In 2020, PlayStation head, Jim Ryan, said: “We believe in generations.” Fast forward a little over a year and the PlayStation 5’s biggest games – Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales, Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War Ragnarok – are cross-generational. It’s true, Sony went back on their word, but we’re in 2021, and business decisions change.
Still, several gamers are angered at this new reality. Many believe older systems prohibit games from achieving their true potential and ultimately undermine the PS5’s value. It’s no surprise then that God of War Ragnarok’s cross-generational release was met with significant outcry. God of War’s PS4 release, however, is a necessary business strategy that shouldn’t negatively affect the game.
In fact, the cross-generational release can be enjoyed and appreciated more by people who understand its practicality and necessity. To achieve that understanding, we must investigate the ever-changing gaming landscape and see the issue from Sony’s point of view.
As of 2020, no one had anticipated today’s unexpected console landscape, so Sony’s contradictory actions are not an accident, but a clever pivot. Several unforeseen events, the semiconductor shortage being the primary suspect, caused a great difference between the number of PS4 and PS5 players. Additionally, the PS5 launched during a worldwide pandemic, forcing every manufacturer to adopt a new work-from-home lifestyle.
To make matters worse, scammers, crypto miners, and resellers made the PS5 a difficult product to purchase at a reasonable price. Sony’s PS4 will remain the dominant console for years to come, due to scalping, which accounted for nearly 10% of PS5 sales. Essentially, Sony’s strategy to quickly transfer players into a new generation failed, making Xbox’s approach all the more enticing.
The Xbox ecosystem was much more accommodating of COVID-19’s unforeseen issues. Because of Microsoft’s cross-generational approach, even those who couldn’t snag an Xbox Series X didn’t feel left out. Sony was forced to adopt this strategy to maximize profit and support its biggest consumer base – even if it meant a cross-generational God of War. Besides, the PS4’s 110 million players are too important for Sony to neglect. It’s obvious that God of War will sell stupendously on PS4 and Sony would be stupid to miss out on such profits.
For those who are lucky enough to own a PS5, consider the feelings of those who can’t purchase the fashionable system. One look at Reddit will reveal several happy PS4 owners that won’t miss out on God of War Ragnarok. Cross-generational anger is a selfish notion for the entitled few that actually have a PS5. The ability of video games to provide other perspectives is one of their greatest strengths. Gamers get to embody characters unlike themselves, to understand their decisions, problems, and motives. It’s about time we took that lesson to heart instead of fueling those initial feelings of anger.
One source of said anger is the PS5’s apparent diminution of value – the notion that exclusives justify a purchase. This is a cost early adopters must bear. The transition between generations is a rocky one where Sony must balance two divergent consumer bases. Exclusives are important, but they may not be possible, at least in these early stages. Once the majority of consumers own a PS5, an incredible number of exclusives will join Returnal and Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, more than justifying the $500 purchase.
In the meantime, take advantage of 60 Frames Per Second, 4K Resolution, ray-tracing, and the super-fast SSD. Even cross-generational games like God of War Ragnarok will surely leverage these features to great effect. Perhaps the PS5 will impress even before those exclusives start rolling in.
A troubling aspect of God of War’s PS4 release is the possible limitations it will impose on the PS5 version – not from a visual perspective, but a mechanics one. According to our earlier discussion, God of War will look and run beautifully on the PS5, but a major feature may be omitted to allow for successful PS4 performance. For instance, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, a PS5 exclusive, utilities the system’s unique SSD for fast rift tearing gameplay, something that’s impossible on the PS4.
However, God of War Ragnarok is not Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart. The latter’s main attraction is its PS5 exclusive mechanic, but God of War doesn’t need such a gimmick. The original game set up auspicious storylines, which, in turn, brought about engaging gameplay scenes. Sony Santa Monica Studios managed this while practicing a great deal of restraint. Kratos never traveled to Asgard, fought Thor, or faced the ferocious wolf, Fenrir. Segments like these were saved for future games, which God of War Ragnarok will capitalize on. Essentially, the sequel will succeed because of the original’s foundation, not some PS5 specific mechanic.
Although it would be awesome if an attack took full advantage of the PS5’s SSD, it’s not a game-changer. The real game-changer would be a substantial Atreus reveal or a world-altering Thor fight, both of which the PS4 is fully capable of delivering. Besides, the original God of War was already a technical force. The whole game was presented in a single shot that rarely suffered from loading screens. Kratos’ muscles were well-defined through hyper-detailed textures and the diverse environments were all beautifully realized. Not to mention the combat felt smooth and rewarding despite its 30 FPS limitations.
After seeing what Sony Santa Monica could accomplish with old hardware, we’re ecstatic about the possibilities on the PS5. That excitement, along with the potential story revelations far outweighs any cross-generational limitations.
When specific news could diminish the quality of a highly anticipated game, it can be easy to get frustrated. It is better to focus on the word “could” instead and analyze the situation as it is. In God of War’s case, the cross-generational release supports the largest amount of fans while greatly benefiting Sony financially. If that release strategy is the most productive then we must focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the anxiety-induced unknown. Although we don’t know how the PS4 will affect it, God of War doesn’t require some PS5 contrivance to be successful. Regardless of the gaming console, success already exists within God of War’s DNA.