Horizon Zero Dawn

Just what is Sony’s strategy for making PS5 updates to key PS4 exclusives?

Is sony deliberately dragging its heels when it comes to making, relatively simple, updates to its PS4 exclusives to run better on PS5? There must be some thinking behind it, but at present it seems hard to see its intentions with the sporadic updates on offer for its new console.

Why does this matter? Well, seeing first-party games updated is a great spur for other publishers to also undertake this work, improve the consoles catalogue and hopefully shift a few more copies with the renewed interest.

In comparison Microsoft has already updated its key titles, often without any fanfare, with many simply stepping up their performance based on open ended changes that were made to maximise performance on Xbox One X.

Back over at Sony, as of now both Ghost of Tsushima and Days Gone have had tweaks to allow them to take full advantage of the new console’s power. Both hit 60fps, greatly improving the experience, and without any other major works for this pair, it looks to have been a simple change to make.

With that in mind, there must be a reason why many other exclusive titles published and/or developed by Sony haven’t also received updates. With the leading contenders being:

  • God of War
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • The Last of Us Part 2
  • Bloodborne
  • The Last Guardian
  • Death Stranding

And it’s been demonstrated that many of these would be easily upgraded to better utilise the PS5, with some titles have gold-release version on disc with unlocked frame rates that do exactly that without any patch whatsoever. In many cases it’s a matter of developers changes that were made in later patches, or for the PS4 Pro hardware.

Now, those developers are not always Sony-owned, and it seems unlikely that such updates would have formed part of any original publishing deal. But given the amount of work involved and the potential upsides for both back catalogue sales and the PS5 generally, you think updates would be a sensible idea.

Putting ease of updates aside, let’s look back at the commercial side. Many of these titles are available in the PS5’s PS Plus Collection. Which of course limits Sony’s ability to monetise those, although there are some which are excluded, such as Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn. Which could benefit from updates to boost sales.

Our educated guess is that each title has been considered separately and that such updates are planned at differing dates to help boost the future of each franchise.

God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn might get updates in advance of their respective sequel’s releases for instance. Although another possible move would be to sell remastered editions of those games along with their new releases. As it did with Spider-Man Remastered.

It’s not the most consumer-friendly move, pushing people to buy a new game in order to play an updated version of the old one, but if the update is done with care, as it was on Spider-Man with DualSense support, a re-worked Peter Parker, and ray-tracing effects, then it certainly feels more appropriate than a simple unlocked frame rate.

Such updates still aren’t significant enough to justify reselling the game to those who already own it, but as a sweetener to a new title they can work well. Such a strategy isn’t likely for The Last of Us Part 2 though, with no DLC or sequel incoming, although some kind of multiplayer spin-off appears to be in the works that could have the remaster attached to it.

So while the likes of Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, and other IPs that look to have come to a natural end, will likely continue to appear at sporadic intervals, to provide interest in the usual thin slate for a new console, many titles will now likely wait until an appropriate date for their updates, to help support their franchise. It’s a sensible strategy for Sony’s first party jewels, but without considerable care and attention, it’s not one that’s likely to engender much love from customers.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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