Cross-Generation Games are like Movies at the Theater

It’s vital Sony maintains its PlayStation 4 support | Opinion by Christopher Dring for GamesIndustry.biz

In reality, people will want the best version of these games. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is more popular on PS5 than PS4, and that will be true of Horizon: Frozen West, Gran Turismo 7 and God of War. It’s the difference between watching the new Marvel movie at the cinema compared to getting it on Disney Plus. The hardcore fans will want the big screen experience. But as the film industry also discovered during the pandemic, there’s a huge opportunity in the TV space.

I like this analogy. Movies have totally shifted in the last year, bringing the direct-to-digital future to living rooms sooner than big theater chains ever wanted. I certainly rented my fair share in the last year. Heck, Warner Bros. bringing their movies to HBO Max on day one made me keep my subscription.

And Dring is right about people wanting the best versions. Movie theaters are opening back up. People will buy the PS5 version of Spider-Man or God of War, if they can. They may even opt to wait until they get a PS5 to buy those games (or, as I’m sure Sony hopes, double dip).

I’ve always agreed that cross-generation support makes sense, as a business, especially with an install base of 120+ million PS4 consoles.

In the bloody confusing aftermath of the PlayStation 5 stream, Sony confirmed that Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Horizon Forbidden West are also launching on PS4. After believing in generations it seems that Sony also believes in its PS4 install base.

It’s no secret that I have voiced concerns about Xbox’s own public promise to support cross generational support for its Xbox consoles. The wider the range of supported hardware, the more work it is for the developers and the more it can limit the upward potential of the game. Now Sony has promised three major first party titles are cross generational.

This is great (just like it is for Xbox) for those consumers that don’y want to or can’t upgrade to the next gen consoles. You aren’t left behind. Nintendo has done this before with popular Zelda titles. It is definitely a win for consumers.

I guess they should have just confirmed Gran Turismo 7 and God of War were cross-gen too.

My stance is firmly rooted in limited development potential. With such technological strides in next-gen with the SSDs, native 4K, and so on, developing games for nearly decade old hardware has to cut off forward progress and new, previously impossible ideas.

Colin Moriarty pointed out yesterday that the only first-party PS5 exclusive we know about is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and that is out in one week. Hopefully, E3 2021 changes that soon, but man that is weird for Sony to have all these games close to the chest after the open-book that was the PS4 catalog.

I’m starting to get a little whiplash from Sony talking out of both sides of their mouth. They need to communicate a clear message. If that message is “We are supporting PS4 and PS5,” then they ought to embrace it, clearly share which games will do that, and incentivize the upgrade to PS5 beyond being new and shiny. Eventually, first-party development will leave PS4 behind and wholly focus on PS5. Sony needs to be better about communicating when that change will happen.