For the ninth generation of consoles of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the state of platform-exclusive releases looks to be an exciting one. There are still many questions about this side of the coming gaming experience, however, which we wish to address today. What has been announced so far from Sony and Microsoft, and what could we expect as the generation progresses?
Starting with Sony, it's apparent that platform exclusives are still a large part of their gaming plan. With series like Ratchet and Clank, God of War, and The Last of Us, the company has been hitting it out of the park in the eighth-gen with their AAA releases. Owing to this, relying on further exclusives is likely to remain the backbone of their move into the PS5. Normally, we might assume that such prior success could indicate their entire business model, but a couple of examples might indicate a potential change of pace.
Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn were both assumed and initially stated to be PlayStation exclusives, but this changed in 2020 when the two saw updated versions hit the PC. As two of the PS4's biggest titles, these could potentially mark a pattern of timed PlayStation exclusives making a later jump to PC. We would hesitate to believe that these would ever make an additional jump to an Xbox console, but the move to PC is still very welcome.
Also of note is that there is a shared aspect between these two games, in that they both operate on the Decima game engine
. This shared feature might have played an important part in why these two specific games came to PC while many other older PlayStation exclusives did not. Whatever real combination of business/technical decisions might have set the games apart, we need to consider that the translation of these games could have been based on the engine, rather than a greater multiplatform push by Sony.
Finally, Sony also holds some promise for PC gaming through PSNow. As a game streaming service, the PSNow system lets players run select PlayStation games like Spider-Man and Uncharted 4 directly on PCs, or even less powerful devices like mobile phones and tablets. The issue of latency which comes into play with game streaming can be a killer though, and might hamper maximum adoption potential.
Microsoft’s move towards the PC space has been much more aggressive than Sony’s, and with good reason. As they own the Windows operating system, they have less to lose when customers take the jump from one of their brands to another. In fact, Microsoft doesn't just allow movement, they openly celebrate it.
As stated by the head of Xbox Phil Spencer, the Xbox Series X won’t see any exclusives for at least 'a couple of years'
. According to Spencer, this is because Microsoft considers the very idea of platform exclusives to run contrary to gaming's community spirit. While these words could simply be marketing speak, the success in drives for multiplatform has been proven before with other systems, and could likely be enormously beneficial in creating an appreciative audience for Xbox.
Microsoft have already stated that, at the very least, some games on Xbox One will operate as cross-platform on the Series X. Cyberpunk 2077, developed by Polish team CDProjekt Red is one of the best examples here, giving players a reason to jump in early. Interestingly, this isn't the only illustration of Polish entertainment making such a leap.
In the connected world of iGaming, for example, many Polish online casinos showcase similar connectivity
over different devices. It's no surprise that all corners of the Polish entertainment industry are illustrating this flexibility, as the country boasts an impressively established gaming industry, as well as being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In this realm, of online casinos, however, the shared experience works from collecting bonuses to actual play, so we hope Xbox manages something comparable, also inspired by the leaps Polish companies have already made.
Going a step further is Microsoft's leveraging of their Play Anywhere service. Users who take Microsoft up on this offer can purchase games on Xbox while also getting them on PC for no extra charge. Games like Gears 4 and 5 have already been popular here, with the addition of features like maintaining save progress making the experience especially streamlined. While not yet universal, Play Anywhere does seem to be an element Xbox Series X will taking increasingly seriously.
A Generation of Change
We don’t expect that the idea of platform-exclusive games will ever vanish completely, but the ninth generation appears to be one where its emphasis will be less than ever before. Throwing aside the debates on console wars, such a move is fantastic for fans long-tired of missing out on some of the best. The only real caveat is that for players to get the most out of the new generation, gaming PC's might become mandatory. As long-time PC gamers, we can tell you, this rarely comes cheap.
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