What's Next For PlayStation On PC?
PlayStation’s appeal, especially during the PS4 generation, came from its exclusive games. Even though some second-party titles found a new home on other platforms, games from Sony’s in-house PlayStation Studios family remained tied down to the console. But towards the end of the PS4's life-cycle, Sony moved ground when it started porting some of the console’s first-party exclusives over to PC.
|PlayStation Studios' Steam page|
Guerrilla Games’ 2017 open-world adventure Horizon Zero Dawn, ported over to PC in 2020, was the first first-party game to make the big switch. This was a watershed moment for a publisher that historically kept its games --its best assets --close to its chest and exclusively available on PlayStation machinery.
In early 2021, it was announced that Bend Studio’s 2019 open-world biker Days Gone would be making its way to PC. On the 17th of April 2021, the game launched on Steam and the Epic Games Store. With almost 30,000 concurrent players over its launch weekend and the top spot in that week’s Steam sales charts, Sony had a successful formula on its hand: release a game on console, squeeze as much out of it as possible in terms of sales, and then drop it on PC a few years later.
If Sony’s intent of bringing its in-house developed games to PC going forward wasn't clear enough, then one shrewd move in the summer of 2021 made it crystal. Just a few months ago (July 2021), Sony acquired PC port and tech specialist Nixxes Software. The Dutch studio has previously worked on several PC ports for publisher SquareEnix, including the recent Tomb Raider reboots, 2017’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and 2020’s Marvel’s Avengers. This couldn't be a clearer signal of intent from the mega-corporation, who have now outright acquired a studio known for its work on PC titles, and one that is expected to continue with this field of work moving forward.
This push forward with PC releases looks to continue into 2021. Ever since PlayStation announced its intentions to bring Horizon Zero Dawn to PC, fans have been clamouring for 2018’s God of War to receive the same treatment. It makes sense considering that this was the next first-party game to release after Horizon. And just like Aloy, the next chapter in Kratos and Atreus’ adventure is scheduled to come out in 2022, allowing Sony to use this game to draw a PC audience into purchasing a console in preparation for Ragnarok’s release. God of War (2018) was announced for PC back in October and is set to release on the 14th of January 2022.
Following closely behind God of War is Uncharted. Consisting of 2016’s Uncharted 4 and 2017’s standalone entry Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection is slated for a PC release sometime in 2022. It is tipped for a second-half of the year release though, with PlayStation already featuring a front-heavy lineup for the year.
The collection’s release later next year will signify the milestone of five first-party and previously exclusive PlayStation games being available on PC. This is a step forward in what I feel is the right direction for Sony and PlayStation, as releasing first-party games on PC has no real downsides, only benefits.
After more than 3 years on store shelves, the title would’ve likely already sold close to its final sales numbers, and so long after launch, the game has already sold all the consoles it could. 3 years after God of War’s release, people aren’t going to be buying a PS4 just to play God of War. Sure such people do exist, but the number is minuscule and the money made is inconsequential to a multi-billion dollar company like Sony. People are instead going to be buying a PlayStation console to play recent releases. It makes sense to keep new games console exclusive, but led older titles ship over to PC. It will help drive numbers in terms of raw sales on the new platform and boost interest in upcoming sequels that are only available on PlayStation.
For the die-hard fan out there, who worries that putting PlayStation games on PC is a losing cause for the company, it's not. A game on a new storefront means more sales for Sony. More revenue from sales for Sony means more money can be poured into PlayStation Studios. More cash on the table just means more time and money can be provided to the first-party family to make the great games that we all love and cherish.
The future of PlayStation on PC looks bright, but what can we expect to see going forward?
More First-Party Games On PC
Well, one thing is for sure. We are certainly going to see more first-party exclusives jump on over to PC a few years after their launch. The massive Nvidia GeForce Now leak earlier this year mentioned a few first-party PlayStation titles, including the now confirmed God of War (2018) and Uncharted: The Legacy of Thieves Collection PC ports. In addition, the confirmation of other third-party games mentioned in the leak shows us that this leaked list of games is mostly true.
The PlayStation games brought up in the leak were Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, Returnal, Demon’s Souls, Ratchet & Clank, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Ghost of Tsushima. And yeah, these titles mostly check out.
With Horizon Zero Dawn already on PC, it's only a matter of time before Forbidden West joins its predecessor. Gran Turismo 7 is also an obvious port. 2017’s GT Sport had lacklustre sales, failing to out-sell five out of the six previous mainline games in the series. By eventually porting Gran Turismo 7 to PC, Sony will not only see an increase in sales but also a boost to the game’s online community and e-sports initiative that would have hopefully stood strong in the years after its launch in March of next year.
Returnal and Demon’s Souls Remake are two PS5 exclusives known for their difficulty and niche appeal. While this certainly doesn't make for a bad game, it does tend to hurt sales figures. Returnal sold around 500,000 copies within 3 months of launch, while Demon’s Souls Remake sold ‘more than 1.4 million copies’ in little under a year since its release. While these numbers are by no means bad, they pale in comparison to other recent first-party offerings like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, The Last of Us Part II, and Ghost of Tsushima. In addition, the recently released PS5 exclusive Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, sold over 1 million copies in only a month after launch.
A direct comparison must not be taken too seriously since these games are either from established franchises or more accessible through their difficulty and launch platforms. However, with the money Sony pours into its first-party, it wants to see and expects big results. Returnal and Demon’s Souls Remake are sure to find dedicated audiences on PC, increasing sales figures and in Returnal’s case, giving Sony more reason to invest in the future of this new IP.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Ratchet & Clank (no game was specified although it's probably referring to the 2016 remake of the original or 2021's Rift Apart) are more interesting propositions since these games are directed at a younger audience who prefer consoles over PCs. Sackboy: A Big Adventure is not going to rock the world in terms of sales so giving it second life over on PC is in the best interest of Sony and developer Sumo Digital. But the biggest benefit of porting these games to PC is that it will diversify PlayStation's footprint on this new platform. With a slew of more mature titles and some family-friendly fun, Sony can appeal to the entirety of this new platform's player base.
Ghost of Tsushima is another expected release on PC. SuckerPunch's 2020 title was a blowout success, and with Sony making a habit of putting its marquee open-world action-adventure titles (Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone) on PC, Ghost of Tsushima looks to be next. Job listings from SuckerPunch already have given away the fact that a sequel is in the works, so Sony using this port in the future to build hype for the follow-up title seems like a good bet.
Apart from the titles mentioned in the GeForce Now leak, we can make some predictions about what could be on the move next. With the Uncharted Collection on PC, NaughtyDog already has one foot in the water, so it makes sense that we could see The Last of Us follow suit. Sony may likely be holding it back for now though, instead choosing to release Parts I and II as a collection in the lead up to the launch of a possible Part III.
Bloodborne is another game that fans are pleading gets a PC port. The landmark PS4 release is beloved by fans, praised by critics, and has been a commercial success for Sony. However, the game hasn't aged well from a technical standpoint, with it still being capped at 30 frames-per-second. Due to how developer FromSoftware have tied the character and enemy animated to this frame-rate, simply flipping a switch to open higher frame rates is not a viable solution as it will mess with the overall gameplay experience. I think this has been a limiting factor in PlayStation still not releasing a 60 FPS patch for this game.
But if Sony does plan to continue the series with a sequel of sorts, either with original developer FromSoftware or in-house team Bluepoint Games, then porting the game to PC will be a great way to please fans and build excitement for a sequel that has been a long time coming.
Media Molecule's Dreams is a game that I feel must come to PC. The creation platform has failed to take off in the way many, including Sony, expected it to. Dreams was meant to be something similar to Roblox but for the PlayStation ecosystem. However, it clearly didn't hit the ground running. Even simply looking in from the outside, it's obvious that Dreams is a technical marvel, one that has the tools and systems to foster creation and innovation. Dreams on PC seems like a match made in heaven, and one that Sony must bring together to ensure the long-term success of a game that has so far failed to bear the fruit of its labours.
Day 1 On PC?
With Microsoft's merger of its Xbox and PC gaming initiatives into one cohesive ecosystem, it means that all Xbox Game Studios titles launch day and date on both platforms. But is this something we can expect from Sony?
I think the last stop on the train is day 1 launches across PlayStation and PC, but this is still a long time away. The PlayStation brand is growing rapidly, and soon enough it'll be big enough that sizable chunks of the brand's fanbase who prefer console gaming will continue to buy PlayStation systems to play such first-party games, even if they are available on a secondary system. And fans who prefer PC gaming can play and enjoy their games over there. Sony doesn't make its money from console sales, it does so from software sales. And more systems to sell software on means more rolling revenue for the company, and better quality products for the consumer.
But for the time being, I think PlayStation's PC initiative will continue to bring first-party titles to PC two, three, or four years after their PlayStation release.
Another key aspect of Microsoft's common ecosystem is cross-buy. Purchase a game on the Microsoft Store, and you get access to its Xbox and PC versions. This pro-consumer practice is a far cry from what Sony is currently doing. Even though its PC ports are sold at lower prices, players still have to pay twice to get access to the same product -- albeit with some graphical upgrades on the PC.
I think if Sony makes a habit of consistently releasing its games on both platforms, then it is ludicrous to suggest that consumers should buy the game twice. But with the equally embarrassing $10 PS4 to PS5 upgrade fee Sony is charging for its cross-gen releases, I think cross-buy is the last thing we'll see them do. And that's a real shame.
PlayStation's drive forward into the PC gaming scene was perhaps as unexpected as its success. The move has paid off big time, with boosted sales, growing fanbases, and spiralling excitement for upcoming sequels. With the acquisition of PC-port specialist Nixxes Software, Sony is showing that it is committed to expanding the PlayStation brand into uncharted territory.
There's no doubt that more first-party games are going to make their way over to PC. With this, more people than ever before will be able to experience and cherish these wonderful games. And I think both PlayStation and the consumer will only stand to benefit from this.