The PlayStation 4 will receive 33 games — a mix of first and third-party, physical and digital — by the end of December. That's an impressive sum, but as we've seen from the launch of consoles past, a strong launch library is just half the equation for success; the consoles must be supported by steady releases in the months following their launch.
It's an issue suffered by recent devices that third-party studios have been slow to adopt, namely the PlayStation Vita and Wii U, which are only now starting to recover to varying degrees. If either of the next-gen consoles launching later this year suffer the same draught, it would be disastrous for their future prospects — but Sony Worldwide Studios president is confident that won't be the case for PS4 thanks to the console and company's developer-friendly approach.
Speaking to Polygon during Gamescom, Yoshida pointed to the company's recent press conference as evidence of the strength of the PS4's upcoming catalog. The indie community in particular is making a strong showing, with a ton of original games and ports that can keep the console's library growing as first-parties work on their titles. It was a similar narrative to Sony's E3 press conference, where many indie games were announced for the company's platforms.
"...system selling titles can come out from anywhere after the system launches."
"We started preparing for the Gamescom press conference after we finished E3, and at that point, we had no idea what we'd be able to announce from these smaller teams," Yoshida said. "It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was informed by our third party teams that this was the lineup of games we had prepared. I was like, 'Oh! That's amazing.'"
Those titles aren't just catalog filler, though. Everyone has a chance to create a console's killer app, Yoshida said; even a small team with a handful of employees and meager budget.
"I think it's fair to say that every game has a chance once it's released and more people have a chance to play it," Yoshida said.
"Looking back, like last year, Journey got a lot of Game of the Year awards, competing against bigger titles like Call of Duty," he added. "So that tells something, that even smaller titles have similar, big impact to consumers. What we're so excited about in the indie scene is the abundance of these potential, really creative people."
It's not unheard of for an indie title to be responsible for moving hardware — we're seeing it right now on the Ouya platform, which has managed to sell a number of units based on the fact that Towerfall, the multiplayer, bow-and-arrow dueling game, is a very popular console exclusive.
"That's a great example," Yoshida said. "I wasn't so closely following Ouya before the launch, but I don't think everybody knew Towerfall was going to be the title before it launched. That's another example, I'd say, that system selling titles can come out from anywhere after the system launches. I believe that even smaller games could be that title."
There's a ton of downloadable indies and retail third-party games lined up for the PS4s first few months on the marketplace, but Sony's first-party plans are limited — three games will be available on launch day from Worldwide Studios: Knack, DriveClub and Killzone: Shadow Fall. A fourth game, Infamous: Second Son, launches in February; beyond that, the company's plans are unknown.
"It's interesting that when we discuss the lineup and launch timing of titles, we always discuss internally with our marketing teams about strategy, about when we want these games," Yoshida explained. "It's not like we're saying we have to release everything at launch or we shouldn't release everything at launch. They're also going back and forth; they want to create a larger launch lineup, but at the same time, they want to create a supply of new titles with good pace. That's a competing goal."
The PlayStation 4 has already been adopted by third parties, padding out the launch lineup for the console significantly. According to Yoshida, their support has been critical in ensuring Worldwide Studios has the time it needs to get its products done right.
"I think, because we have good support from third parties, I think we should focus more on the steady flow of titles from our studios, rather than trying to get everything for the launch," Yoshida said.
As an added benefit, the unannounced games teased during Sony's Gamescom presser — PS4 games from Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and more — can stay unannounced, because there are plenty of other games for the console coming out at launch.
"The teams really want to wait until they have something that people will see and say, 'Wow,'" Yoshida said. "It's a natural desire for game development teams to wait until later in the development to unveil their titles. I agree, if we talk about some new Naughty Dog game that's coming, and show some teaser movie or something, people might like it —but that might not be the best presentation of the game they're actually developing for PS4.
"It's a luxury for us not to announce these games we have in development, that we do not feel the need to do that to support the launch of PS4."