Sony’s Betting Even Harder On Console Exclusives With The PS5

Sony’s Betting Even Harder On Console Exclusives With The PS5
Image: Sony

The prevailing wisdom within Sony is that exclusive games sell consoles. And if you were wondering — or maybe hoping — if that attitude might change with the PS5, one of the company’s executive vice presidents is doubling down on the power of an exclusive.

In a lengthy interview with The Guardian, Sony’s executive vice president and head of business operations in Europe has described console exclusives as “more important, I think, than they’ve ever been”. In the interview — courtesy of Kotaku alumni Keza McDonald — Rutter explained how Sony’s focus on exclusives highlighted why people should invest in the PlayStation 5, and the brand more generally.

“[PlayStation] can rely on a studio network that can really show off the innovations that we’re trying to put across … when the exclusives are as powerful as Marvel’s Spider-Man or Horizon, they are important games that people want to play,” Rutter told The Guardian.

Curiously, the chatter about “zero loading times” is starting to fade away a little. When talking about Gran Turismo 7, Rutter explained how the technological upgrades in the PS5 would enable “next to nothing compared to what they have been in the past”. That’s not quite the same as the “instantaneous” or “blink and you’ll miss it” phrasing deployed by Mark Cerny into the PS5’s deep-dive earlier this year. It’s worth keeping an eye on that messaging as we get closer to launch. The lead-up to console releases have historically encouraged all sorts of claims and marketing messages, many of which often not panning out quite as planned.

Everything Sony Announced About The PS5

After letting Microsoft have free reign for almost three months, Sony and their chief architect Mark Cerny finally lifted the lid on what everyone wanted to know about the PlayStation 5: install times, backwards compatibility, how 3D audio works in practice, GPU and CPU speeds, ray-tracing, architecture and what that means for video games.

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23 of the 28 games shown during the PlayStation 5 briefing were either first-party games or timed exclusives. It’s a vast divergence from Microsoft’s strategy, which has focused on the proliferation of Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Phil Spencer himself has spoken about “bringing console quality games that you see on TV or PC to any device”.

“I want to see the creators that I have relationships with reach all two billion people who play games, and not have to turn their studio into something that makes match-3 games rather than story-driven single player games. Because that’s the only way to reach a bigger platform. That is our goal: to bring high-quality games to every device possible on the planet,” Spencer said at E3 2018.

The biggest emergence of exclusives in the current console generation wasn’t through more first-party games, but the proliferation of timed exclusives and console-exclusive content. Sony made several moves in this space, locking up content on Destiny for a full year before it was released on the Xbox One, as well as month-long exclusivity on content in various Call of Duty releases. Rutter’s remarks mean we should more of that behaviour going forward.


  • Not gone lie – I was very annoyed that Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo are both time exclusives, yet I don’t hear people losing their shot the way they did when Rise of the Tomb Raider became exclusive to Xbox so double standards I guess.

    • Yeah people were butthurt angry when the Epic Games Store has a timed exclusive like they did with Borderlands 3. But a console exclusivity no one cares about

      • There’s a difference though. Putting aside their scumbag tactics trying to strongarm their competitors into doing what they want, Epic is a PC game store competing with other PC game stores. Every store is selling games that run on a PC and their competition point is about getting the consumer to buy a game from their store and not someone else’s.

        XBox, Playstation and Switch are consoles that play games that only run on those consoles so the competition point is about selling the console, not the games and one way to compete is by augmenting your product with exclusive games. It sucks, yes, but a game made to run on one platform is by nature exclusive to that platform. You can’t take a Playstation game and play it on an XBox or Switch unless you spend time and effort creating new versions of that game.

      • Borderlands 3 isn’t the best example. It’s butthurt was amplified (and justified) as it was available on Steam for pre-order before inking the exclusivity deal with Epic.

        Console’s have a long history of exclusives, in part from limitations from the closed nature of console hardware and software development over the years so it’s become an expectation. The PS and Xbox platforms are only recently so similar that developing for both is a no-brainer for most devs.

    • I guess the difference was probably that Tomb Raider was a new entry in an established multiplatform series, so it had an existing fan base on the other platform. While these are new IP starting out from scratch so people don’t know them yet – they might both turn out to be sh*t and nobody will care about exclusivity then 😀

      Personally, I don’t really care about timed exclusivity. Whether I get the game now or a year from now doesn’t really bother me, I’ll just play other stuff until then.

      • I remember a bit of rage in the comments over RoTT’s Xbox One deal when it was announced, but I think also it was because RoTT just simply wasn’t as big of a deal as Microsoft thought it would be. If it was a bigger franchise, it would have been a different story.

        • They may have just picked the wrong game to buy exclusivity on. Dangling RoTT in front of PS4 owners around the same time they were getting Uncharted 4 probably wasn’t going to tempt too many across to the other side.

          • I saw RoTT as Rise of the Triad at first. If Sony were dangling a full HD remake of Triad at launch along with GT7 and RE8 I would be all in

  • Hmph. I’m getting a PS5 so it won’t negatively affect me, but I’m not a fan of this strategy at all. Sure, it’ll pay off, but being profitable doesn’t make it right.

      • First party exclusive – no issue; Indie exclusive, also no issue because development is expensive so it’s probably good for them to pick a box, but third party timed exclusivity like they’re pulling with Bethesda – is just a bad look, and Sony’s been pulling this crap all the way back to PS3 versions of Batman, Battlefield and Ass Creed getting extras that the Xbox versions missed out on.

        You’d hope that they’d be embarrassed by their anti-consumer behaviour and stop it but I guess not.

        • Anti consumer? Third party exclusives, even timed exclusives have been a thing for a long time too. Even back in the mid 80s you had third party games only coming out on one system, or coming out on one system first with other versions following later. One version getting features another one doesn’t is also common and has been happening for a long time. I see no issue with this.

          You don’t have to like it, and that’s fine. You don’t have to play those games, either. But this isn’t anti consumer. This is just competition.

  • I’ve got no issue with that. They went pretty all in on exclusives for the PS4, and they completely blew the Xbone out of the water for sales, and they made some absolutely incredible games while doing it.

    • Exactly. I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with Sony’s strategy. The exclusive games they have absolutely make it worth purchasing their console over XBOX. It’s a no brainer.

  • Sony’s exclusives ensure that I buy their console and their exclusives

    But Sony’s attitude ensures that I buy the rest of my games on Xbox and PC.

  • It’s the high quality exclusives (timed or first party) that’s crucial to success, and Sony knows that very well across four generations and 25 years. This strategy won’t change going into next gen. My hope is that we see an increased frequency of first party games released per year compared to this generation.

  • I mean…the whole point is to differentiate your product offering in order to increase sales right? Nothing does that better than exclusives. It’s annoying as hell for consumers, but we wouldn’t have the games without capitalism and exclusives are capitalism 101.

    Deathloop is a real kick in the plums for Xbox owners though. Looks awesome.

    • I mean… not entirely right. We WOULD have games without capitalism. It happens all the time, it’s almost a loop. Indies love making games. They’re passionate about it. They often do it for the love of it alone. And gamers say shit like, “I’MA THROW MY WALLET AT THAT,” and corporate types perk up their ears and say, “Someone’s throwing whatnow? And it’s going to a creator without a MIDDLE-MAN?! We can’t have that!” So they step in and then they’re like, “OK, you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it for the love of it, but have you tried it in a more exploitative way that gets ALL the money instead of SOME money?” And the cycle repeats.

  • What wrong with Console Exclusives? No one complaining Pokemon, Mario, Zelda, Animal crossing Console Exclusives
    The same as HALO and Gear of Wars, right?

    In fact, Console Exclusives make Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to make innovated game and make good game for their console, right?

  • Every day that passes without a FF7 PC Remake is another day closer to me buying my first console since the Dreamcast.

  • My strategy is to pick up a PS4 bundle second hand when the market is flooded and the price bottoms out as ppl dump to get a PS5 (I’ll be picky to find one that comes with a few of the exclusives, happy to pay a little bit more for that.).

    Rinse and repeat whilst consoles still have an optical slot.

    Like @braiins said above, plenty of other stuff to get on with in the interim, like more than I can ever play in my free time.

  • It’s the right strategy as far as I can tell. Xbox is completely pointless for me given I have a great gaming PC. If all of Sony’s games were on PC, I wouldn’t buy a PS5 either tbh…

  • I find people’s hatred towards exclusives so shortsighted. In the end of the day, the money made from timed exclusives means the customer ends up with a better game.
    For example, I can’t imagine that Hello Games would have had the capital to spend years rebuilding No Man’s Sky into what it is today without Sony’s financial backing. Sony in particular has focused on pushing solid single player games through this generation when the smart money would have been to focus on multiplayer/battle royale style games, like Microsoft did. As a result, we have a much higher standard of both single and multiplayer than what we would have otherwise. In the end of the day, I’d rather have the bar raised for everyone than have access to all games all the time.

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