2019 brought a very interesting year for the PlayStation brand. Even as games like Days Gone and Death Stranding finally arrived, PlayStation shook off any notions of big events and shows, opting to share information on upcoming games through small, Nintendo Direct-esque streams called State of Play, while next-generation information hasn't been a part of any lavish setpieces but instead a handful of interviews between lead architect Mark Cerny and WIRED.
While the next-generation tech and everything it brings is on the horizon, the PlayStation 4 is still being sent out with a bang, with the timed exclusive Final Fantasy 7 Remake arriving in March alongside Nioh 2. There's also a handful of major first-party titles on the way, as Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II is set to release in May and Ghost of Tsushima from Sucker Punch is arriving sometime in Summer 2020. PlayStation 4 owners should be quite happy with the swan song offerings of 2020.
When it comes to services, PlayStation Now should continue to get a stronger push from Sony interactive Entertainment (SIE). Over the past couple of months, Sony has started allowing more recent, premium games to be added to the service for a limited time, such as God of War, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Horizon Zero Dawn and others. Unlike the bulk of the additions to PlayStation Now, these games are only being added for a couple of months.
This newfound willingness to add eye-catching games for a short time had a positive effect on the subscriber base and you can definitely expect this approach to continue, with other major games (Marvel's Spider-Man, anyone?) being added for limited amounts of time. Still, Sony is even now taking a conservative path and according to Jim Ryan, President and CEO of SIE, you shouldn't expect games to launch day and date on the service...at least not yet.
On the PlayStation VR front, things are a little quieter. Iron Man VR will provide a good experience for headset owners, but even as patents emerge, showing us the wireless future of what Sony's PSVR2 could possibly look like, Sony has already made it clear that a new headset won't be available at launch and the baseline PSVR will be compatible with the PlayStation 5. Meanwhile, the biggest VR game releasing in 2020, Half-Life: Alyx, isn't coming to PSVR, at least at launch. Sony's VR support will still be a differentiating factor but it is one that will — for the forseeable future — remain niche.
Naturally, the PlayStation 5 will be the thing that the brand is focused on throughout 2020. Following the pattern of the PlayStation 4's reveal, we can likely expect some sort of reveal event around late February, showing off the capabilities and technical details for the PlayStation 5. We already know a great deal, but this'll be when Mark Cerny talks in detail.
While the console exclusive Godfall has already been revealed as a PlayStation 5 launch title, Sony Worldwide Studios will almost assuredly have other games ready for launch, alongside additional third-party titles such as Bluepoint Games' upcoming PlayStation 5 game. For a look at bigger PlayStation 5 games in the pipeline, Horizon Zero Dawn 2 seems the obvious choice and a release window of 2021 wouldn't come as a surprise. A new Gran Turismo game from Polyphony Digital and a Ratchet and Clank sequel from Insomniac Games would round out likely launch window titles.
Simplicity will be, and needs to be, the message of the PlayStation 5.
This reveal event will be extroardinarily important, especially coming after Microsoft's surprising strong showcase at The Game Awards 2019, as it will set the tone for the generation to come. When the PlayStation 4 was unveiled in 2013, it signaled a humility that Sony hadn't known before. The company was embracing an approach that meant developers would have an easier time and simply enjoying games was placed at the forefront. With Sony aiming to transition its userbase between consoles as easily as possible, a repeat of that atmosphere is nearly guaranteed. Simplicity will be, and needs to be, the message of the PlayStation 5.
That goes double considering how much has shifted at the top. Shawn Layden unexpectedly departed from his role as Chairman of Sony Worldwide Studios (WWS) earlier in 2019, Shuhei Yoshida has stepped down as President of Sony WWS and Hermen Hulst, co-founder of Guerrilla Games, has been promoted to Head of Sony WWS. While policies and roadmaps from their forebears are likely still in place, the messaging for this new leadership team will be critical.
Sony is heading into 2020 in a position of power and strength. The company has sold well over 102 million consoles and it has definitely attained a reputation for releasing the kinds of big, cinematic experiences that hardcore fans look for. At the same time, not remaining complacent is critical. Xbox took a beating over the past few years but has refocused in recent years, more than doubling its first-party capabilities and surprising the world with a look at its next-generation console, the Xbox Series X, alongside Senua's Saga: Hellblade II. Meanwhile, Nintendo has newfound success with the Nintendo Switch, continuing to put up impressive sales and a steady stream of games.
This time around, Sony will not have the advantage of its main opponents failing to produce a large number of quality games or market their consoles properly. That means doubling down on what made the PlayStation 4 successful while remaining flexible enough to tackle new challenges from competent competitors. From 2013 leading up to 2020, Sony made it clear why customers needed to own a PlayStation 4. Now, it has to defend that position.
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