In the wake of the Jim Ryan era of PlayStation, while leaving behind a successful PS5 and a string of expectedly good first-party releases, attention is now turning to Sony’s declared superior investment in live service games. Previously, they revealed that 60% of their spending would go towards 40% for their single-player games, and they have at least a dozen titles in the works.
Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier reports Insiders are concerned about the company’s vision going forward, with things ranging between “seemingly misplaced bets on the service’s games” along with PSVR 2 and PlayStation Portal, both relatively niche pieces of hardware.
Sony currently has most of its big-budget studios working on multiplayer live-service games in one form or another, including Naughty Dog, Insomniac, the popular Guerrilla of The Last of Us, Spider-Man, and Horizon respectively. We already know about Naughty Dog’s Last of Us Factions, a game that an additional report said new employee Bungie thought wasn’t up to par when they recently surveyed the game’s progress. While Bungie has its own upcoming service games like Marathon, and current streaming service giant Destiny 2, they are not exclusive to PlayStation.
The goal, of course, is to have live-service games to print money indefinitely with recurring spending on seasons and microtransactions, as opposed to one-on-one single-player games that at best have a DLC or two. Of course, that’s Sony’s very obvious strength in These popular single-player games, and these internal reports, call into question this massive live service pivot, even if single-player games are to be produced.
There’s no sense that just because a company makes great single-player games that it’ll be able to turn that talent into compelling live services offerings, even with an expert like Bungie. In fact, the opposite is likely to be true. We’ve seen this happen many times in the industry. BioWare moved away from Mass Effect to make Anthem, but that failed, so now they’ve returned to Mass Effect. Crystal Dynamics turned away from Tomb Raider to produce Marvel’s Avengers, which failed, so it has now returned to Tomb Raiders. Gearbox moved away from Borderlands to create Battleborn, which failed, so now they’ve returned to Borderlands. Are you sensing a pattern here?
Even if these upcoming shows remain within the universe of these games, for example. The Last of Us, there are no guarantees of quality or positive reception, no matter what talented studio is on board. The most popular multiplayer games have either been multiplayer forever (Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, DOTA, League of Legends) or appeared relatively out of nowhere (Fortnite, PUBG, Tarkov). Even Bungie developed Destiny from Halo DNA, a series that has always had engaging single-player and multiplayer parts.
Largely taking over single-player studios and forcing them to do something they’ve never done in any significant capacity doesn’t seem like a recipe for success, and diverting resources from potentially successful single-player projects to chase the dream of a live-action service seems like a dream. The bubble that’s about to burst. Or this explosion has already happened, based on the failed headlines I mentioned.
I’m not expecting great things for PlayStation’s live service plans, and it looks like I’m not alone.
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