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Sony First-Party Studios – Where Art Thou?

December 7, 2015 Written by Michael Briers

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By all accounts, the neon-blue curtain has fallen on PlayStation Experience 2015 — and with it Sony’s final barrage of announcements for the calendar year. Arriving thick and fast during the keynote, some reveals such as that of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom were long on the cards, while others dropped completely out of left field.

PlayStation VR was finally — finally — given its time to shine, with a slew of games confirmed for the platform and a somewhat ham-fisted tech demo championing cooperative play; Square Enix continued to doll out the nostalgia with a wonderful first look at Final Fantasy VII gameplay — not that one, the other one — and Sony closed out the show with a barnstorming trailer for an upcoming AAA exclusive. Wait a second…

Missing: One Megaton

Yes, while PS VR and the FFVII Remake were both present and accounted for, fans were left wanting for that marquee reveal to send off PlayStation Experience 2015 with a bang. But what we got was little more than a whimper — specifically, Epic Games’ sci-fi MOBA Paragon.

That’s not to discredit Epic’s genre piece, which is due to hit PS4 and PC in early 2016, but as far as grand finales go this was leagues behind Sony’s recent curtain calls. E3 2015? An extensive Uncharted 4 gameplay demo that showcased a stunningly realistic chase sequence featuring Nate and Sully. Paris Games Week? Quantic Dream’s unsurprising reveal of Detroit: Become Human — a nebulous trailer, sure, but still a teaser for a PS4 exclusive nonetheless.

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Tokyo Game Show 2015, on the other hand, capped things off with a Bandai Namco sizzle reel touting a collection of games headed to PlayStation Vita which is, for all intents and purposes, befitting of the target demographic.

For want of a better phrase, PlayStation Experience 2015 lacked that killing blow. The kind of announcement and/or trailer that lights up Twitter feeds and truly sends off the show on a high note. Many considered Sony Bend’s PS4 game to be a shoo-in, not to mention the fact that Sony Santa Monica hinted at development on a God of War sequel of some sort for PS4 almost a year ago. Both were no-shows.

Too Harsh?

Then again, are we being too critical? PSX is an event that is, by its very design, angled to appeal to the most loyal devotees of the PlayStation Nation. So, when Shuhei Yoshida reflected on the keynote presentation — a presentation he oddly wasn’t part of — Sony’s Head of Worldwide Studios touched base on the way in which the company has rolled out announcements during 2015.

Speaking during the PS I Love You XOXO panel, Yoshida-san was quizzed about Sony Bend’s absence from the event, though he quickly pointed out that such expectation was somewhat blown out of proportion. (The segment begins around the 2 hour 32 minute mark.)

“That expectation was somewhat wrong,” he laughed. “We plan it out for events all through the year — E3, Tokyo Game Show, Paris [Paris Games Week] and PSX. I find PSX is a community event, it’s a great opportunity to showcase some smaller titles and all of the indie titles we can highlight.

“We brought the larger titles to E3, TGS and Paris. [I don’t think] we have ever announced this many big titles in one year from my perspective. So PSX is more about Gio Corsi [Director of Third Party Production], Adam Boyes and our smaller titles like Fat Princess Adventure.”

Without question, Shuhei Yoshida is right in saying that PlayStation Experience acts as the perfect platform to shed light on the quieter corners of the PlayStation ecosystem. From Highwire Games’ Golem to the rather bonkers 100FT Robot Golf, the event drove home the point that PlayStation 4’s library continues to broaden and diversify with each passing year, with VR now acting as an exciting extension to that catalogue in question.

By the same token, though, if the platform holder views PSX as a community event, then surely this was the time to unveil Sony Bend’s PS4 game? After all, this was a keynote addressed to the most passionate corner of the PlayStation 4’s 30 million install base — a corner filled with people who live and breathe PlayStation, and who are likely aware of Bend’s history with Syphon Filter when it made its bow on PSOne in ’99.

Couple this with the fact that Bend hasn’t released a game since Uncharted: Golden Abyss almost four years ago — assisting work on Uncharted: Fight for Fortune notwithstanding — and you’d be forgiven for thinking that an announcement is long overdue.

Of course, we can’t claim to know the logistics of the studio’s development timeline. Perhaps Sony Bend had intended to introduce its long-in-development PS4 title during PSX, only for it to be pulled at the eleventh hour. It’s certainly possible.

However, are we asking for too much? As Yoshida alluded to during the panel, Sony has unveiled Horizon: Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 6, Danganronpa 3, Gran Turismo Sport and reintroduced The Last Guardian throughout the course of 2015, making for a notably healthy lineup for 2016 and beyond.

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Besides, what’s the point in seeing a vertical slice or learning of a nebulous release window for a game that isn’t truly ready? First impressions are everything, and the pressures of winning over fans from the first frame of a reveal trailer are considerably amplified during a live presentation in the vein of PSX.

If the sophomore PlayStation Experience event taught us anything it’s that you can never underestimate the importance of the ‘one more thing’ send-off. Even still, let’s revel in the excitement of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, Yakuza 0 heading west, Final Fantasy VII Remake, the jaw-dropping beauty of Uncharted 4 — seriously, what black magic is Naughty Dog spinning? — and let Bend and Sony Santa Monica worry about when is best to debut their respective PS4 projects.