Sony’s “generations matter” mantra crumbles: Gran Turismo 7 will be cross-gen
On Wednesday, Sony published a wide-ranging interview with the head of its PlayStation Studios division, arguably to set expectations ahead of the usual barrage of mid-June game announcements and reveals. In Sony’s case, setting expectations now requires telling fans which console to expect future games to land on—especially in a world where chip shortages have made it tough to purchase the company’s new and very popular PlayStation 5.
This week’s PlayStation announcement marks a change for multiple games that had been previously advertised as PlayStation 5 titles. We have now learned that God of War: Ragnarok and Gran Turismo 7 are officially coming to both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. The news follows last week’s confirmation that Horizon: Forbidden West will also launch as a cross-gen game.
While the God of War sequel’s backward-compatibility status was unclear, the Gran Turismo 7‘s announcement comes as a big surprise, since it was revealed to the world in June 2020 with a loud “get ready for next gen” tagline, followed by an outright declaration six months later that the game would be a “PlayStation 5 exclusive.” Both video advertisements for the anticipated racing game revolved around intense reflection effects that take material properties and car surface warping into account. While Sony Interactive Entertainment has yet to detail exactly how the game’s tech works, what we’ve seen so far will likely hinge on next-gen processing power, perhaps with ray-tracing or double-rendered geometry.
We’ve thus far seen zero footage of GoW: Ragnarok, which was recently delayed to sometime in 2022.
“A chance to raise expectations”
Scaling Sony’s ambitious-looking racing game down to run on the PS4 might not be as simple as reducing pixel resolution or disabling a few fancy effects. In fact, up until this week, Sony has been keen on emphasizing this very line in the sand that the PS5 offers gamers, arguably as a response to its rivals at Xbox.
In an August 2020 interview with GamesIndustry.biz, SIE marketing VP Eric Lempel offered the following quote about a trailer’s emphasis on PS5-exclusive tech like its fancy DualSense controller:
We’re moving into a new generation, and to us, generations matter. It’s a chance to raise the expectations from players and gamers and really introduce something new.
This statement followed a massive technical deep dive on PS5 architecture by longtime Sony hardware lead Mark Cerny in March 2020. The presentation focused on how the new console’s PCI-e 4.0-rated storage wouldn’t just speed up loading times but “give game designers freedom” to build larger, unobstructed virtual worlds—the kinds that arguably cannot be simply ported to platforms with last-gen storage systems.
This all came during the peak of Xbox’s bullish advertising campaign about “Smart Delivery” and backward compatibility. Microsoft has been keen to assure its fans that they can buy many future games, even first-party titles, and expect them to work across multiple Xbox generations, save for a few clearly marked exceptions. One of Xbox’s biggest upcoming games, Halo Infinite, continues to be advertised as cross-gen, leading me to wonder whether that decision explains the game’s technically disappointing reveal.
While PS5 console sales have been strong, demand has absolutely outstripped supply, perhaps even more than the company anticipated (thanks, chip shortage). And recently, Sony suggested that PlayStation 4 will represent 70 percent of the company’s gaming revenue for the current fiscal quarter. As a result, at least one outlet has suggested that GT7‘s cross-platform fate is a response to both of those market realities. In a recent op-ed, VGC editor-in-chief Andy Robinson wrote:
I understand the decision to release a PS4 version [of Gran Turismo 7] was made only fairly recently.
How you look at this news depends on what you think of the promise of next-gen console gaming, especially how it leverages fast solid-state drive storage—which, honestly, neither new console has shown off to any great extent yet. PS5 exclusives like Demon’s Souls and Returnal look gorgeous but arguably lack SSD-fueled innovations, while the Xbox Series X and S have been absolutely bone dry in terms of high-end console exclusives. But so long as a game is compatible with older consoles and tried-and-true storage like hard drives and slower SSDs, it is also more likely to receive a PC port—something Sony has been increasingly willing to do.
Sony’s upcoming PS5 exclusive Ratchet & Clank: Worlds Apart, launching June 11, may very well show off Sony’s next-gen technical prowess, but we’ll have to wait for the game’s release to find out.