How to push PS4 launch titles beyond good and awful

You’d be hard pressed to find any gamers who would say that their favourite games are launch titles. It’s no mere coincidence that some of a console’s best games often come out late in its life cycle, as by that point, the developers have become much more familiar with the hardware. However, first impressions are key; just look at the Wii U’s lack of success, partly the result of a line-up filled with old games. The games that launch with PlayStation 4 need to pay heed to those that launched the previous three PlayStation consoles if they are to be any more than throwaway "tech demos." Where have previous launch titles succeeded or failed?

The old adage, ‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ is true when it comes to video game development. Sonic 2006 is a perfect example of a victim of time pressure. It generated a significant buzz at 2005’s E3, its initial 2005 trailer showing great graphics, and its next preview in 2006 presenting fun gameplay. However, the need to rush out the game for launch meant that many issues weren’t ironed out, and the game was left plagued by long loading times and frustrating bugs. If more time had been spent with QA testing, it could have been a solid spiritual sequel to Sonic Adventure and a fitting tribute to the franchise’s 15th anniversary, rather than a franchise-derailing embarrassment.

Killzone: Shadowfall – one of the sequels coming to PS4 at launch

Many launch titles play it safe, which is understandable as no publisher or developer wants a reputation for producing poor-quality games. However, they undermine themselves and the console by producing unmemorable mediocrity. It might seem a safer move to start with sequels–but how fondly remembered are the follow-up Ridge Racer iterations that arrived with every PlayStation home console since the first, or Call of Duty 3, or Dynasty Warriors 2? Unless a sequel is going to be a mind-blowing evolution from those on the PlayStation 3, then the benefits of a new console will hardly be shown to their fullest.

The original PlayStation’s lineup was undoubtedly the most exciting yet. Ridge Racer and Wipeout stormed onto the system as mission statements, displaying the power of the console with fine gameplay and incredible graphics. More importantly, they were fresh experiences for many gamers. Wipeout mastered a futuristic style that oozed cool, with a setting and techno music that tapped into the era’s club culture. It’s no wonder, then, that Wipeout is so well remembered, and that the original PlayStation went on to be so successful.

If the PS4 is to have an even stronger start than its predecessors, then the announced games have to aim higher. Many of them are sequels, but it’s hard to discern at this stage whether that is a good or bad thing. Let’s hope that generations of accumulated knowledge is put to good use, and that this console starts with as much of a bang as the original.

What do you hope for from the PlayStation 4’s launch titles?