I love the fact that Sony dips its toes in many aspects of gaming; from home consoles, to portable devices, to virtual reality, Sony likes to be at the forefront in these areas. Their hardware is well made and their roster of developers ensures you can expect some quality games in their many beloved franchises. In fact, a recent patent that made the rounds in the last few weeks suggested Sony may still be interested in the portable market. But then I asked myself, which studios could Sony get to make first party games for a new portable device? Then I immediately thought, which studios could Sony get to make first party games for PSVR? The more I think about it and the more I see Sony spitting out big games on PS4, the more I wonder whether they’ll have significant resourcing problems for their other pieces of hardware. Below I have a look at some of the pies Sony have their fingers in and see if they’re spreading themselves a little thin in some areas.
Let’s start off with the PlayStation 4, which does not have a resourcing issue whatsoever. At the beginning of its lifecycle, Sony was hush on what games were being developed. However, in this case we knew that they had other developers available. We knew in 2014 that Santa Monica, Guerrilla Games and Sucker Punch had to be working on something, we just didn’t know what games they were making. Sure enough we have a clearer roadmap on what the rest of the lifecycle is looking like, and Sony has enough first party exclusives to push the PS4 out to at least 2019. We can still expect Gran Turismo Sport, Days Gone, Detroit: Become Human, God of War, Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part 2 just to name a few. The only first party studio where we don’t know what they’re working on is Sucker Punch at this stage.
I stand by the fact that PSVR had better day one support by Sony than the PS4 did. It had more than five games published by Sony including PlayStation VR Worlds, RIGs, Driveclub VR, Tumble VR, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and more. However, Evolution Studios (the cats behind Driveclub) and Guerrilla Cambridge (responsible recently for the excellent RIGs) are both non-existent now. Looking ahead you have a new IP from an unproven independent developer in the form of the first-person shooter Farpoint from Impulse Gear, a half-assed mode for Polyphony’s Gran Turismo Sport, and reported VR support for Media Molecule’s Dreams, which may or may not even see the light of day.
So who makes Sony games for the PSVR from here? Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch will never make a VR game, Santa Monica (who have just undergone a restructure) have all hands on deck with God of War, Guerrilla would be wise to dive head first into Horizon 2, and BEND has a lot to prove with Days Gone and will need to stay fully focused on that project. Some, if not all of these titles are at least a year away. So what can we expect for PSVR in the second half of 2017? Even if Sony magically acquires a couple of new studios, the process between acquisition and shipping a game could still take years.
SIE Manchester and London seem to be the forerunners for PSVR, which isn’t the most confident sign. I can see Japan Studio pushing out smaller experimental titles, while San Diego could implement VR functionality to their MLB: The Show series. Aside from that, I cannot see a Killzone, Resistance, Little Big Planet or any other major Sony-owned series for that matter in the near future, unless they contract an external studio to make it as part of a second-party relationship like they did with Little Big Planet 3, Sly Cooper 4 and Bloodborne.
I personally think Sony should at least try to push a portable. Nintendo is certainly turning heads with its new Switch console, which would leave them undisputed and unchallenged within the portable console market. It is well known that competition motivates companies to improve their products to give them a competitive advantage, which in turn benefits the consumer. With its technological and marketing nous, Sony has a chance to at least give Nintendo a run for its money. However, with Sony focused on making ‘proprietary’ games for the dominating PlayStation 4 and helping PlayStation VR grow as a platform, who is going to make games for the Vita successor? Sony’s last portable console had a rough time getting games made by Sony. All we got was Uncharted, Killzone, Gravity Rush, Little Big Planet and Tearaway (also Resistance but it was kind of terrible and developed by a third party). That is a pretty low number for a console that came out five years ago. In fact, the lack of Sony-made titles for the Vita is the reason people generally point to when they bring up the poor sales of the device.
Sony are head and shoulders above the competition at the moment and are experiencing a boom in popularity backed by a solid PSVR launch late last year and some stellar PS4 exclusives in the first half of 2017. But a boom can’t continue indefinitely, and when the bubble bursts Sony will want to have a plan for supporting all their ventures, not just the PS4. One might be led to believe that if Sony want to keep the good feeling going they may have to increase their stable of first-party developers so that PSVR and any new rumoured hardware gets the attention it needs to survive.