We’re fast approaching the halfway point of 2016, and what a year it has already been for video games. In the next few weeks alone, a period of the year typically quiet, we’re inundated with a plethora of notable new titles.
It’s going to be hard to find enough time in the day to play everything, but that really isn’t a terrible problem to have. After all, it wasn’t long ago that this generation of consoles barely had a single purpose developed game to play between them. That’s a distant memory now though, as this console generation is beginning to build momentum with a host of games that include critically acclaimed new IPs and long awaited sequels.
Perhaps most significantly, over the last 12 months, Sony and Microsoft’s first party game studios have finally begun to roll out some notable exclusive titles. Microsoft was certainly quicker off the mark having delivered Halo 5 Guardians, Quantum Break and Forza Motorsport since last year’s E3 conference. The speed at which Microsoft’s first party studios have produced content has certainly been impressive, though hardly surprising.
The Xbox One’s near-disastrous launch back in 2013 has meant the console needed to have something to bolster its appeal in the face of PS4’s steamrolling commercial success. Clearly, Microsoft identified PlayStation’s lack of exclusive games as an opportunity to regain lost ground in the race for console supremacy, and Microsoft has concentrated its efforts on bulking out its game library.
“The greatest games lineup in Xbox history” is a slogan Microsoft has bullishly reiterated but has the critical reception to its latest exclusive titles really echoed that statement? Given the lukewarm reception to both Halo 5 and Quantum Break, and the delay/cancellation of Scalebound and Fable Legends, the answer is probably not. Of course, we still have Gears of War 4 to come which does look stunning and is expected to become the systems best-selling game so far. Yet, in the wake of Microsoft’s emphatic statement of intent, having to rely on Gears of War 4 to save blushes is a little concerning. At the moment, it rather feels as though Microsoft’s current list of Xbox One exclusives are a mediocre hand of cards, and awaiting the potential success of Gears of War 4 is like trying to win the game on the river.
Sony’s first party game showing has been near lackadaisical by comparison, but then Sony has hardly needed to rush content given the consoles astonishing number of units sold. Even so, two of last year’s surprise packages were both PlayStation exclusives of superlative quality. Sony rather strangely made little fuss of them prior to launch, but both Bloodborne and Until Dawn eventually went on to win significant praise among critics and sell very respectively. Sony’s lack of any significant marketing campaign indicates they slightly underestimated the potential of both titles, but the PlayStation community certainly welcomed the addition of two diverse and interesting games. They’ve unquestionably added a string to PS4’s bow, though the more recent PS4 exclusives have really begun to demonstrate the pedigree of Sony’s first party game studios.
Insomniac Games latest iteration of the classic Ratchet and Clank series released last month to rave reviews; another surprise success, the response to Ratchet & Clank has been overwhelming positive despite a fairly low key launch. Hitting retail shelves at a low price point and without much in the way of a decent marketing build-up, Ratchet & Clank has proved a unanimous success, not only commercially but also in its rejuvenation of the 3D platform genre. Intentionally or not, Sony has once again earned the adoration of the gaming community by delivering a gameplay experience the industry has been sorely lacking for years.
Ratchet and Clank is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously; a breath of fresh air, its nostalgia has won over gamers. That being said, Ratchet and Clank’s success is founded on superb gameplay, slick visuals and brilliant writing; it simply is just a very good game. Sure, it’s been given a helping hand by a growing interest in rekindling the platforming genre and the franchises prior reputation, but its success has ultimately been down to its superb quality. Ratchet and Clank has given an unexpected extra dimension to PS4’s growing library not present on Xbox One.
There isn’t much you can say about Uncharted 4 that hasn’t been said already. It’s a brilliant game and one that it has lived up to, if not exceeded the majority of expectation since its launch. Naughty Dog doesn’t seem to miss, and Uncharted has once again moved the goal posts in respect to what video games can achieve through its sublime presentation. Uncharted is PlayStation’s hallmark franchise; it is to PlayStation what Halo is to Xbox, but where Halo 5 dropped the ball, Uncharted 4 has set new benchmarks in video gaming standards. A franchise name will only take a game so far, the rest is entirely dependent on quality, and Naughty Dog hasn’t disappointed. Rather than justify a console’s existence, exclusive content is supposed to drive console sales, and that’s exactly what Uncharted 4 is going to do for PS4.
The importance of exclusive content has been a hotly debated topic in recent years, especially given the impressive sales of both Xbox One and PS4 despite their near-identical games libraries. Yet, exclusive content does matter; it is what has defined console gaming since the dawn of their popularity back in the 1980s, and has put it at the forefront of the industry. Competition drives quality and the investment in first-party content results in a better standard of games for the consumer.
The inescapable truth is that Sony’s first party game studios have shown superior quality in the face of mediocre Microsoft’s Xbox One exclusives. Forget the disappointment of The Order 1886; the future now looks very bright for Sony. After all, its most reputed game studios have still to deliver their own titles, a host of which are highly anticipated new IPs such as The Last Guardian, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Sony Bend’s new title. The booming success of Sony’s most recent games and the promise of its future offerings absolutely give the PS4 an edge over the competition. The consoles ecosystem continues to look the more appealing of its rivals, and where before it was merely marketing spin in; Sony’s first party game content is starting to give real weight to PS4’s superiority.