A lot of the online chatter regarding Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles hasn’t centered around what the two companies have shown, but rather what they haven’t shown. While Microsoft’s been doling out Xbox Series X specs, information, and game details at a relatively consistent click, Sony’s been fairly quiet about the PlayStation 5, especially when compared to how much it had shown of the PlayStation 4 at this point in 2013. And while I’ve read a lot of tinfoil-hat theories on why Sony’s keeping its next-gen cards so close to the vest, I think this week showed that the answer is pretty simple — we haven’t seen much of the PlayStation 5 because Sony’s clearly still focused on the PlayStation 4.
The past six months have seen a pretty fantastic stream of PlayStation 4 exclusives. November delivered Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, which has suddenly become one of the most prescient pieces of art regarding our current climate. We finally got to see the full potential of Media Molecule’s Dreams in February, and some of the creations so far have been nothing short of incredible. Then the spring kicked off with Persona 5 Royal and Final Fantasy VII Remake, two of the absolute best JRPGs in recent memory. Coupled with third-party hits like Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal, it’s been kind of easy to get lost in all of these experiences and forget that we’re at the end of a console generation. And that’s because in typical Sony fashion, it seems to be saving some of the best games for last.
Just this past week, we got fresh looks at Sony’s two big first-party games of the summer, both of which have the potential to be some of the biggest games of not only the year, but of this entire generation. Naughty Dog showed off a new story trailer for The Last of Us Part II, as well as an inside look at that story as part of the march towards the June 19 release. When all is said and done, the recent leaks are going to end up being a minor speed bump in the grand scheme of things, as the much-anticipated sequel is filling a role of generation-capper similar to the role the original TLOU played for PlayStation 3 back in the summer of 2013.
And then we have Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch Productions’ first game since 2014’s Infamous Second Son and the standalone DLC First Light. Tsushima was first revealed back at Paris Games Week in 2017, but it wasn’t until this week’s lengthy State of Play presentation that we finally got a firm grasp for what the actual gameplay flow would be like as we explore this beautiful rendition of feudal Japan. It seems to take some of the more methodical, nature-based open-world design of modern classics like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption 2, pairs them with the sandbox encampment infiltration of some of the recent Assassin’s Creed games, and tops it all off with the ferocious combat of other samurai experiences like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Bushido Blade. It looks big and gorgeous and brutal, and I can’t wait until July 17.
With these two massive PS4 games right on the horizon, the question becomes — why would Sony begin talking about the PlayStation 5 right now? With over 100 million people across the world owning a PS4 — which makes it the second best-selling home console in history after the PlayStation 2 — it makes perfect sense for the company to focus on these last two major first-party games from its newly branded PlayStation Studios before switching gears and really diving head-first into the future. We’ll inevitably be seeing a whole lot from PlayStation 5 in the coming months, but with these two massive experiences still to come, I personally don’t see the rush. It feels a bit like agonizing over tomorrow’s dinner before you’ve even sat down to eat today.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has clearly put all its chips in on Xbox Series X. With major Xbox One exclusives all but behind us, it feels like it’s all about the future now. We’ve been getting a constant stream of news regarding the upcoming console over the past few months, with the most recent Inside Xbox showing off some of the indie partners and its Series X projects. And we know that July will hold the big Xbox Studios event, where we’ll finally see a bunch of the major first-party games, including Halo Infinite.
But the interesting thing about this future focus comes when both of the new consoles launch. There are Smart Delivery partnerships with major third-party games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, alongside the promise that Xbox has made regarding first-party games being cross-gen for the foreseeable future. So in the long run, Xbox One might be better supported a year or two from now than PlayStation 4.
There’s also the fact that Microsoft’s first-party slate of games into the next generation is much more uncertain than Sony’s. We know about projects like Hellblade II, but we don’t know what a lot of the newly grown stable of studios is working on. Rumors of Fable, Perfect Dark, and Banjo-Kazooie coming back are always floating around, but we’re all genuinely curious what some of the teams at The Initiative, Playground, Compulsion, and Obsidian are up to.
Cut to Sony, and it doesn’t take an insider to know that we’ll be seeing sequels to Spider-Man, God of War, and Horizon Zero Dawn at some point on PlayStation 5. Given how those three games were some of the best-selling exclusives of the generation, it’s a pretty safe bet that further installments will go on to be some of the highlights of the PS5.
Obviously everyone’s plans for the road to next-gen got tossed out the window this spring with how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of life across the globe. Learning to work remotely and pivoting away from massive in-person events like E3, San Diego Comic-Con, and Gamescom has necessitated creative thinking and alternate solutions. That’s one of the reasons why this summer is going to be filled with a plethora of scattered announcements and online events — like the recent Unreal Engine 5 reveal — as opposed to the single week-long volley of news and previews we were used to getting from a traditional E3.
But regardless of this, it really does feel like Sony’s plan all along has been to give The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima the attention that these swan songs for the seven-year-legacy of the PlayStation 4 deserve. Then it will fully set sights on PlayStation 5 and the next decade of gaming.