The PlayStation Showcase Was Disappointing – But Fans Need To Make Their Peace With Longer Development Cycles

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Posted By | On 28th, May. 2023

The PlayStation Showcase Was Disappointing – But Fans Need To Make Their Peace With Longer Development Cycles

Sony’s latest PlayStation Showcase was disappointing.

At this point, it’s hardly a controversial statement. Hyped for months by speculation fuelled by “insiders”, as well as the fact that this was the first PS Showcase in almost two years (and also the longest one in almost a half decade), plus the fact that Sony currently had no announced upcoming first party games in the pipeline except for Spider-Man 2and the fact that these showcases have a history of never disappointing and always coming through with the hype… yeah, it’s easy to see why people were disappointed. Because here’s the thing, while the showcase itself was actually not too bad, it was a disappointment under the specific frame of context that people approached it with: which was, the announcement of new projects from Sony, new first party games from their studios, a look at what PlayStation fans can expect for their console in the coming months and years. And they really didn’t get that.

The show had a great smattering of interesting and unique looking indie games (most or all of them also coming to at least one, but usually all, of PC, Xbox, and Switch); a bunch of great multiplatform games such as Alan Wake II (all of which are also coming to PC and Xbox); not one but two new first party IPs announced by Sony, which sounds great until you realize that both seemed to be PvP shooter live service games (the exact opposite of the audience Sony has cultivated with these shows), from brand new developers, shown only with CG announcement trailers (meaning that, with no familiarity with IP, studio, or gameplay, there is very literally nothing to be hyped about); a new Marathon game by Bungie, which is coming not just to PS5, and not just to PC, but also to Xbox; another look at Final Fantasy 16 (a game that at this point runs a Deathloop and Metroid Dread style risk of getting overexposed); the announcement of the long awaited MGS3 remake (except we saw no gameplay footage, barely saw any footage, and also, this remake is also coming to everything else as well); and an extended look at Spider-Man 2, which looks awesome.

metal gear solid delta snake eater

The problem, of course, is not that these third party games are multiplatform – that’s a great thing, and the sooner holdouts like Square Enix get the memo, the better – but that Sony themselves brought almost nothing to supplement them. The new games they brought are not only all new IPs by new developers with not a second of footage shown (except Marathon), but they are also none of them exclusive to PS5 and also coming to PC (except, again, Marathon, which is coming to Xbox alongside PC and PS5 as well). For people who wanted the epic new games Sony has become synonymous with – well, where were those games?

It was not an unreasonable question. Between Polyphony Digital, Team Asobi, Guerrilla Games, Media Molecule, Sony Santa Monica, Sony Bend, Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, Insomniac Games, Bluepoint Games, and Housemarque, Sony has a bunch of great studios with award winning pedigree for people to expect new games from. This is not even counting any partnerships with independent studios they may have (such as Kojima Productions), the new studios they helped set up and/or acquire (which all went towards their GAAS push), or potential third party collaborations, such as the ones they had with FromSoftware, which netted us the amazing Bloodborne, and also Demon’s Souls, which unwittingly changed the landscape of the modern gaming industry forever. With so many studios, where exactly were the kinds of games people expect from Sony? Past Sony shows frequently lined up multiple upcoming epic adventures from Sony studios on a literal annual basis (for a few years, more frequently than that). How is it that, with two years since the last show and no major new single player game announced since then, Sony was still able to bring nothing to the table with this show?

Well, let’s try and think about this for a bit and see where it takes us. Sony Santa Monica just released God of War Ragnarok not even a half year ago, and while a second team under Cory Barlog has apparently been working on a new IP all this time (maybe even since the release of God of War 2018), maybe, sure, with work on Ragnarok, they haven’t had the time or resources to be able to put forth anything to show yet. That’s sensible, we can all understand that. Guerrilla Games is in a similar position, where they not only released Horizon: Forbidden West last year, but they also just released its Burning Shores expansion last month, plus whatever assistance they provided for the VR spin-off Call of the Mountain. Obviously they have started work on their next project (presumably the third Horizon game), but if so, it is surely very early, early enough that there is nothing to show right now. That’s sensible too.

Returnal_PC_07

We can make a similar argument for Polyphony Digital too (who also happens to be a notoriously slow developer at the best of times); Housemarque had Returnal out in 2021, and while two years is traditionally enough time in development to be able to show off something, game development now is more complicated than it ever has been before, and also, this two year period includes the pandemic

and the lockdowns that brought to the picture, further complicating matters.

Bluepoint had Demon’s Souls come out in late 2020, meaning it’s been two and a half years since; similar to Housemarque, they probably have not made enough headway to be able to show off what they are working on right now. Team Asobi had Astro’s Playroom out at that exact same time, so not only do the exact same considerations apply, but they are also a pretty small team to begin with, who will probably take longer to get their new game out than other studios might. Media Molecule is a tiny team that launched Dreams in early 2020, and just ended support for it last month. Assuming they started work on their next project some time in the intervening three years (probably after Dreams‘ failure became apparent), you can, again, understand why they have nothing to show (especially with, again, the pandemic being a thing).

Which leaves four studios – Sucker Punch, Naughty Dog, Insomniac, and Sony Bend. Insomniac, of course, is the one Sony studio consistently announcing, showing, and then releasing games this generation (Spider-Man 2 will be their third game for the PS5 since 2020, and a fourth one in Wolverine is already on the way), and they also happened to have provided the one bright spot Sony’s conference had in the eyes of many fans, so they’re exempt from this discussion.

And then there are the other three, which is a bit harder to parse.

ghost of tsushima director's cut

Sucker Punch released Ghost of Tsushima for the PS4 in 2020, three years ago; they also released Director’s Cut, along with a standalone expansion Iki Island, a year later. In the intervening three years, I would ordinarily argue that they should have made enough headway into their new project to be able to bring at least something to the show, but given that Sucker Punch, while a big studio, is a one team developer, and that pandemic happened in this period, I think we can see enough of a case for why they weren’t there. Sony Bend’s Days Gone was in 2019, four years ago, but Bend as a whole saw a lot of turbulent restructuring and personnel shuffling in the wake of that game’s release, and also, it remains a pretty small outfit (it’s still under 100 people). With those two factors, as well as, yet again, the pandemic, we can maybe see why they had nothing to show yet (though this one is probably the flimsiest justification of all the ones so far).

Which brings me to Naughty Dog.

Naughty Dog is my favorite Sony studio. Naughty Dog is actually one of my favorite studios in general. The Last of Us was excellent, and The Last of Us Part 2 is one of the best games ever made. Naughty Dog is also a studio with multiple teams, and we explicitly know they have been working on multiple projects since Part 2 came out, one of them a multiplayer take on the Last of Us universe. Surely they, of all the studios, would have something to show after three years? Anything, even a teaser? At least of their multiplayer game, which initially we had been promised we would get to see more of this year?

Nope, they brought nothing either. And this… also makes sense. Not only did Naughty Dog actually have a release just last year in The Last of Us Part 1 for PS5 (and then the botched PC port this year, which was also handled directly by them), but their multiplayer game is an entirely new style of game for them, which probably takes longer for them to get right than it would had it been something they were more familiar with (also, apparently, as we learned after the showcase, it is facing a fair few development issues along the way, to the point that it is not clear whether or not we actually get see to see it this year after all). There is that last new project (whether it be TLOU3 or a new IP), and assuming that has been worked on since 2020 when TLOU2 came out, you would expect three years to be more than enough to show some of it… but then we have pandemic throwing a wrench in things, plus games themselves taking longer than they ever have before to be developed.

the last of us part 2

There is a reason I did this deep dive, and that is to point out that not only have these last few years been besot by a series of challenges that probably means development on projects is running behind to the extent that lining up multiple exciting announcements like in the past is simply not feasible; but also to point out that game development itself is now taking long enough that the kind of Sony conference we have become accustomed to, where they had a line of multiple exciting new announcements from their first party studios (remember when they announced God of War, Days Gone, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, The Last Guardian, and Detroit: Become Human all at the same show during E3 2016?) is simply not feasible.

These games are on staggered development cycles, and those cycles are now long enough to last the better part of a decade consistently and across the board. This means that, by simple chronological happenstance, it is very unlikely (if not outright impossible) that Sony will ever have enough upcoming projects all ready to show at the same time that they get to have a show like that ever again.

Look, this is part of the bargain – I have been talking about the flip side of the never ending march towards “next generation” tech, better graphics, bigger games, and so on for years, but yes, the simple fact of the matter is that modern games development now takes far too long. In the PS3 era, games could be developed on 2-3 year cycles, meaning you always had something in the chambers ready and waiting from multiple developers. In the PS4 era, the dev cycles moved up to 3-4 years on average, touching 5 years on the upper side, which made it slightly harder to line up announcements like that (and made game releases less frequent), but given the number of studios Sony had, still allowed them enough breathing room to be able to pull out all stops multiple times.

But now? Even without the pandemic, games will probably be taking 5 years or more to develop at a time. If the average development cycle lasts 5-6 years, then not only do game releases become much sparser than before (which we are already beginning to see), but Sony is officially out of runway space necessary to be able to have a cavalcade of hype inducing announcements like they used to. It is a simple reality of the tech being as resource intensive as it is now – it is part of the bargain of demanding “next generation” tech.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2_07

This doesn’t let Sony off the hook completely, of course – they could have, for example, managed expectations better (either by making it clear that there wouldn’t be much first party content at the show, or by simply branding it a State of Play, so that expectations would be more tempered to begin with), and they still could have at least shown Death Stranding 2 (which at this point I am sure will be at Geoff Keighley’s Summer Games Fest); they could have paced the show better, they could have tried to show off gameplay footage for the games they did bring, they could have done any number of things to ensure this show was received better than it was.

But ultimately, it is high time that PlayStation fans stop kidding themselves and make their peace with the simple fact of the matter that, games development takes time. More time than ever before now, and that’s without accounting for circumstances such as the pandemic. This is part of the deal when you ask for cutting edge tech, which you have now received. Make your peace with it, and show more empathy to the creatives working on the games you love, rather than screaming at them for not showing up with trailers for games when you wanted to see them.

That, or be willing to accept a slower advance in technology, with more conservative specs and tech, like Nintendo does. Of course, it did still take them six years to make Tears of the Kingdom

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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