Yesterday’s PlayStation Showcase was disappointing, to say the least. Going in, I was more excited than I have been in a long time for a presentation. There were so many games that were seemingly ready to get new trailers, like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and Stellar Blade. I’d cleared out my schedule just to watch the showcase, as I felt this would be the big bang we’d been waiting for all year.
As we all know, this did not happen. In fact, I’d wager the opposite happened. Sony’s 2023 PlayStation Showcase was an embarrassing showing that left me with absolutely no more knowledge about their 2023 slate than I had come in with. There’s a multitude of reasons why this showcase was disappointing, but the main one was Sony’s strange focus on Games as a Service (GaaS) titles.
You Take a Live Service Game, and You Take a Live Service Game! And You!
Sony clearly is all in on GaaS titles, as their showcase was riddled with them. Their financial report this past week cited 60% allocated budget to live service, but no one could have imagined how bad it was until the showcase aired. The showcase opened with a new game from Haven, the studio led by Jade Raymond. What was it? A Payday-style heist shooter with a little bit of WATCH DOGS thrown in there. Sounds cool, right? Well, it’s a live service title coming to PS5 and PC.
This was the story of the showcase, with every single game announcement from PlayStation Studios besides Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 a live service title. Firewalk Studios? GaaS title! Bungie? GaaS title! Third parties? GaaS titles! They were everywhere and took up a large portion of the show.
This was so disappointing on so many levels. I have zero interest in most GaaS titles or the philosophies behind them. I could talk for hours about why I don’t believe in the business practice, but that isn’t the point of this article. Sure, there are good GaaS titles, like Final Fantasy XIV, but focusing a majority of your “next console phase” on GaaS titles seems like a recipe for disaster to me. This is, unfortunately, an effect of how the industry was from 2019 to 2021. When teams were starting development then, the biggest games around them were GaaS titles. We’re talking Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, Valorant, etc.
So, naturally, if you’re a development team you probably want in on all that monetary potential and popularity, right? Wrong. Sure, you might still find success with launching a GaaS title, but I couldn’t even tell you how many launched since 2020 have shuttered their doors and closed for good. It’s incredibly hard to make a GaaS title that offers something different than the other 100 of them on the market. For this reason, most titles besides the big players that were there at the beginning do not last.
Sony Is Already Cancelling GaaS Titles
It also doesn’t help when the company is funding GaaS titles only to cancel them years into development. We’ve seen it happen twice now with both Deviation Games and Final Strike Games. Not to mention, Sony recently shuttered an entire studio down.
We saw the news recently that both Deviation and Final Strike’s titles were canceled by Sony. The company was funding these new IPs, which were both set to be shooter GaaS titles. Now sure, things can be said for quality assurance, however, why invest in titles like this if they’re just going to get canceled before completion? Additionally, I feel like the fact that two GaaS titles have already been shut down before hitting the public isn’t a good thing for all these other titles still coming. What allowed them to not get canceled?
There’s also the case of PixelOpus, which had its doors closed this month. The announcement was just made randomly on Twitter, with the message reading that the “PixelOpus adventure has come to an end”. There’s been no news as to why this studio was shut down, however, we do know they were working on a PS5 title that is assuredly canceled.
Outside of Sony, the industry has seen dozens of GaaS titles shut down over the past few years. Most of them barely last a year. Each of the following has been shut down (or will be) this year:
- Crossfire X
- Knockout City
- Lemnis Gate
- Paladins (Nintendo Switch)
- Rogue Company (Nintendo Switch)
- Project Xandata
- Deathverse: Let It Die
- Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier
- Babylon’s Fall
- Battlefield Mobile
- Apex Legends Mobile
- Dragon Quest The Adventures of Dai: A Hero’s Bond
We’re only halfway through the year too, so this list will assuredly double in size by the end of 2023. The longevity of this genre of games has yet to be seen outside of the industry-leading titles.
Where Was the Gameplay at PlayStation Showcase?
Something else that was a huge problem at yesterday’s show was the fact that a majority of the trailers were CGI and not actual gameplay. A few years back, Xbox had a similar event to this one where the same thing happened – no gameplay and all sorts of CGI reveal trailers. This was bashed by the community and eventually, for last year’s show, Xbox made it purposefully focused on “games you can play within the next 12 months” with “real gameplay”.
It’s not the CGI trailers are “bad” per se, but they tend to give an unrealistic representation of what the game is going to be like. Not only is it misleading with graphics, but generally the gameplay really cannot be derived from a CGI trailer.
Take the biggest reveal of yesterday, Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater. The reveal was a full CGI trailer with no information at all regarding the studio, release date, or gameplay. Luckily, Konami introduced more information regarding the title after the presentation, but this doesn’t happen all the time.
Gameplay is king. Obviously, that’s what makes a game… a game. It was tough sitting through yesterday’s show with no Sony titles showcasing gameplay besides Spider-Man 2. We have no idea what any of these games look like or play like thanks to the CGI trailers.
The craziest part about all of these CGI trailers is that no dates were given for these titles. We have no idea when they are coming, only that they exist and are coming to PS5 & PC. When you start with a CGI trailer, it gives off an appearance that says your game isn’t coming anytime soon. That leads to my next point, which is the fact that Sony’s 2023 lineup remains unchanged from
I Know Nothing More than I Did Last Week.
With Spider-Man 2 set to still launch in Fall 2023, we still have an unchanged slate for Sony this year. The showcase didn’t add any new first-party titles launching this year, which was incredibly surprising considering we have not gotten a PlayStation Showcase since 2021, over 600 days ago.
At the end of the day, yesterday’s showcase proved one thing: PlayStation 5 still does not have exclusives. Sure, exclusives don’t matter much, but that’s really what drives one to pick one console over the other. As of now, the PS5 exclusives consist of Astro’s Playroom, Destruction AllStars, Demon’s Souls, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Final Fantasy XVI, and Spider-Man 2. I expected much more for this generation, and I did expect yesterday to prove that point, which it, unfortunately, failed to do.
I’m not confident in Sony’s ability to produce quality single-player titles consistently anymore after this showcase. It’s clear the company has its mind on live service, and as someone who doesn’t touch those games, I’m questioning what first-party titles I’m going to be buying from Sony in the next year besides Spider-Man 2.
The games I’m most excited about on PlayStation 5 are Final Fantasy XVI and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, which are bought-out exclusives from Square Enix. While that’s great as it gives me a reason to own the system, it just doesn’t sit well that besides that nothing is going on to keep me engaged with the ecosystem.
The “Next Phase” Did Not Impress at PlayStation Showcase
Overall, I just was not impressed with the “next phase” of PlayStation 5. My console has solely been used to play third-party titles at this point. This PlayStation Showcase completely made me question my choice of buying the console in the first place besides for third parties, as I could have entered into 2023 still doing fine with a PlayStation 4.
I’m hopeful that Sony could have more titles to share as sixteen of their studios aren’t just working on nothing, but this was not a good look for a company that claims they are “on top of the industry”. If these titles are the future of the PlayStation 5, you might want to rethink that one, Sony.