Microsoft’s moves will force PlayStation to up its PC game

To continue making inroads on PC, Sony needs to work on its secret weapon

With over a million copies sold, God of War looks set to become the most successful game of an already successful bunch of erstwhile PlayStation exclusives coming to PC. It’s a sound strategy, cashing in on last-generation games that are well past their selling prime, giving them a glitzy high-res, high-fps curtain call on the grandest stage of all. It gives games that have already had glowing reviews another round of glowing reviews (just look at our God of War review), while garnering a steady stream of publicity through all the brilliant and sometimes unhinged mods that appear shortly after release, like turning Kratos into Mike Tyson or letting you play Horizon: Zero Dawn in VR.

Just a few years ago that would’ve been a pretty pioneering strategy. But at a time when Microsoft is successfully Netflixifying videogames through PC Games Pass, bringing all its first-party games to PC from day one, and scooping up the biggest IPs by buying out the likes of Zenimax and (subject to an FTC investigation) Activision-Blizzard, it’s not nearly enough. Microsoft will soon have former PS1 icons Spyro and Crash Bandicoot in its roster.

Microsoft and Sony’s proxy war on PC has been great for us of course; PC gamers can now cavort with the likes of Master Chief, Kratos, and soon Nathan Drake like that’s the most normal thing in the world. But while Microsoft has pulled out all stops on PC, it feels like Sony is still fielding its reserves. Clearly, Sony wants that PC foothold, but it needs to do more.

Luckily, Sony does have something of a secret weapon on PC: PlayStation Now.

God of War God of War God of War Fanatical $49.99 $41.49 Buy now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales.

Yes, you’d be right to point out that Sony’s cloud-gaming offering on PC is, well, kind of crap. It’s restricted by being a streaming-only service – so it’s bad for the environment, has plenty of input lag, and is unplayable without good internet – but it’s a technically limited one at that. That 1080p 60fps cap is well behind what GeForce Now offers, and will bring those of us with 1440p G-Sync monitors to tears.

Aloy sneaking through long grass in Horizon Zero Dawn on PC

But here’s why PS Now’s current state of crapitude on PC could actually be good news. The fact that Sony only last year upgraded PS Now on PC from an insufferable 720p to merely meh 1080p suggests they are doing the bare minimum to keep the platform relevant while they devise either a replacement or a significant overhaul.

This chimes with the rumours that Sony is working on a Game Pass competitor (codenamed Project Spartacus), as well as the recent news that Sony began pulling PS Now subscription cards from stores. Granted, Sony will prioritise this service on consoles, but now that it’s tasted success on PC, it’s unfathomable that they’ll just let Microsoft’s Game Pass hoover up subscribers unchallenged.

The first step would be for Sony to turn PS Now or its successor into a streaming and download-based platform on PC (like it currently is on console). To anyone with a moderately good internet connection, streaming is a nice supplement to a subscription, but not a standout feature. Just look at xCloud, Microsoft’s cloud gaming platform. It’s a secondary feature that gets chucked in with the more expensive Ultimate subscription (along with access to the console Game Pass library), and until there’s a breakthrough in streaming tech, that’s where it belongs.

Xbox PC Game Pass library

Even now, the ports of God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and the soon-to-be-released Uncharted 4 would be a great foundation for a Sony subscription service on PC. But having just a handful of downloadable, high-profile games amid a sea of streamed ones probably isn’t how Sony envisions debuting its new platform.

Then there’s the issue of simultaneous day one console and PC releases. This is Microsoft’s strategy, but it won’t be Sony’s any time soon. The PS5 is still comfortably outselling its Xbox counterparts, and PlayStation retains its status as a platform with a strong identity and truly unique titles.

But by bringing more PS4 games to PC, and launching them on its own subscription service at the same time as on Steam and Epic, it would create a nice illusion of ‘day one on PS Pass’, even though the reality is closer to ‘day one on PC via PS Pass, but 973 days after its original console launch’. Once the backlog of PS4 classics runs out, the PS5 will have matured, so Sony could even start bringing older current-gen games to the service. It’d be a big leap for Sony to dilute its flagship console in this way, but a couple of years from now it may be the only way to counter Microsoft’s expansion.

A blood moon illuminates a cathedral courtyard in Bloodborne

And while we shouldn’t expect to be treated as well as Sony’s console faithful without the hardware buy-in, we should expect Sony to reel in the turnaround time for its console games coming to PC. Now that the PC launch plan has been enacted with solid results, it’s likely to pick up the pace so that Sony can keep up with Microsoft.

Oh, and Bloodborne, please. Just… Bloodborne.

Sony’s being cautious in its PC excursions for now, but the massive pressure from its rival means that caution may cease to be an option in the near future, and big moves will need to be made.

God of War God of War God of War Fanatical $49.99 $41.49 Buy now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales.

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