The PS5 Event Was A Spectacular Success and Failure, Both At Once

Sony hurt themselves in their confusion.

Posted By | On 17th, Sep. 2020 Under Article, Editorials


Sony’s latest show for the PS5 was a home run, as far as the event itself goes. It was well produced, exceptionally well paced, showed off a fair few games, and ended up with the announcement of the expected release date (second and third week of November, depending on where in the world you live), and a surprisingly reasonable pricing model ($399 for the Digital Edition, $499 for the standard one). There were a lot of incredible announcements, including Final Fantasy 16, which is at the very least a timed console exclusive, and Hogwarts Legacy, that Harry Potter game that got leaked a while ago. If Sony’s show tonight had been the extent of their communication, I would have been extremely positive on them, and counted this as a win in their favor.

Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t how it went, and Sony, as it turns out, left a lot of things unsaid during the show itself; things that, as we learned more and more of, started to very categorically deflate the hype that Sony had so carefully been orchestrating over the last few months. In the end, we were left with one question unanswered over all else: what, exactly, should anyone spend hundreds of dollars on this new console for?

I have, in the past, criticized Microsoft for making an extremely poor pitch for their next generation console. Sony, as it turns out, made an almost entirely similar pitch. Multiple Sony first party games, including the premier launch game Spider-Man Miles Morales, the jaw dropping sequel to their 2017 hit, Horizon: Forbidden West, and the LittleBigPlanet spin-off Sackboy’s Big Adventure, are all coming to the PS4 as well. The news about Sackboy being cross-gen probably bothered very few people; Miles being cross-gen was a substantially bigger blow, given that it was being positioned as the premier launch game for the console (but still somewhat understandable, given the game’s roots as being a standalone expansion for the PS4 title). Horizon, however, a game that isn’t due out until late next year at the earliest, a game that looked jaw dropping when it was last shown off, a game that many had been led to believe would be a next-gen showcase… is also cross-generation.

ps5

A lot of the disappointment here needs to be contextualized. Sony made it a point to highlight how its strategy specifically emphasized delineated generations, as opposed to Microsoft’s cross generation approach. “We do believe in [console] generations,” Jim Ryan had said. Sony repeatedly talked about how it wants the transition to the PS5 to be the quickest in PlayStation history. Unlike Xbox, where people felt Microsoft would be holding back their own next generation games variously, whether it be because of their avowed support for the Xbox One for the next few years, or the Xbox Series S, it was believed that Sony would deliver full-fledged bespoke next generation exclusives. And they… aren’t?

Now to be entirely fair, Demon’s Souls is still a PS5 exclusive (there was some confusion earlier about it potentially going to PC later, but Sony has since clarified it’s meant to be PS5 exclusive). For games like Ratchet and Clank or Gran Turismo 7, we have not heard anything regarding PS4 releases; while, of course, now it would be foolish to rule those out, given how things unfolded for Horizon or Spider-Man, we can assume that for now, those games are PS5 only.

But this whole debacle points to extremely poor communication and messaging from Sony, in the exact opposite direction from Microsoft (who initially promised all their games would be cross-gen, only for most of them to not be that). It also almost feels like an attempt to mislead people – while Sony never actually said their games won’t come to PS4 in as many words, they implied it beyond doubt, presumably to drum up next generation hype. None of this information about release platforms was shared during the show itself; it took a blog post on the Japanese PlayStation Blog to confirm this information for us.

Final Fantasy 16

 

The poor communication didn’t end here. Sony did not announce when pre-orders will begin for the PS5 during their show; as a matter of fact, independent games personality Geoff Keighley initially tweeted they would be opening the following day, before Sony themselves confirmed this in a tweet. All of this information would have been extremely useful during the show – but we never got it then (what’s more, it seems like Sony was still wrong anyway, because as it turns out, many stores in Australia, the US, and Canada – at last count – were allowing pre-orders right after the show ended).

The actual launch lineup was not revealed during the show, it was, yup, revealed in a blog post afterwards. We legitimately got a trailer for Demon’s Souls, which is a launch game, without a date during the show. Somehow, having a little segment finalizing the launch games, at least the first party launch games, was not a part of the show finalizing the launch details. “99% of all PS4 games” will be playable on PS5, according to Jim Ryan – again, not in the show itself, but in an interview published more than three hours after the event ended.

Hogwarts Legacy

Every single first party Sony game will be $70 next generation. This is a price raise that was also not communicated during the show. If this had been the only thing Sony had left for after the show, I wouldn’t even have minded, but with the host of other things they left unsaid, it just became a mess, a tangle of trying to figure out exactly what is, and isn’t, true. There was even more confusion in the mix, because initially, Sony had put out a trailer for Demon’s Souls that said it was a console exclusive, and would be coming to PC, and it took them over an hour and a half after the show ended to correct the record on that.

What suddenly happened to Sony’s communication and messaging, which has otherwise been fairly strong with regards to the PS5? Some of the confusion I can understand, there are a lot of moving parts, and when everyone is working from home in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, some confusion is warranted. But when Sony can’t, or won’t, even communicate basic questions such as – what games will the console launch with? Are they coming to just the PS5? How much will these games cost? When can I buy the console? – you have to assume something has gone terribly, fundamentally wrong somewhere. 

Again, some of it I get. I would have been very surprised if it had all been smooth, when even in the best circumstances, console launches are a mess. But this went above and beyond whatever misfires you might have expected as far as clear and strong communication goes.

ps5 dualsense

So here we are at the end of a show that by all accounts should have been a triumph. Instead, I now find myself wondering – how exactly does Sony plan on making this the quickest transition to a next generation console? They are selling an expensive new machine, with its biggest hitters available on an existing, cheaper one; the games for the new machine themselves are more expensive than current ones (so you can actually get Horizon 2 for cheaper on PS4 than PS5); even the most exciting third party games, such as Hogwarts Legacy, are cross generation (Resident Evil 8, at least, is going to be next-gen only).

Sony reportedly plans on shipping 10 million PS5 units by next March, an unprecedented volume of sales in that short a period. For comparison, the current record holder for getting to 10 million fastest is the Switch, which took slightly over seven months to do so, in a much better economy to boot, and while being a fair bit cheaper; Sony plans to do it with the PS5 in four and a half months. How? I have no doubt the PS5 will sell, and sell a lot, I anticipate sell outs for weeks after launch in fact. But 10 million is a huge number, and Sony is selling an expensive machine in a pandemic with expensive games, the most appealing of which are also available on the much cheaper PS4 which you probably already own, for cheaper. I don’t see it happening. I might be wrong, but unless Jim Ryan has the mother of all aces up his sleeve, I don’t see that happening.

Maybe I would have been more convinced if Sony had actually communicated their plans well, rather than whatever confusing mess we find ourselves in right now.

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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