Both Sony and Microsoft have started to embrace PC gaming over the past couple years to varying degrees. While Microsoft has gone gung-ho and began putting all of their original titles on PC day and date with the Xbox releases, Sony has been slowly dipping its toes in. The latest evidence of PlayStation exclusives coming to PC is an Amazon France listing that suggests Horizon Zero Dawn is releasing for computers. As always, fans have been divided on the subject, as console owners feel as if they’re losing a reason why they bought a PlayStation 4 in the first place, while PC fans are thrilled that they will likely get to experience Guerrilla Games’ critically acclaimed title. However, there are far more positives from this scenario than negatives, and Sony can strike a balance that will please most gamers.
Sony has embraced PC gaming at a much slower pace than its main competitor. Their first major move was putting PlayStation Now on PCs in 2016, which allowed players to stream many of their most beloved titles on their computer. While it wasn’t possible to play these titles natively, it was still a big step forward for the company that had never shown much interest in capturing the PC market.
Sony Interactive Entertainment took another big step late last year when it published ReadySet Heroes on PC. Sure, it wasn’t one of Sony’s marquee titles, but it showed that they weren’t completely against publishing on computers and was a stakes-free way of testing the market. Sony reportedly bringing Horizon Zero Dawn to PCs is obviously their biggest move yet in this market.
A lot of the backlash to the move comes from the precedent that Xbox has set by releasing its top titles on both ecosystems. That’s obviously a great move for consumers as it gives them plenty of choice as to how they choose to experience titles, but showing that your console isn’t necessary to have isn’t the best way to sell a game console. However, it’s clear that Microsoft and Sony have different goals at the moment. The Xbox brand is trying to expand past being just a console maker and create a unified ecosystem across PC and systems. Sony isn’t trying to do that, so it makes sense that they’ll go about bringing their games to PC differently.
If Horizon Zero Dawn coming to PC is the path that their titles begin to follow, we can expect to see a select number of exclusives come to computers in the future. Sony won’t likely bring their top system sellers, such as Marvel’s Spider-Man or Uncharted, to PC, but it will give them a chance to introduce younger franchises like Horizon Zero Dawn to a larger audience. Very few people were buying a PlayStation console just to experience Aloy’s adventure, but plenty of PC players will jump at the opportunity to play the best version of a game they’ve heard a lot about.
While this might be an underwhelming approach for PC players hoping for parity across console and PCs, this isn’t a bad idea. By releasing a select number of titles years after being on a Sony console, the company manages to retain the value of its first-party titles as a reason to buy its systems while giving the games a longer tail. It’s a great way to generate more revenue on a game, which they can then use to develop even more exclusives for their fans — and potentially convince PC players to buy a PlayStation 5 down the line if they want to play a Horizon Zero Dawn sequel.
If the balancing act is done correctly, then Sony won’t have to worry about alienating fans to the point that they no longer feel it’s a good investment to buy a PlayStation console. That comes at a cost of leaving their biggest games as console exclusives, at least until the generation has passed. Nobody except the most hardcore of Sony fans will really mind if 2018’s God of War releases on PC in the middle of the PlayStation 5’s lifespan in order to hype up its inevitable sequel, but it’d be a much different reaction if it released at the same time. Just as Microsoft has done by releasing some of its digital titles on Nintendo Switch, Sony can greatly benefit by introducing some of its franchises to a new audience. Even if current PlayStation owners aren’t interested in purchasing these titles again on PC, this move will only benefit them in the long run as it can help lessen financial flops and provide the money needed to keep making great titles.