Yesterday evening, Sony soft-served out two key announcements, buried in an interview with PlayStation Studios boss Hermen Hulst on the PlayStation Blog. With no fanfare, Hulst announced that both Gran Turismo 7 and God of War: Ragnarok, would be coming to PS4.
The general reaction online was a overhead smash return. The most vocal were not PS4 owners celebrating that these titles would be available on their console, but instead PS5 owners concerned that they would not be ‘truly next-gen’.
Putting aside the validity of that argument for now. It was a very bizarre piece of communication from Sony. It very much felt that it was trying to smuggle the information out in advance of bigger announcements, so that it wouldn’t overcast other news.
That was clearly never going to work, and a more formal announcement, maybe a short video, or just a blog post clarifying which titles were coming to which consoles, and why, would have been a more direct and clear method. The only people who gained here was the consumer press, who had a field day writing stories around the blog post.
The reason for the negative reaction is clear and simple. While Microsoft talked up continuity and cross-gen support in its next-gen briefings, PlayStation spoke largely to the opposite, of clear generation leap, and a new machine capable of bringing wholly new titles to players.
Ironically this week that will actually happen, with the release of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, arguably the first ‘big’ PS5 exclusive that could never run on the older console, due to its reliance on the speed of the PS5’s SSD. So it’s not that Sony is unwilling or unable to create titles that truly push ahead (no surprise there).
However, largely, since it’s initial briefings on the importance of console generations, Sony has stepped back from its rhetoric again and again, with a raft of PlayStation Studio titles coming to both generations. While the company never promised that the next Horizon title or God of War game would be PS5 exclusives, it was not unreasonable to think that they might be, while Gran Turismo 7 was actually marked as a PS5 exclusive in some footage.
Some thinking goes that Sony has pivoted, because of PS5 shortages and pandemic-revived gamers. While it’s wholly possible that GT7 could have been retargeted to include PS4 after production began, it seems unlikely that the new God of War could ever have been truly pushing the PS5 (as Ratchet and Clank does) and then pivot to PS4. Our gut says it was always a cross-platform product, just like Forbidden West (which it must be noted looks incredible on PS5)
That leaves Sony in a position, for whatever reasons, where some PS5 purchasers feel they have been misled by the company. And that’s something the company should take responsibility for, and clearly state its intentions. The method of this ‘news release’ only furthered the sense that something is being swept under the rug.
All that said, it’s the right decision for Sony, for consumers, and for the market.
These games have a huge potential audience on PS4, and at present many of those gamers are simply unable to get their hands on the new hardware, due to unprecedented demand.
If the games can run well on PS4 (and there’s no reason to think they can’t) and if appropriate graphical bells and whistles, faster loading times, and other tweaks like superior haptic feedback, can be added to the PS5 version, then there will still be good reasons to have the new console.
This is a transitional year, or years even, with Ragnarok looking likely to appear in 2022, and that’s fine. What’s really important now is that Sony speaks to its huge install base, in some form, and makes it very clear which titles are coming to where and (roughly) when. Or it risks compromising its ‘For the Players’ reputation that it justly won over the PS4 generation.