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Sony posted an interview with PlayStation Studios head Hermen Hulst today. In it, he notes the company’s commitment to the PlayStation 4, an aging piece of hardware that has sold over 114 million machines. This includes the surprising reveal that the next Gran Turismo will be releasing for both PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.
“You can’t build a community of over 110 million PS4 owners and then just walk away from it, right?” says Hulst. “I think that’d be bad news for fans of PS4, and frankly not very good business. Where it makes sense to develop a title for both PS4 and PS5 — for Horizon: Forbidden West, the next God of War, GT7 — we’ll continue looking at that. And if PS4 owners want to play that game, then they can. If they want to go on and play the PS5 version, that game will be there for them.”
This strategy isn’t new. Sony already released Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a launch game for PS5, on PS4. We knew that it was doing the same for Horizon. But there’s something weird about seeing this philosophy applied to Gran Turismo, a series that has always touted graphical fidelity.
“That being said, it’s also very important to have showpieces for PS5, hence the development of Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart that are exclusive to PS5,” Hulst continues.
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Now, I don’t want to twist his words here, but there is a bit of an implication there that games made for both consoles — like Gran Turismo 7 — are not showpieces for PlayStation 5. Or, at least, not as much as something like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Ratchet & Clank can throw a big wrench (heh) into Sony’s dual generation plans. It is only releasing on PlayStation 5. Because of that, it is able to take advantage of the hardware in some pretty special ways, which includes using the system’s SSD hard drive to almost instantly teleport players to different levels. If players get a hold of Rift Apart on June 11 and feel that it is a better experience than games designed to also come out for PS4, Sony could face some backlash over its decision to release its other upcoming big games for both consoles.
Or maybe people will remember how great Miles Morales was on PS5 even though it also came out for PS4. And it’s not like Sony is struggling to sell PS5s. Thanks to high demand and chip shortages, many people who want a PS5 can’t even get one. Others may not be able to afford one. That’s another argument for releasing more games on both systems. Plenty of people are “stuck” with a PS4, and they may appreciate still being able to play new games while waiting to get the new hardware.
I’m not convinced it works like that, though. I think the people who want to play Miles Morales and plan on getting a PS5 eventually will just wait until they can secure the new hardware. If you look at NPD sales numbers and see how well Miles Morales keeps selling each month, the data looks to support my argument. When people do eventually get a PS5, they are buying Spider-Man. They didn’t bother with the PS4 version.
And that is for a PS5 launch title. Gran Turismo 7 is set for 2022. I imagine it will release late that year, if it doesn’t slip into 2023. By that point, even more PS4 owners that want to upgrade will have done so. Are there really going to be enough people who want Gran Turismo 7, don’t have a PS5, and don’t want to wait until they get a PS5 or plan on never getting one? Rather, are there enough of them to justify developing a PS4 release of the racer that could hold back the PS5 version?
Sony is also the company that last year was saying, “We believe in generations.” I don’t want to make too much of that. Marketing is marketing, and business strategies change. But it is a pretty public piece of hypocrisy that will be easy for angry gamers to use against Sony. And if they feel that Gran Turismo 7 doesn’t live up to expectations, you know that they will be doing just that.
I can almost understand Sony wanting to play it a little safe with Horizon and God of War. But it’s strange to not have Gran Turismo be something that leans into being a PlayStation 5 showpiece. Look, the PS5 is going to be fine no matter what it does here. It’s a great console that has some impressive looking games on the way. But in 2022, the PlayStation 4 will turn 9 years old. Getting your high-end first-party games to run on that aging hardware has to be a pain. Right now, Sony is betting that it’s worth the hassle. They’re betting on black.
I’d be putting my chips on red.
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