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.

The Next God of War is a Cross-Generation Title

Hermen Hulst Q&A: What’s Next for PlayStation Studios – PlayStation.Blog:

Sony just published a new interview with Hermen Hulst, Head of PlayStation Studios, that has revealed some interesting bits of information, especially before E3. I want to go through the blog post and dig into Hulst’s responses.

PSB: Are you able to give us a snapshot of the total number of titles that PlayStation Studios are currently developing for PS4 or PS5?

Hermen: Well, we have a lot going on right now. PlayStation Studios have more than 25 titles in development. Almost half of these are new IP. The other half, they’re titles that are set in franchises that PlayStation fans already know and love. So, it’s quite a lot.

This number of games in development actually broke earlier in May. I have a draft here in MarsEdit of me trying to crack the numbers on these 25 games. So I’m just going to through that here!

  • Naughty Dog likely has three projects in some form of production
  • Insomniac has three – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Spider-Man 2, and the rumored Sunset Overdrive port or sequel
  • San Diego with MLB the Show
  • Bend with their new project (more below)
  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Haven with Jade Raymond
  • Firewalk Multiplayer project
  • Japan Studio/Asobi Astro new game
  • Sucker Punch with a Ghost of Tsushima sequel
  • Polyphony Gran Turismo 7
  • Media Molecule Dreams PS5 port
  • London Studio probably with a PSVR 2 title
  • Pixelopus Concrete Genie folks
  • God of War (2018) sequel and possibly that space game?
  • BluePoint’s next project?

By my estimation, I came up with 20 of the 25  games, but less than half a straight-up new IP. Speaking of new IP…

And you know, Bend Studio is working on a very exciting new IP that they’re very, very passionate about. They’re building on the deep open-world systems that they developed with Days Gone. So I’m really happy for Bend Studio.

Interesting to specifically call out Bend, especially after the reports they were sucked into Naughty Dog support for a brief period of time, which led to leadership departing the studio. Eager to see what is next for that team.

So we have, currently, two very big, very narrative-driven games in development: Horizon Forbidden West and the next God of War. And for both of those, they’re frankly affected by access to performance capture and talent. For Horizon, we think we are on track to release this holiday season. But that isn’t quite certain yet, and we’re working as hard as we can to confirm that to you as soon as we can. 

Sony seems to be keeping Horizon’s date very close to the chest. This helps explain why there was no mention of even a release window during the State of Play last week.

And for God of War, the project started a little later. So we’ve made the decision to push that game out to next year, to ensure that Santa Monica Studio can deliver the amazing God of War game that we all want to play.

This is not surprising at all. The real surprising God of War news comes next.

Where it makes sense to develop a title for both PS4 and PS5 — for Horizon Forbidden West, the next God of War, GT7 — we’ll continue looking at that. And if PS4 owners want to play that game, then they can. If they want to go on and play the PS5 version, that game will be there for them.

The cross-generational bottleneck seems to be going on for a lot longer than I had hoped. It is a shame that God of Warand Gran Turismo 7 are cross-generational, especially when they will be released nearly two years post-PS5 launch. This fundamentally limits development potential. By 2022, the PS4 will be nine years old! How can anyone hope for solid PS4 performance and next-generation pushing features when you have to bridge a base-PS4 and the PS5? It can be done, and God of War will likely run fine on PS4 and great on PS5. The real detriment is the restriction it puts on potential. If the floor for development was just the PS5, the sky is the proverbial limit. With the PS4 in play, that ceiling is much, much lower.

This interviews seems to be a mix of good news and disappointing news that PlayStation wanted out in front of E3. We won’t be seeing Bend’s new game in a couple weeks. God of War may appear, but won’t have a 2021 date and is cross-gen. It is extremely exciting to hear about 25 new games, with half being new IP. Hopefully E3 can be a brighter spot, now that some of the more disappointing news is out of the way.

Returnal’s 3D Audio is a Mechanic, Not a Feature

The King of Custom – PS5 Specs Revealed by Me March 2020

My two cents on the custom audio tech inside the PS5 when it was announced just over a year ago at GDC by Mark Cerny.

I thought the most custom element was the 3D audio tech that Mark detailed. Sony wanted to offer great audio for all players, not just those with fancy sound systems or headphones. So they went ahead and built custom hardware to help create 3D audio from any set of speakers (eventually). Headphones are the gold standard due to one speaker per ear, but Mark even talked about generating 3D audio from TV speakers. With it included in every single PS5, that gives all players and all devs the opportunity to experience/use 3D audio. It reminds me of the leap from standard definition to HD, but for our ears. Pardon the pun, but it sounds bonkers.

I’ve spent an hour or so playing Returnal with some headphones on.

Holy. Smokes.

Besides just sounding incredible, I was surprised at how intuitive and essential it was. I heard wild alien creatures whipping around me in the level. I instinctively turned toward the sound and stopped immediately on the enemy.

This was more than standard surround sound pointing me in a direction. I locked-in on the enemy with my ears before I did with my eyes or gun. In a fight-or-flight scenario, my ears did their survival job.

Then I got thinking about PSVR2 again…

When you combine these [haptic feedback and adaptive trigger] elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place.

PlayStation’s pursuit of immersion this generation is off to a stellar start and promises to be a transformative addition to gameplay. I can’t wait to feel, hear, and see more.

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring – Eurogamer

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring by Martin Robinson for Eurogamer

This isn’t the Housemarque you might know from Resogun or Nex Machina yet it’s also exactly like those boutique classics, mixing demoscene flex with arcade precision but on a much grander scale. There’s an intensity to the action, a readability to enemies and attack patterns, an immediacy that all harks back to the hard-edged classics of the arcade, but the spectacle is something else; Robotron with raytracing, the resulting action worthy of an Amiga classic that plays out like Ridley Scott in crisp 70mm on the big screen.

I suddenly cannot wait for Returnal. Logan Moore’s incessant hype and this preview sent me from “not a care in the world” to “is it April 30 yet?

Like Death Stranding this is an indie that’s epic in scope, and likewise it’s not a game that comes up short when it comes to spectacle. Is it triple-A or isn’t it? I’m not sure if there’s a scientific way to determine that one way or another, but I can tell you that Returnal’s credits run just as long as any Hollywood movie (just under 18 minutes, if you must know – I felt compelled to find out myself, anyway) and you can probably tell for yourself that it looks frankly outrageous.

I love this perspective on Death Stranding. Kojima’s odd and marvelous package delivery game ended up being one of my favorite games I played last year. Big budgets and wildly creative people being able to make bolder titles is great to see. This is how Sony has and continues to set itself apart in the market.

Sony Reverses Decision to Shut Down PS3 and Vita Stores

PlayStation Store on PS3 and PS Vita Will Continue Operations by Jim Ryan for the PlayStation Blog

Recently, we notified players that PlayStation Store for PS3 and PS Vita devices was planned to end this summer. 

Upon further reflection, however, it’s clear that we made the wrong decision here. So today I’m happy to say that we will be keeping the PlayStation Store operational for PS3 and PS Vita devices. PSP commerce functionality will retire on July 2, 2021 as planned.

We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations.

I’m glad that we can keep this piece of our history alive for gamers to enjoy, while we continue to create cutting-edge new game worlds for PS4, PS5, and the next generation of VR.

Vita does mean life.