A reader is worried that Sony’s plan to focus on live service games will be a costly mistake and mean less narrative based games for PS5.
So, it’s been a hell of year for games so far, eh? Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard and Sony bought Bungie, while promising they had lots more to buy after that. It’s pretty obvious that by the end of this generation every company of any reasonable size is going to be bought up by Microsoft, Sony, or somebody else.
I hate the thought of that but, unlike lootboxes and NFTs and all the other horrible anti-consumer things that publishers do, there’s nothing an ordinary fan can do about it, unless you want to boycott everyone except indie developers.
As a PlayStation 5 owner, it seems obvious to me that it’s Sony that is on the backfoot, since Microsoft can spend this sort of money without even noticing it’s gone and yet it’s a big deal for Sony – and they didn’t even get exclusivity out of buying Bungie. What worries me more though is why they bought Bungie, and their upcoming focus on live service games instead of single-player.
According to recent reports, Sony wants 10 new live service games by 2026, which is two a year. It’s not exactly clear who’s making them but the implication is that they’re exclusives and/or made by first party studios they already own. Which inevitably means they’re going to be taking time away from making the kind of single-player, story-led game that made the PlayStation 4 such a success.
The only one you can guess at so far is The Last Of Us Part 2 multiplayer game, the thing that should’ve just been part of the main game but which they’ve spun off to sell separately. This at a time when Naughty Dog still doesn’t seem to have a chosen a new main project and is also wasting its time with a completely unnecessary remake of the first game.
Santa Monica Studio has also said they’re ending the Norse story for God Of War in the next game, which means they’ll be free to make a live service game next as well. I expect all the main Sony studios to follow a similar path, where they’re told to make a game of that sort next instead of what they’d normally do.
I have two problems with this, the first being the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. All these studios have made PlayStation a success by making single-player games and have little to no experience with multiplayer. No one wants the same game again and again, but they don’t have to make sequels – they can be something brand new and not just chasing the money made by Fortnite and Apex Legends.
Which brings me to the second and most important concern: new live service games have an incredibly low success rate. You’ve got Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call Of Duty: Warzone – although even that last one seems to be in constant trouble with all the bugs and cheaters.
Creating a new game to compete against these is incredibly hard. Ubisoft has tried a bunch of time already, they’ve even said they want it to be their new focus, despite them never having any success with it at all. EA has failed too, with things Knockout City, and it worries me that this is exactly the trap that Sony is going to fall into.
If you know what you’re doing with a single-player game like God Of War or Horizon Zero Dawn you can pretty much guarantee a certain level of quality and sales success, we saw that even with lesser games like Days Gone. But a live service game is just potluck as to whether it catches on. Everyone wants to be the next Rocket League but how often does a game like that come along?
The only way close to guaranteeing a hit is by bribing influencers to play it and spending a fortune on marketing, which is what EA did with Apex Legends. Do that 10 times though and Sony are going to be bleeding money, money that could’ve been put towards normal games instead.
If Sony wants to buy a bunch of new studios to work on these sort of games then I guess that would be okay, but again that’s an awful lot of money to spend on something that has no guarantees at all. Just look at Respawn with Apex Legends. After Titanfall 1 and 2 being a flop they would’ve been on the chopping block if Apex Legends didn’t work out and I don’t want to see that happen to any Sony studio.
I’m worried that Sony thinks they’ve got the single-player games on lock now and it’s time to focus on something else, but if they give up on the thing that’s been most successful for them then they’re dooming themselves to a very uncertain future.
By reader Combi
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