West’s pricing in particular stings a little is that contradicts some of Sony’s own past actions and words.
For instance, back before the PS5 launched and Sony made the controversial announcement that Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Horizon Forbidden West would also be releasing for the PS4, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan pretty much flat-out said that those games would also offer a free upgrade path for those who purchase them on the old gen console. He said to The Washington Post: “The PS5 versions of those games are built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set, and we have an upgrade path for PS4 users to get the PS5 versions for free.”
And yes, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure did offer free next-gen upgrades, which is another why Horizon Forbidden West’s pricing seems so cynical, because it represents a shift in strategy for the purposes of getting more money out of players. In fact, not only does the game not offer free next-gen upgrades, its whole pricing strategy seems to be blatantly pushing you to spending more if you do want to have the option of upgrading from PS4 to PS5. The game’s Digital Deluxe Edition (which costs $80) does include both versions of the game- but those who get the standard or Special editions of the game on PS4 won’t even have the option of paying additional money to upgrade to the Digital Deluxe Edition. Which, of course, means that if you want the upgrade option – which a lot of people will, given the fact that the PS5 consistently remains and will remain hard to purchase for the foreseeable future – you’ll have to buy one of the game’s costlier special editions.
So not only does Sony not offer free next-gen upgrades for Horizon Forbidden West – which, as I mentioned earlier, is unsurprising at this point – they also don’t offer the option to pay to upgrade, unless you purchase one of four special editions, the cheapest one of which is already $10 costlier even than the standard PS5 release. Even with the context of Sony’s recent pricing practices this feels like a regression, because at least Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut and Death Stranding Director’s Cut both allow paid upgrades.
It’s not unfair to hold a platform holder like Sony to a higher standard than other publishers where pricing and monetization practices are concerned. It’s why there’s so much backlash against Nintendo for its low-effort full-priced re-releases, or against Microsoft for the monetization in its multiplayer first party games (especially in the earlier years of the Xbox One’s life). Sony has shouldered the responsibility of keeping two major consoles afloat at the same time with a steady stream of content, and clearly, this is something that the company intends to keep up for at least the next year, if not more. Whether or not that’s something they should be doing is a different conversation– but if they are doing it, they should at least do it right.
Sony selling PS5 exclusives for $70 is still somewhat palatable, seeing as the likes of Returnal and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart were called out relatively less for their pricing than Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut or Horizon Forbidden West have been. But for a cross-gen release to not offer free next-gen upgrades (and even limiting the options for paid upgrades, as Horizon is doing) isn’t exactly easy to overlook, no matter what publisher does it. Because really, the DualSense implementation and technical improvements just aren’t worth an additional $10 (or $20, in Forbidden West’s case). And of course, what’s worse is that there’s a very good chance other upcoming cross-gen PlayStation games like God of War: Ragnarok (or whatever that ends up being called) and Gran Turismo 7 will follow in Horizon’s footsteps as well.
This is not, of course, an indictment of Horizon Forbidden West itself by any means. For all we know, it’ll be excellent. In fact, based on what we’ve seen of it so far, it almost certainly will be. But that’s not really the point, is it? Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut was excellent too, and it deserved to be called out for its price just as much as Horizon does. Obviously, it is the consistent quality of Sony’s output that has put them in their position- it’s just disappointing that they’re using that position to squeeze out an extra buck every chance they get.
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.