The early months of the year are typically when gamers have time to take a break and decompress from the busy holiday season. In November alone, we got a new Call of Duty, a new Pokemon, a new Dishonored, a new Watch Dogs, a new Final Fantasy and Sony even released an upgraded version of the PS4. You might think that after such a busy (and expensive) month, consumers would be eased into 2017 with a glut of indie games and the occasional triple-A release from a big studio that missed the holidays.
Any other year, you wouldn’t be too far off. But in 2017, Sony is out to prove you wrong.
Looking back to early 2016, major releases were few and far between. The Witness was virtually the only anticipated game to launch in January, and February was only marginally more exciting, with XCOM 2, Firewatch and Far Cry Primal receiving most of the attention. It’s just how the industry operates.
At least, it was, until Sony flipped the script in January and started launching exclusives left and right.
In the first month of 2017, PS4 owners already had five triple-A, console-exclusive titles to choose from: Gravity Rush 2, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Tales of Berseria, Yakuza 0 and Digimon World: Next Order. Additionally, while Resident Evil 7 came out on both PS4 and Xbox One simultaneously, the PS4 version of the game included full PlayStation VR support.
We had to wait until March of last year before The Division marked the first noteworthy release from a major studio of 2016, but now, two weeks into February, PS4 owners are already building up a new backlog.
What’s even more important than the rate at which Sony is pumping out console exclusives for the PS4 is the quality of the games. Yakuza 0 — the latest entry (though earliest chronologically) in a series more than a decade old — currently has a rating of 84 on Metacritic. That’s higher than any other game in the franchise.
Gravity Rush 2 has an 81, Tales of Berseria has a 79, Kingdom Hearts has a 77 and Digimon World, the lowest-scoring of the bunch, still managed to hang around at 70. No, Metacritic is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining the quality of a game, but these aren’t clunkers. These are quality releases.
But it doesn’t even end there. Without missing a beat, Team Ninja unleashed the highly anticipated Nioh exclusively on the PS4 on February 7th to rave reviews. I’ve only had time to play a few hours of this Dark Souls-alike so far, but I’m already enjoying it more than any of the actual Dark Souls games from FromSoftware (although it still has a ways to go if it wants to top Bloodborne).
And to cap it all off, Horizon Zero Dawn arrives on February 28th. The embargo for the game hasn’t lifted, but Sony is very confident in this game and PS4 owners are excited to get their hands on it.
On the other hand, Microsoft is preparing to launch Halo Wars 2 on February 21st — its first notable console exclusive of 2017. That’s not a shot at Halo Wars 2 (which looks like a solid follow-up to its well-received predecessor), but the difference between the release schedules of the two consoles is staggering.
This begs the question: How will Microsoft and Nintendo compete if Sony keeps this up? Sony isn’t slowing down after Horizon Zero Dawn launches at the end of the month, with Nier: Automata, MLB The Show 17, two more Kingdom Hearts HD remakes and Persona 5 all scheduled to hit before May.
2017 has only just begun, but for the time being, Sony is already way ahead of the pack.