It's safe to say Sony's having an interesting couple of days. After a strong, compelling PS5 games showcase highlighting some of the top-tier games coming over the next year, preorders unexpectedly went live a day before planned, with disaster ensuing. In addition to this chaos, information on PlayStation Blog revealed that games previously believed to be PS5-only, including Horizon Forbidden West and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, will also be releasing on PS4.
Going through PR of the games announced before the showcase, it would've been impossible — or downright laughable — to think a PS4 version was also on the way, as there was no such mention on the PlayStation Blog, which referred to them solely as PS5 games. At its absolute best, this is extremely poor communication. At worst, it's intentionally misleading. Announcing a next-gen version of a game months after an initial reveal is hardly uncommon but taking the opposite approach is completely unprecedented.
As an example, Insomniac Games, flexing its development muscles and efficiency, announced two different titles at the Future of Gaming event back in June: Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Both were revealed as PS5 titles, with Insomniac even using similar hashtags to promote the games: #MilesMoralesPS5 and #RatchetPS5. Both were marketed as PS5 games, yet one of them is releasing on PS4.
Guerrilla Games' Horizon Forbidden West was the showstopper for the Future of Gaming, yet Guerrilla proceeded to omit any mention of a PS4 version when talking about the game's 2021 release window afterward. Guerrilla had also previously mentioned how limitations of the PS4 caused them to drop features like co-op.
Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, told GamesIndustry.biz that Sony wasn't interested in Microsoft's cross-generation approach for the first year or so of Xbox Series X games, saying "we have always said that we believe in generations. We believe that when you go to all the trouble of creating a next-gen console, that it should include features and benefits that the previous generation does not include. And that, in our view, people should make games that can make the most of those features."
A generous interpretation would be that it wasn't known if PS4 versions would be possible at this point in development. A more cynical one says that Sony intentionally marketed itself as providing a true next-generation experience because factually informing its customers took a backseat to selling hype. Demon's Souls and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart are still only coming to PS5 (despite mass confusion at the time that Demon's Souls would also be coming to PC), so why would it have been so difficult to inform consumers that there'd still be some cross-generation games for a time?
I understand why Sony would take the cross-generation route from a business perspective. Marvel's Spider-Man sold over 13 million copies, while Horizon Zero Dawn sold over 10 million copies. Making sure that these games are available for 112 million PS4 owners ensures far better sales. It also, at some level, means that the developers will have to make sacrifices to the design of these games to ensure it can run on the older hardware. In the end, though, it benefits consumers, especially those who aren't buying a console immediately on launch day.
It goes without saying this isn't going to result in lost console sales. Pre-orders for the PS5 are still going to sell out as quickly as they arrive. I'm also still incredibly excited to play these games regardless of platform. Learning that Horizon Forbidden West is playable on PS4 takes nothing away from the excitement I see looking at that game. I just wish that when I'm reporting on these titles, I could accurately trust what Sony has to say moving forward. A new God of War game is coming, a game I'm extremely excited for. Will it come to just the PS5, or is a PS4 version also on the way? There's no way to know.
What's a corny note I can end this on? As Kratos might say, do not be sorry. Be better.
Waiting for November 12
Get your hands on it before it sells out
The PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition are now available to pre-order from your favorite retailers. With two versions to choose from, you'll be able to pick which best suits your budget. PS5 is the place to be for exclusives like Spider-Man and Horizon Forbidden West. Get yours before they sell out.
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