At this point the PlayStation 4 is a freight train that won’t be slowed. 2017 was a landmark year for the PS4, just like it was for gaming in general. The system managed to hit some impressive milestones, and throughout the year it seemed like hit after hit was landing.
Right off the bat, Sony stacked the deck with some promising exclusives in January like Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 0, Kingdom Hearts 2.8, and Resident Evil VII in VR, but February is when things really started to take off for the PS4 this year. Guerrilla Games released one of the strongest and most refreshing new IPs we’ve seen in a while with Horizon Zero Dawn, and Koei Tecmo released the long-awaited Nioh to critical acclaim. Horizon was a huge hit selling over three million copies by June, and was on many GOTY lists, including ours. Horizon remained relevant throughout the year, and reassured the industry, and Sony, that new IPs can work just as well as franchise sequels for producing hits.
Horizon really was a momentous occasion for the PlayStation brand, as it represented a new franchise that could potentially reach the prestigious status of being a system seller like Uncharted. Aloy is a strong central protagonist who’s immensely likable, much like Nathan Drake. With her as the central figure, Guerrilla Games could easily carry Horizon into a second, and potentially third game, or even more. It also helps that the game establishes a strong world and lore that makes it easy to explore different avenues or options. The sales certainly show that players are on board with Horizon, and surely hungry for more.
Just as importantly, Horizon’s success establishes Guerrilla as a priority developer with Sony. The implications of this mean that Sony could start having a staggered schedule with a Naughty Dog game releasing one year and a Guerrilla one releasing the next, with plenty of other developers to throw in between as well.
Of course, the PS4’s success this year isn’t thanks to just Sony alone, as they had a strong showing from third-party developers to back them up. Shortly after Horizon, Square Enix churned out another GOTY candidate with the PS4 console exclusive, NieR: Automata. While the first game was incredibly niche, Automata somehow found ridiculous levels of success by selling over two million copies. It took a property that was virtually unknown and thrust it into the limelight and making a run for GOTY with far more established franchises, the most established even you could say: Zelda and Mario.
Then, much in the same vein, Persona 5 became the most commercially successful game in the spin-off franchise, and again, was a major GOTY candidate finishing as our first runner-up. Persona has seen rising interest in recent years, especially after the release of Persona 4 and its spin-offs. However, Persona 5 really breached the mainstream like never before. The game was much more accessible than previous entries, despite its lengthy run time, and even attracted players that weren’t experienced in JRPGs. It was the perfect entry point to the series, and its phenomenal critical reception is partly what gave it so much attention. It topped two million copies sold worldwide at the end of November, and its 93 on Metacritic puts the game as the third highest rated PS4 title of all-time. An impressive feat for any game, let alone a somewhat niche JRPG series. Both NieR and Persona represent JRPGs breaking into the mainstream, and achieving huge success. The PS4’s install base is substantial at this point and it’s clearly benefiting both Sony and its third-party partners.
We’ve always known that Japanese developers tend to favor the PS4 when it comes to releasing titles that are popular in Japan, but not necessarily so in the west. As the PS4 continues to strengthen its library of JRPGs and other eastern offerings, it couples that with major AAA titles (like the aforementioned Horizon Zero Dawn) that western audiences are interested in. It’s this two-pronged approach that’s served Sony well over the years, and it continued to do so in 2017.
While these were the pillars released on PS4 last year, there was plenty more to play peppered throughout the year like the Crash N. Sane Trilogy, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Gran Turismo Sport, Knack II, and more. PlayStation fans had an almost overwhelming amount of new games, and with the success of PS4, PSVR finally started coming into its own this year as well.
Sony clearly threw support behind the headset releasing quite a few games including Farpoint, the PSVR exclusive. We also saw the release this year of Skyrim VR, Doom VFR, Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV, Superhot VR, Megaton Rainfall, and Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin. There was a wealth of content for PSVR users to experience, and the headset itself reached an impressive two million units sold. Sony also added that there’s a total of 130 games available for the system at this point, and PSVR looks like it’s picked up a bit more steam in 2017.
While the game lineup for 2017 was certainly impressive, there is one aspect Sony fell a bit short on – actually giving us updates on their current games. Sony’s press conferences this year turned out to be a lot of flash, and little substance, like at E3 where they only showed brief trailers, with few updates on when we might be able to play their biggest upcoming games. The entire year passed and we’re still missing some crucial information, including release dates on Detroit: Become Human, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Days Gone, Dreams, The Last of Us Part II, and Death Stranding.
By the same token PlayStation Experience took a different, more conversational approach that just kind of felt uneventful. It’s clear Sony is trying to find the sweet spot of how to run their press conferences and when to announce things, but there’s still a bit of work to be done.
They did succeed on announcing a few other big titles that look promising, however. The gorgeous looking Shadow of the Colossus remake hits in February, and Paris Games Week saw the announcement of a big brand new exclusive, Ghost of Tsushima from Sucker Punch. After the success of Horizon Zero Dawn it’s exciting to see the Sucker Punch bow being let loose on a brand new type of game, with lots of possibilities.
Still, 2017 was a pretty stellar year for the company and PlayStation fans. The sales numbers speak for themselves, and it was a year where new IPs and niche properties absolutely shined. Most importantly, Sony always kept the conversation on PlayStation to some degree. Whether that was a brand new game release, a game announcement, or sales figures, the PS4 was constantly popping up in the news and discussion. There’s honestly not a whole lot to be disappointed about, but now 2017 has set a pretty high bar for 2018 to meet. It’s definitely got its work cut out for it.