What a start to the year for PlayStation. Imagine rolling back in from the Christmas vacation, smug in the knowledge that you’ve got a solid year of great exclusive games ahead of you and then BAM. Your biggest rival just bought one of the most important game publishers around. This is worse than going back to the office to find Steve from accounts got a better coat from Santa than you.
The truth is that we don’t know yet what the long-term effects of the Microsoft and Activision deal could be. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has promised, for instance, that the company plans to “keep Call of Duty on PlayStation” and will “honor all existing agreements” going forward, but it’s hard to imagine Microsoft dropping a sweet $70 billion without expecting to gain a serious advantage from it.
Of course, Sony recently announced a major acquisition all of its own – Bungie, the creators of Destiny and Halo. This $3.6 billion acquisition will strengthen PlayStation’s push into the live service arena, and assuage concerns from certain corners of the community that Microsoft is being given the space to bring some of the industry’s biggest studios in-house without little competition. It’ll take some time before we are able to see what this Sony and Bungie partnership will deliver, but it’s the sort of announcement that shows PlayStation is prepared to fight for attention in 2022.
Pass me the games
On first draft of this article, before the bombshell, I thought PlayStations biggest challenge of this year would be finding a way to match the offering that Games Pass represents. When consoles are easier to come by, a subscription that guarantees access to games – including AAA blockbusters like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 on day one of release – is a compelling reason to make the switch from blue to green.
The Bethesda and now Activision acquisitions ensure the Games Press library will continue to swell, and PlayStation needs to find a way to compete. I’m sure smarter people than me are locked in conference rooms sweating over spreadsheets, but between PlayStation’s back catalog of classic games and Sony’s movie studios, a total entertainment package could be the answer.
Of course, rumors continue to circulate that a PlayStation Game Pass rival is reportedly due to launch this year. Reports of PS3 games briefly appearing instead of PS4 Trophy entries and PS3 games being spotted on the PS Store have only fueled speculation that a long-overdue update to backward compatibility is coming to PS5. Could ‘Project Spartacus’ really give PS5 an answer to Game Pass? It seems inevitable that Sony will make a move in this space before long, or will at least move to update the excellent PlayStation Plus Collection.
PlayStation does have one trick up its sleeve. While virtual reality is still a niche area of gaming, the launch of the PSVR2 will make big strides in making it a more mainstream proposition for players and developers. It’s VR without the need for a mega gaming PC or to hand over yet another piece of your humanity to the Facebook/Meta machine.
For the PlayStation faithful it’s a cool addition to their gaming experience, and for the VR curious it could be the gateway drug that gets them hooked on the Sony strain of consoles. I’d love to see Sony task more of its incredible first-party developers to build immersive experiences – akin to Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx that really push the boundaries of the medium in a way that celebrates storytelling over arm swinging.
We’re already seeing early signs that Sony is investing more heavily in this space in advance of PSVR2 launching. Guerrilla Games is working on Horizon: Call of the Mountain for the new tech in partnership with the recently-acquired Firesprite Games – VR specialists who will no doubt help drive investment in virtual reality across the PlayStation Studios group. Expect Sony to make big moves in the VR scene in 2022.
Game for anything
Why Sony bought Bungie
Sony buying Bungie is about way more than games: Exploring the ways the Destiny creator wants to push into entertainment and how it will help drive PS5’s live service ambitions.
PlayStation’s strength has always been in blockbuster exclusives, and that will carry it through 2022 – even as the console war turns nuclear. PlayStation is kicking off 2022 with a chunk of impressive exclusive games to keep fans on high alert, and to keep people hunting for those elusive PS5 consoles out in the retail wilds.
We’re just weeks away from Horizon Forbidden West releasing and it’s sure to be one of the most discussed games of 2022. Gran Turismo 7 is set to launch in March and, as we noted in our Gran Turismo 7 preview, Polyphony Digital is getting incredible results out of the PS5. Square Enix’s Forspoken and Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire Tokyo are both set to launch this year as timed PS5 exclusives and look incredibly promising. And we are, of course, getting God of War: Ragnarok – everything we’ve seen of it so far has been absolutely stunning.
Even beyond 2022 we already know that Insomniac Games is at work on two new titles just for PS5, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Marvel’s Wolverine, that will make you love the swingy guy and the sharp, scratchy guy in whole new ways.
So spare a thought for PlayStation in 2022, a powerful machine with an incredible portfolio of upcoming games that has still somehow found itself on the backfoot. I think these new challenges will mean PlayStation will fight even harder to establish itself as the home of the most impressive – and just as importantly the most innovative – titles for its players, and will push it to take exciting risks on content to mark PS5 as the console you have to own, or risk missing out on the game everyone is talking about. As Sony told us way back when it launched its first console in 1994, “do not underestimate the power of PlayStation.”