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Sony delivered some good and bad news for PlayStation owners on Wednesday, depending on your perspective around next-generation gaming. The good news: The next God of War game, titled God of War: Ragnarok, is coming to both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 platforms simultaneously. So if you haven't been able to buy Sony's new console or don't plan on it anytime soon, you can still reconnect with Kratos and his demigod son Atreus. The bad news: The game, from Sony-owned Santa Monica Studio, is being delayed to 2022.
The other, potentially bad news is that those hoping for a truly "next-gen" experience with Ragnarok might not get what they're asking for, if the game is to be optimized to run on hardware that came out in 2013. This has been a common point of dispute among gaming fans even before the release of Microsoft and Sony's new hardware, which allows players to play their existing libraries while enjoying new and existing titles with benefits like improved performance and resolution. When does it make sense to design a game to take full advantage of new hardware (like both consoles' new solid-state drives), and when is it a missed opportunity by leaving out all the consumers who haven't made the jump?
Here's PlayStation Studios's chief Hermen Hulst explaining the logic in an interview published to the company's blog earlier today:
You can't build a community of over 110 million PS4 owners and then just walk away from it, right? I think that'd be bad news for fans of PS4, and frankly not very good business.
Where it makes sense to develop a title for both PS4 and PS5 — for Horizon Forbidden West, the next God of War, GT7 — we'll continue looking at that. And if PS4 owners want to play that game, then they can. If they want to go on and play the PS5 version, that game will be there for them.
That being said, it's also very important to have showpieces for PS5, hence the development of Returnal and Ratchet that are exclusive to PS5.
Because the core architectures have remained the same in this transition to new console hardware, game developers have been able to more easily support cross-generation releases and to treat PlayStation and Xbox as more unified platforms. In rare cases, Sony has made a game exclusive to the PS5, like last year's Demon's Souls remake and the just-released rogue-like shooter Returnal. But those choices appear to be strategic calculations that a select game's appeal is niche enough to warrant restricting access to its new platform, which is currently experiencing severely restricted supply and has a player base just short of 8 million.
Compare that to the more than 110 million PS4 owners out there and you have a very obvious reason why Sony is interested in releasing new flagship titles like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War: Ragnarok on both generations at the same time. If Sony wants to sell tens of millions of copies of its big-budget first-party games, it can't afford not to.