The walled gardens that have existed around video game consoles for so many decades seem like they’re slowly coming down. Microsoft is betting heavily on its excellent Game Pass and potentially excellent xCloud leading the way towards a democratization of how and where we play our games. And not to be outdone, Sony is looking at its own expansive library and branching out in similar directions, albeit in a very different way.
Alongside the news that Days Gone will be coming to PC this spring, GQ relayed in its interview with Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan that the company is planning on bringing “a whole slate” of PlayStation games to PC. While a vocal minority seems upset that this is distilling the power of Sony’s exclusives, I see this as an absolute win for everybody, no matter whether you’re a die-hard PlayStation fan or a PC gamer who might not have owned a PlayStation 4.
Last year we saw Horizon Zero Dawn make its way to PC, selling over 700k digital copies in its first month of release. That number is close to what The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt sold in that same time period back in 2015, which is mighty impressive. So clearly, there’s a large market of folks who are interested in Sony’s impressive slate of first-party games but who might not have a PlayStation 4 — and certainly not a PlayStation 5.
The life of a game has peaks and valleys after launch. There’s the initial rush of hype, subsequent price drops, Game of the Year or Definitive Editions that bundle in all of the post-release DLC, and occasional trips on PS Now and PlayStation+. That’s the exact journey that Horizon Zero Dawn went on for several years following its release in February of 2017. And once that well had understandably run a bit dry, it made perfect sense for Sony to try positioning it to a brand new audience on PC.
With Horizon now having a sizable fanbase on PC, I’m curious what Sony will do going forward with the upcoming Forbidden West, which is still slated to release later in 2021, although the pandemic’s continuing impact on game development could easily shift that. We know that the current plan for the sequel is to be cross-generational on PS4 and PS5, much like how Spider-Man: Miles Morales was a few months back. But could Forbidden West also be cross-platform on PC on day one, or is this something that the new audience will have to wait another three years for?
Prior to Horizon, we saw a handful of third-party games that had previously been exclusive to PlayStation consoles eventually hit PC, such as Death Stranding and Detroit: Become Human. And though not coming to PC, we know that MLB The Show 21 will be the first game in the series also releasing on Xbox platforms on the same day as PlayStation. So clearly Sony is becoming increasingly comfortable with some of its games leaving the PlayStation ecosystem. Which, again, is an absolute win-win situation for everybody.
Long-time fans get to have the series they love strengthened by increased sales and interest on PC, which will in turn help the developers continue to make games in that series. Horizon’s success on PC surely won some fans over who might now consider buying a PlayStation 5 in order to be able to play the sequel when it comes out. I see a similar thing happening with Days Gone. This would also work wonders with a game like Dreams, which could see its reach as a creative platform grow exponentially on PC.
My big question is that when it comes to this “whole slate” of PlayStation games making their way to PC, just how deep does that go? Will we see Naughty Dog’s Uncharted and The Last of Us franchises ported over? Or how about Spider-Man, God of War, and Ghost of Tsushima, which were some of the defining games of PlayStation 4 and franchises that will undoubtedly continue to thrive on PlayStation 5? Bringing God of War 2018 to PC ahead of the release of Ragnarok or whatever the sequel might be called seems like an absolute no-brainer.
And of course, the white whale that’s existed in rumors and reports for the past half-decade has been a PC port of Bloodborne. And if we can still get Elden Ring leaks in the year 2021, hopefully the door is still open for the possibility of folks being able to trek through Yarnham at 60 FPS, outside of Lance McDonald’s incredible mod work.
Now, there’s always going to be a backlash from a small number of obsessed fans who look at these games reaching a larger audience and take it like a personal loss. That’s the double-edged sword of brand loyalty — Sony has built up an audience who will stick with its consoles from generation to generation, but some of that same audience feels like the garden wall should only grow higher. The fact of the matter is — if you’re a fan of PlayStation and the games that Sony’s first-party studios have made over the past few decades, giving more folks a chance to play them is an indisputably good thing.
As I mentioned at the top, Microsoft is leaning heavily on expanding the ways that we are able to experience its games. Cuphead and the Ori games have made their way to other platforms, while anything having to do with Minecraft is pretty much playable anywhere under the sun. And with Game Pass and xCloud, the plan seems to be to be able to play a sizable chunk of the Xbox library without the need to even own an Xbox. While PlayStation isn’t quite at this level yet, seeing steps made towards bringing some of its big games to PC is a wonderful start. The question is whether those big games will eventually become its biggest games.