PlayStation: the games of past and future launches

By Steve Watts, Feb 14, 2013 12:20pm PST

Sony is expected to announce its next PlayStation console at its February 20th press event. Every day until then, Shacknews will look at PlayStation's history, and analyze what that could mean for the company's future.


Even if Sony unveils the next PlayStation console as expected at its event on February 20, chances are high the company will be fairly quiet regarding the launch line-up. But to game console early adopters, that information will be a key part of many spending decision -- especially since the PS4 is likely to go head-to-head against Microsoft's next machine this fall as well.

While Sony surely has some first-party games in development, the company has lost some third-party exclusivity in recent months. Even if not exclusive, though, third-party support is the lifeblood of a system and historically strong on Sony consoles. For that, we can look at development trends and the history of support on PlayStation platforms.

EA: Still in the game

If Electronic Arts can be counted on for one thing, it's a steady stream of sports franchises. The company hardly ever misses a year for many of its banner properties, and the history bears that out. The PlayStation 2 launch had its own NFL and NHL game, while the PlayStation 3 swapped the NHL release for a Tiger Woods title. More recently, EA Sports launched a Madden NFL and FIFA game for the Wii U on day one. Whatever is next for PlayStation, it's bound to have some Sports support.

However, EA recently commented that too many titles makes for a bumpy console transition. CFO Blake Jorgensen said the company is "more focused" this time around, and that the "core group" of 10-15 titles will be more carefully managed during the console transition.

Ubisoft: The eager participant

Ubisoft is generally happy to hop aboard a console launch, so much that it's become part of the company's identity. CEO Yves Guillemot has already committed to putting the bulk of the company behind new console development. "We will continue to develop on older platforms, for sure," he said, "but the majority of our time and talent [will go] toward taking advantage of those new possibilities."

Ubisoft is passionate about new console development because it believes that the hardware naturally lends itself to new properties. "It's a lot less risky for us to create new IPs and new products when we're in the beginning of a new generation," Guillemot said in July. "Our customers are very open to new things. Our customers are reopening their minds -- and they are really going after what's best. At the end of a console generation, they want new stuff, but they don't buy new stuff as much." That "new stuff" could include Watch Dogs, which has been called an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game. But an early tweet from an Ubisoft developer implied it could make the jump.

PlayStation 2 vs PlayStation 3

Of all of Sony's console launches, the PlayStation 2 came out swinging as the strongest. As compared to the PlayStation and PlayStation 3 launches, which boasted 10-15 launch titles each, the PS2 had roughly double that amount. You may expect that with so many titles, the platform would have suffered from poor quality thanks to shovelware and slipshod ports. But you'd be mistaken; a comparison of launch review scores shows the PlayStation 2 had the highest review scores of any Sony console launch, though it was still only the mid-range of console averages on the whole. Both in quantity and quality, the PS2 is the gold standard for Sony's performance thus far.

The original PlayStation was the weakest Sony launch both in number of titles and review scores, due to its newness to the market. The PlayStation 3 took a step back from the PS2 era dominance, but only slightly. It nearly matched the PS2 review score average with far fewer titles.

PlayStation Network: Online takes hold

One factor that has very little precedent in Sony's launches is the PlayStation Network. It was in relative infancy when the PlayStation 3 launched, offering only two games (Blast Factor and Cash Guns Chaos) on launch day. Now the PlayStation Store tends to put up more than that on a weekly basis, and the industry has matured into a comfortable place of producing high-end $60 titles alongside smaller $10-20 downloadable games.

We have no precedent for a new Sony console launch in the modern era of downloadable games, but we can look to their competitors for cues. Nintendo has made major strides in offering full retail games as downloadable, and offered a handful of downloadable games on launch day as well. The Vita also requires retail games to be available for download, so it's hard to imagine that Sony wouldn't follow suit or even expand these plans for its next major console launch.

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