Beyond the Horizon: Does Sony need to Shake Things Up?
Horizon appeared. It reviewed very well. It sold pretty well. And it disappeared into the shadow of Elden Ring. Forums throughout the interest are dissecting the new king of the open world to the point of complete joylessness, for better or for worse. And Horizon Forbidden West has had to take a quiet second place.
It’s important here to say this isn’t an article about Horizon’s quality, or even about its quality next to Elden Ring. This is an article about risk and reward. This is an article about taking a safe, marketable stance, and then being overshadowed by an altogether more niche game.
It’s happened to Horizon twice. After the first game came out, Breath Of The Wild quickly followed. While Horizon was an excellent evolution on the Ubisoft formula, Breath of the Wild took the franchise in a brave new direction. It pushed the art of the open world in a way that put the player at the centre. It wasn’t just a giant map where you were pushed towards certain objectives, the world being a frame for smaller stories. The world was the adventure. Nintendo, not necessarily known for taking giant risks, took a popular franchise and turned it on its head. Hell, they took a genre and turned it on its head.
With the second Horizon, the same has happened again. And I have to ask how long Sony is going to let this happen.
They can release blockbuster game after blockbuster game… but if they’re not innovating, the conversation will always end up somewhere else.
Innovation for Innovation’s Sake – Beyond the Horizon
Of course, it’s not exactly that easy. The reason Sony plays it safe is because the game of risk and reward is scarier than ever. Games are more expensive, they take longer. An average Sony release sells better than many more outstanding games – so why push harder than you have to?
For every game that tries to push something new, most of them aren’t selling 10+ million copies. Played by “only” millions of people, they end up being the moments you remember in passing years later. For instance, remember Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system? Remember Dreams?
Sony are more likely to hit 10+ million copies with something that’s safer. And yet, the definition of what becomes safe begins to slip over time. What makes a Sony game good can’t be what makes a Sony game good in five or ten years. And no, better graphics aren’t going to cut it.
Even now, PlayStation exclusives don’t seem to be spoken of in the same hallowed tones as they were a few years ago. Respected? Yes. Always. Worshipped? By most, no.
So what can they do? What do they have to do?
They need to start getting ahead of the competition. They need to start being the leaders people say they are. Quality, while a hallmark of any good game, isn’t enough. They need to start taking risks.
Horizon may well be a solid game. It may even be one of the best games of the year. But Elden Ring, by putting a spin on a familiar idea, may end up being many people’s game of the generation. And all it took was trusting the audience to find it, to understand it, to love it.
Will Sony sell more copies taking this approach? Probably not. Will they retain their crowd as the gold standard of console gaming if the bottom line is all they think of? Only time will tell.