With the massive success of the PS4 to build on and lots of opportunities to grow, Sony might just deliver their best library yet with the PS5.
It’s usually only at the tail end of a console generation where you can really get a solid feel for how that console’s library turned out. Usually, the goal of every console’s library is to have something for everyone. From driving games for racing fans, first person shooters, RPGs, fighting games, and everything in between. All the major genres, as well as as many shades of them as possible, should ideally be represented as much as possible. In fact, failing to have a vibrant, diverse library can often be the lead contributing factor leading to a console’s life-span being cut short. Just look at the Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and other platforms that failed to really get any traction. Odds are, problems with their libraries at least in-part lead to their untimely demise.
On the flip side of that, you have the PlayStation ecosystem, which has, for the most part, successfully delivered exemplary titles and great libraries for all of their systems. Even their weakest example of this, the PlayStation Vita, isn’t too bad in this regard. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see that the PlayStation 4 also did a great job with keeping as many types of gamers as possible happy all at once. It was not by totally copying the approach to the PS3 though.
The PS4 definitely shook things up a bit for its library from what was offered on the PS3. A more friendly environment for indie developers, more of an emphasis on their top-tier triple-A studios, and special attention being paid to the third-person action adventure genre are all things that make the PS4 stand apart from the PS3 at least in terms of game selection. While it is true that both consoles are flush with pretty much all types of games, there was definitely more of a concentrated push in those specific directions. As such, the upcoming PlayStation 5 seems determined to ride the wave of the success the PS4 had with those ideas, but it also might be shaking things up again with some noticeable changes.
As the PS4 certainly did unearth quite a lot of interest in the action adventure genre, we can certainly expect that trend to continue. While Naughty Dog probably won’t be the ones to make the next Uncharted game, it’s definitely going to be a thing, eventually. In fact, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t already being worked on. At a more macro level, though, there’s no denying the success of the big third person action adventure games on PS4. Horizon, Spider-Man, God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Ratchet & Clank, and The Last of Us Part 2 all had extremely good showings both critically and commercially. Even games that everyone didn’t fall in love with like the The Order: 1886 and Days Gone still did pretty well, generally speaking.
We would be crazy to think that all of these major PS4 hits aren’t candidates to be long-running franchises. In fact, we already know many of them are getting sequels. Knowing that, we can easily assume that the trend of these big-budget, heavily-marketed, high-production value marquee titles will continue. Perhaps at an exponential rate. One blind spot of the PS4 that did seem to emerge about half-way through the generation, was the sheer amount of time in-between these releases. Looking back on all of them now it might seem there were plenty of them, but keep in mind this was over a seven-year period. There were months and months between them many times, and it would make a lot of sense for Sony to look into rectifying that.
There’s a lot of room between flooding the market, and given how PlayStation rolled out their first-party exclusives, and I think Sony will probably take a couple of major steps toward keeping a steadier, meatier stream of these sorts of games in the next generation. As games are taking longer and longer to develop, this will likely be addressed through additional studio acquisitions, like the fairly recent addition of Insomniac to the PlayStation family. The fact that Microsoft will soon be seeing the fruits of their acquisition spree from a couple years ago, also probably adds fuel to the fire under Sony to keep ahead of them in this area. This is a good thing for those of us who stick around on PlayStation for those big exclusive games.
One thing that Sony’s first party studios have shown us over the last decade or so, is that they don’t tend to like doing the exact same thing over and over to no end. Guerrilla moved on from the gritty shooters of Killzone to the ridiculously colorful world of Horizon, Naughty Dog moved on from mascot platformers to more grounded action adventures, and Sucker Punch moved on from Sly, to inFamous, to Feudal Japan. These teams are many things, but stagnant is not one of them. In light of that, I think we’re going to see a little more experimentation from these studios on the PS5 than we saw on the PS4. While the third-person action adventure games are certainly going to remain a big part of PlayStations variety, I think we are likely to see more variety here this time around.
Will Naughty Dog make a first person RPG? Will Guerrilla end up making a multiplayer-focused SOCOM game? I can’t say at this point for sure, but we are likely going to see a few rolls of the dice here and there this time around. Another reason I suspect this is because the PlayStation brand is in a much safer place now than it was at the dawn of the PS4. Back in 2013, PlayStation had barely cobbled together a razor thin lead over Microsoft, and they probably knew that Nintendo was going to come out swinging with something revolutionary in a few years. It was time to play it safe. It was time to find out exactly what developers and gamers wanted, and just do their damndest to supply as much of that as possible. With the success of The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed, and the like, it was obvious that large, sprawling action adventure games were what was in at the time, and so plans were put in place to give us over half a decade of them.
But that’s not where we are now. Sony, on top of raking in record profits multiple years in a row, has also cut costs by dropping their laptop division, simplifying their TV department, and other decisions that have put them in a very comfortable position financially. If there’s ever a time to experiment and try out new things, it’s now, when calculated risks are least offensive, and occasional failures are most bearable. It’s somewhat similar to where Sony was at the tail-end of the PS2, which was a nice time as we saw lots of interesting experimental games end up on the PS3 and Vita as a result. There’s also the wild card of Japan Studio, who always seems to just do whatever they want. That’s a studio we should all be very interested to hear from soon. They are completely unpredictable, and this is a perfect era for them to really stretch their legs.
With Guerrilla hiring more seasoned designers from the multiplayer world and PlayStation getting lots of new, interesting multiplayer games like Godfall and Destruction All-Stars on the PS5, it’s also pretty apparent that Sony wants at least a couple big multiplayer hits in their ecosystem. This is something they’ve wanted for a long time, and have come pretty close with Killzone and SOCOM games, but never quite struck the level of paydirt that Microsoft did with Halo. I think it’s safe to say you’re going to see the biggest push from Sony, perhaps ever, to really get some major traction with a huge multiplayer title or two. So expect them to throw a lot of things at us in the coming years.
Also, with less of a push for indie titles surrounding the PS5 than we saw around the PS4, we might end up getting less of them on Sony’s newest console as well. Sony is likely more concerned with quality than quantity in that particular arena now, as many of the lower-tier indie games on PS4 did basically nothing for the platform other than gum up the store with games that didn’t sell. You’ll still have your Dead Cells, your Shovel Knights but you probably won’t see nearly as many of those 3, 4, and 5-dollar games this time around.
With a greater focus on what worked about the last generation, and the ability to experiment that they currently have, we should definitely be ready for a very diverse library out of the PS5. As I stated, this is something that no PlayStation library is new to, but we may still see the greatest example of it yet on the PlayStation 5. There is plenty of evidence that PlayStation fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming decade.
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