It is undeniable that Sony has secured their spot on top of the 8th Console Generation, but what did they use to get there? Some of their best methods aren’t always games as a PS4 exclusive, but also the limited exclusivity deals they negotiated with some of the world’s largest franchises.
Call of Duty
For a long time, Xbox was considered the home of Call of Duty. The massively popular first-person shooter was famous for content releases on Xbox first until Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. This coincided with the end of Activision’s contract with Microsoft, opening the door for Sony to seize the initiative. The contract itself not only gave PlayStation users access to the DLC releases a full 30 days earlier than PC and Xbox users, but it also gave them earlier access to the pre-release beta testing of the game.
The biggest blow this has dealt to the combined community of Call of Duty players is separation. In Modern Warfare (2019), Infinity Ward introduced full cross-play funcitonality. This was a major boon for the franchise, but not for everyone. Around the same time that we learned about cross-play, we also learned that Spec Ops, the beloved Co-op mission game mode, would have a full year of PlayStation exclusivity. This move was unheard of, and it angered many fans. A full year for an entire gamemode does seem a bit harsh, but if it pushes sales then the companies are happy. The franchise isn’t bound to PlayStation, but with a gamemode becoming a timed PS4 exclusive, there’s no telling what will happen.
The Persona series, a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, is a highly popular JRPG series that follows the high school setting of Shin Megami Tensei. The Persona series itself has seen worldwide acclaim, and Persona 5 is no different. The most recent addition to the Persona lineup follows a silent, player named protagonist as they transfer to a new school. The game itself features classic Persona elements, such as dungeon crawling and the Social Link system, while also reintroducing older elements such as the Negotiation system, which was pulled from the Shin Megami Tensei series, and did not appear after Persona 2, until now.
Persona 5 was an amazing seller for Sony, with the game being the largest Persona launch worldwide. In Japan it became the fastest selling Persona game since the original, Revelations: Persona. While Persona 5 is a big hit, it does not look like Atlus has any plans to release it on other platforms. PlayStation’s reputation as the home of JRPG games continues to bolster its popularity both in the west and Japan, rounding out its library and providing potential customers another reason to choose it over its rivals. Some of the best JRPGs of this generation are Nintendo Switch or PS4 exclusive titles.
Destiny 1 & 2
Bungie’s newest IP, Destiny, has had a home on PlayStation since the beginning. When Destiny first launched in 2014 on all systems, it was even bundled with the exclusive Glacier White PS4. From the first day of Destiny’s release, the game had exclusive content only available on PlayStation. While it started with an exclusive Strike, Crucible map, three armor sets, and two exotic weapons, each of Destiny’s DLC releases added more and more content to the pool of exclusives until the release of The Taken King. This was where all of the Year One content was released for Xbox players, although it also introduced even more exclusive content. The Taken King and Rise of Iron’s exclusive content was not released on Xbox platforms until October of 2017, after the release of Destiny 2.
In Destiny 2, the theme of continued exclusives was maintained. The release of Destiny 2 meant the release of more exclusive content for the PlayStation 4. Not only was the game bundled with a Glacier White PlayStation 4 Pro, but the Lake of Shadows Strike, the Exotic Borealis Sniper Rifle, the Crucible map Retribution, the ship City Apex, and three more armor sets are also available exclusively to PlayStation players. In recent years, however, items being PS4 exclusive have come and gone. Now, every player, on Stadia, Steam, PS4, or Xbox One can play the same thanks to Cross-Save features added prior to Shadowkeep.
Based loosely on the life of the Western samurai William Adams, Nioh takes the player on a journey through war-torn Japan fighting various Yokai in pursuit of a villain from your past. The game was met with commercial and critical success, being compared to the Souls series in its combat and design. That said, the game takes a step away from the open world elements of the Souls titles, having players select missions to play and replay. The game showcases many characters from Japanese history during the 1600’s, such as Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari.
Nioh originally released exclusively on PS4; however, it did release nine months later on PC, with all of the DLC releases included. There does not appear to be any plans to release the game on Xbox at this time, however.
Nioh was a top seller for Sony and Team Ninja, which was an incredible boon for Sony, since games such as Ninja Gaiden II were originally exclusive to the Xbox 360. Nioh was so popular that it sold out at many stores such as Walmart and even online retailers like Amazon and sold over a million units within a month, despite being available only as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.
Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
The Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy was an excellent remake of a fan favorite classic series, yet many fans were bothered by the fact that the game was initially released exclusively on PlayStation 4. The original games, which were released on PlayStation, were console exclusives until 2001 with the release of the game Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex.
While the series began to take a dive in its later years, the announcement and subsequent release of the N. Sane Trilogy has revitalized the series. The N. Sane Trilogy was released on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC on June 30, 2018. Furthermore, Activision recently released Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, a remake of the racing classic.
The game’s sales were incredible, selling 2.5 million copies within four months, and was the best selling game in United Kingdom for six weeks after its release, a first for any of the Crash titles.
No Man’s Sky
Hello Games’ biggest title, No Man’s Sky, was a sci-fi adventure that had been anticipated for years. The sheer concept of a game with more planets than we could fully explore in our lifetime was incredible. When they announced No Mans’ Sky as a timed PS4 exclusive, many fans cheered at the announcement. It was easy to be excited, that their favorite console snagged what could be the game of a lifetime. Others voiced their dissapointment that they would have to wait for the experience to be released elsewhere.
If you know the story of No Man’s Sky, however, you know it complications arose.
Many gamers say that No Man’s Sky was the poster child for an over-hyped marketing campaign that was not held up at launch. Despite the labels of “unfinished game being sold at full price,” the game’s massive hype translated into massive sales.
While this may have been the case at release, Hello Games has done their best to turn their game around, with several major content updates that have put into the game features that were promised, yet lacking at release. This new content not only excited the cult following of fans who enjoyed the game since release but also managed to start bringing back players who bought the game and found themselves wanting more.
While No Man’s Sky released on PlayStation 4 on Aug. 9, 2016, only three days earlier than the PC release, the game was not available on Xbox until July 24, 2018. This release coincided with one of the largest patches to the game: NEXT, which introduced many long awaited features, several that did not make it into the launch, such as true multi-player.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice follows Senua on her journey to Helheim. She is trying to save the soul of her lover. The game itself focuses heavily on Senua’s psychosis. Ninja Theory designed the psychological aspects with the guidance of several top researchers on the matter. The mental disorder created many interesting game mechanics. The system also helps showcase certain narrative pieces through Senua’s perspective.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice released on PlayStation 4 and PC at the same time, on Aug. 8, 2017, but did not release on Xbox until April 11, 2018.
Senua’s Sacrifice was a smash hit when it was released, and after only three months the game earned back all the development expenses and began to profit far ahead of schedule, with over 500,000 copies sold on PC and PlayStation 4.
On top of good sales numbers, the game also won several BAFTA awards. Marketing, and Sony’s choice to pick up the game for timed exclusive publication on their platform made it a big hit. The game developers not only appealed to people as an indie title with a AAA production value, but also donated all proceeds from the game earned on Mental Health Awareness day (Oct. 10) to Rethink Mental Illness.
Microsoft has responded to this blow in kind, by adding developers Ninja Theory into their ranks as an Xbox Studio, with the sequel to Senua’s Sacrifice on its way. There likely won’t ever be another Ninja Theory game as a PlayStation or PS4 exclusive.
One of the top games of 2017, NieR: Automata is the sequel to NieR. Nier was a spin-off of the Drakengard series. The game follows androids 2B, 9S, and A2, who are fighting against an army of other-worldly machines. They are trying to protect what remains of humanity on the Moon in the year 11945 AD. Through many twists and turns, NieR: Automata has become a fan favorite. There are still hopes for a continuation despite the ending.
NieR: Automata’s exclusivity did not last long. The PC release came 10 days after the PlayStation 4 release, on March 17, 2017. It arrived on Xbox One a bit over a year later in June of 2018.
NieR: Automata was the sequel to NieR, but it sold much better than its predecessor, which faced mixed critical reviews, lower sales, and unreleased ports, despite being available on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. NieR: Automata, on the other hand, sold over 2 million copies, and over 1.4 million copies on PlayStation 4 alone. If there is a future for the NieR franchise, it probably won’t come as a PS4 exclusive.