Sony Moving to Emphasize Blockbusters, Leaving Experimentation Behind

Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier has published a fascinating new report on the inner workings of Sony’s internal studio strategy and it really is something:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-09/sony-s-obsession-with-blockbusters-is-stirring-unrest-within-playstation-empire

I highly recommend reading the article (use private browsing to get around the article limit if you need to), because it paints a damning picture of where Sony is going this gen for their exclusives. The overall picture is that Sony, emboldened by the high budget AAA games that were so successful on PS4, is focusing exclusively on these sorts of games while pushing out smaller teams who are more willing to experiment. The recent closure of Japan Studio is part of this new strategy it seems.

It does get me thinking about how internet discourse has shaped this strategy. I’m sure you’ve all seen the consensus in many corners of the gaming internet that Sony makes the Masterpieces while Xbox has No Games. This always bristled against how I viewed the last generation, where Microsoft was making big bets on unproven games (Titanfall, Scalebound, Ori, Bleeding Edge, etc) with mixed yet interesting results, while Sony moved towards high gloss marquee titles that had eye candy and polished systems, but little in them felt novel. Contrast that against Sony’s PS3 output, where weird games like The Unfinished Swan, Tokyo Jungle, and Puppeteer came out regularly, and it’s clear that this new strategy is a far cry from the Sony of less profitable days.

Of course, in the broader context the loss of Weird Sony is mitigated by an increasingly more diverse and successful indie to double-A space. Sure, Sony isn’t investing in Until Dawn anymore, but at least we’re getting The Dark Pictures games. And maybe Japan Studio going down frees up the devs to go independent and make that Tokyo Jungle follow-up we all want. (To be clear, I don’t want to make light of people losing their jobs, and here’s hoping they land on their feet regardless of what gaming possibilities exist.)

But what do y’all think? Does this move the needle at all for wanting or not wanting a PS5? Or are you looking at other platforms altogether given how the ground seems to be shifting this gen? And feel free to commiserate on the loss of some of Sony’s less well-known output!

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It does move the needle of me not wanting a PS5. The only Sony blockbuster I played on PS4 was Uncharted 4, I think, and I didn’t even buy it myself. I’m sure all of those games are good to varying degrees but they don’t really look like games I want to play. And if they are to continue making only games like that, Playstation will probably have fewer exciting exclusives from my perspective.

But you will still need some machine to play the next FromSoft or whatever so what choice do we have.

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I do believe Elden Ring is coming out on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, so there are choices. Although if you’re talking about the Demon’s Souls remake, then yeah, you’re stuck.

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It does give me a bit of consumer regret. The main reasons I chose a PS5 to grab this console season was a) to play the PS4 games I missed, and b) to get access to the more experimental end of Sony’s catalog.

It looks like b is a no show this generation, and that sucks. But I have a decent PC so I suspect the only things I’ll really miss out on are Halo games (I can’t think of any other Xbox games that didn’t hit PC), and I’m okay with that.

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The reason I got a PS4 in, like, 2014, was so I could play No Man’s Sky and The Last Guardian. Neither of those worked out quite how I wanted, but both were somewhere between “weird experiment” and “blockbuster” (although I think in NMS’s case that was the marketing more than anything else).

Looking at my backlog now, I have played through basically none of the big boy Sony dad games. Just 2007’s Uncharted 1. But I’ve played a lot of smaller stuff - Gravity Rush, Journey, Grow Home, Abzu, Gang Beasts. Not all playstation exclusive, obviously, but I got more out of those than any big games.

I have also used my Nintendo Switch and retro consoles A LOT more than the PS4 for solo stuff. Over its lifespan, the PS4 turned into a ~game night~ machine for Gang Beasts as mentioned as well as Tricky Towers, Duck Game, Crawl, Rocket League. That’s where I got the most out of it in high school and college and those times absolutely rocked. But a lot of that fun is also possible on Switch or PC!

I’m definitely sad that Sony is moving in this direction because their weird stuff is all I was interested in. I haven’t bought a console yet, but I tried to grab an Xbox Series S a few times near release. My job situation has since changed, so I have to hold off for now, but I think the talent MS is assembling is more likely to produce stuff I’m interested. Conflicted seeing a lot of multiplatform studios get eaten up by them, though.

I expect a lot of this board to feel similarly. Dad Games do not seem to be the wave around these parts.

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Good news on Halo: Infinite is confirmed for PC and already has a store page on Steam.

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Just a heads up that the Master Chief Collection is on PC and is an incredible port. The only Halo game missing on PC is Halo 5 (although Halo 5 Forge is there). So you’re missing less than you think.

Yep! Just played through it this last month on PC Game Pass. Halo is still a good time, and has elements of my favourite Sci-Fi BS elements. But 5 is reportedly “impossible” to PC-ify, and Infinite sounds like it’s having similar technical drama, so I’ve been assuming that 343 games going forward are true Xbox exclusives.

@GibdoInferno : looks like I’ve been wrong about that. There sure doesn’t seem to be much reason to get a Series for people with gaming PC’s.

I’m pretty upset by the stuff in Schreier’s article, but I think the ‘leaving experimentation behind’ editorializing in the post headline here is a bit sensationalist. Returnal comes out this month and that looks like a very weird game. And you call out Until Dawn specifically, but we know that Supermassive has at least one game in development for Sony atm.

None of this to excuse the poor decisions Sony is making. I’m hoping that all this justified negative press helps push a response of some kind from.

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This all definitely tamps down on my desires to get a PS5 RIGHT NOW. I don’t love the direction of leaning more and more into big, AAA, 3rd person narrative action games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy them from time to time, but they also aren’t really system sellers for me, personally, even if they are for others. The combination of closing down most of Japan Studio, trying to force Bend to make a new Uncharted, and then allowing a support studio to lead a project to remake a game that does not need a remake, and then essentially take it away from them and continue to force them to play a support role rather than lead their own project…it’s just a lot of signs that they’re just going to focus on a few franchises with their internal studios, and then do publishing agreements for the rest of their exclusives (like Returnal). And…well, MS tried that strategy to start the Xbox One generation and it didn’t work great.

Now, maybe it’ll work fine for Sony, because as evidenced by the current console shortage, they don’t need to do anything else to get folks to buy their console - they have more than enough mainstream brand loyalty and mindshare built up that they can coast and probably not suffer much commercially. But I do wonder if MS ends up filling in some of those openings for more experimental, niche games with Game Pass deals.

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I feel bad for that team that their project ended in disappointment and they scattered, but a Last of Us remake is such a silly idea. They shouldn’t have picked that game (how about bringing the Uncharted Vita game forward?) and Sony fucked up by letting them start and then double fucked up by sweeping the rug out from under them.

It’s such an annoying use of resources. It’s already playable on the PS5 as a remaster. So silly.

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Has there been any update on the Supermassive-Sony collab? I’ll admit this is the first I’ve heard a about it and Google only has links from 2018. Not saying it isn’t happening, and as a PS5 owner I’d be thrilled, but color me skeptical on this.

And you make a good point about Returnal. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in the future.

I could make a really strained argument for reallocating resources away from Japan Studio and toward more Western studios, but the idea that they’re going to make everything Uncharted is just a breathtakingly stupid business plan. I’m not saying that they should have Naughty Dog make a F2P mobile game now or something, but games are getting mad expensive to make. A good portfolio has games of all shapes and sizes in it, which is something that Microsoft (finally) understands. Instead of pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into three projects that are inevitably going to be delayed 6+ months, why not split things up? Let Naughty Dog make some smaller Lost Legacy-sized experiences and give the money faucet to Team Asobi or something. If everything is big, nothing is big.

(I actually think that having Insomniac’s Spider-Man team on a rotation of new Miles Morales-sized on that same tech every twoish years or so would be a terrific idea but that’s a different post)

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I am very much on Team “Please make smaller games that can be completed in under 30 hours!”, so I would love for them to make more open-world games (Spider-Man or otherwise) that focused on cutting the bloat instead of artificially inflating the hour count.

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We haven’t and it certainly could’ve been canned, but Supermassive has got to be working on something other than Dark Pictures. Until we hear otherwise, I’d assume they’re still actively working with Sony.

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Capitalism breeds innovation, and Sony is innovating in the direction of selling a ps3 game for $70

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Also I don’t know if the timeline exactly works, but fingers crossed for “Pedro Pascal’s The Last of Us: based on the HBO series based on the game REMAKE”

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If it gets us a poorly digitized Pascal inserted into it like Street Fighter: The Movie then I am all for this new direction.

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I don’t want to see Pedro Pascal anywhere near an arena after the last time

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I’m convinced Jim Ryan just wants to turn PlayStation into an E3 press conference. Big budget western games for western investors and mainstream western consumers. They’ll continue to open the wallet for Square because they’re the one Japanese developer that has pull with those audiences.

Like this all has big “why the fuck do they keep giving Days Gone and Detroit so much time at E3” vibes.

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