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Horizon: Forbidden West delayed to 2022
Sony is left with no system seller of its own for PS5’s second Christmas - what may its Plan B include?
It’s been suspected by many for a few months at the very least, but it is now official: Sony will not have any of its new heavy-hitter games for the PlayStation5 available in Q4 2021. The only title that had a good chance of making it, even in late November or December, was Horizon: Forbidden West, which was shown about three months ago in video form and in good shape, but developer Guerilla just confirmed that the game is now coming on February 18th, 2022. The company mentioned the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the way it affects game development as a factor for the delay, as well as its desire to deliver a polished, high-quality entertainment product overall (no complaints there).
Sony had already shared, on several occasions in fact, that Gran Turismo 7, the new God of War and a number of other unannounced games will not be available for the PS5 earlier than 2022 — and, with the new Horizon probably being Sony’s only AAA release before its fiscal year ends in March, chances are that any other big PS5 exclusives will not be coming earlier than May, June or even September 2022. This is not how the company’s management wanted things to play out, as its original plan was to offer as many big PS5 titles as possible within the first two years, encouraging PS4 owners to make the jump to the new system as soon as possible — but that plan was laid out way before a global pandemic and a global microchip shortage still affecting game development and PS5 availability respectively.
While it’s difficult to perceive Horizon: Forbidden West’s delay as anything else than a setback for Sony, it may not be all that important in the long run. Given the fact that, as far as the PS5 itself is concerned, demand still outstrips supply and the chip shortage problem is not expected to be fully addressed in 2021, the Japanese company will probably continue to sell as many PS5 systems as it can make anyway. There’ll be no real need for “system seller” PS5 games any time soon, in other words.
The problem is that Sony’s main competitor, Microsoft, will seemingly be in a better position in the same timeframe. The Xbox Series X does face availability problems just like the PS5, but they are less severe (and Xbox Series S practically does not). The Redmond giant has already confirmed that two of its own flagship titles for the new Xbox systems, Halo: Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, will be available in Q4 2021. These, along with the Xbox Game Pass subscription service that’s going from strength to strength, might be enough to give Xbox Series S|X a boost, helping them close the gap with the PS5.
So what can Sony do during the next few months in order to ensure that it maintains its lead in system sales and does not lose market momentum? Not having a AAA blockbuster exclusive for Q4 is a situation that the Japanese company has faced before and relying on key publisher partnerships has proved to be a successful strategy for PlayStation. Sony has probably already secured such a partnership deal with Activision, if the upcoming Call of Duty: Vanguard PS4/PS5 exclusive beta is any indication. Electronic Arts has also worked with Sony in exclusive co-promotion efforts in the past, so FIFA 2022 and/or Battlefield 2042 are quality candidates too. Ubisoft has gravitated towards Xbox partnerships in recent years but Far Cry 6 could still be an interesting exception to that rule.
Sony’s not-so-secret weapon during Q4 may very well be a seven-year-old title, though: the phenomenon that is Grand Theft Auto V will launch in November optimized for PS5/XSX/XSS and the Japanese giant has already a partnership deal in place with Rockstar for a number of PlayStation-exclusive advantages. Then there are quite a few very good PS5-only productions that may not qualify as “blockbusters” per se but they can bolster Sony’s offerings, including Deathloop, Death Stranding Director’s Cut, Solar Ash and Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Other big AAA franchises expected to be released in Q4 will also be available on PS5, of course, including NBA 2K22, eFootball and Crysis Remastered Trilogy. All of the above, along with a healthy dose of indie titles of all kinds, should ensure that PS5 owners have plenty of games to play until February comes along — and Q4 2022 will look very different. Well, probably!