Nintendo has a stable of decades-long running franchises that no matter what guarantee sales. Microsoft has… well, they still have Halo 4 to keep interest alive this generation. But Sony is in a different situation, particularly going into E3. The house of PlayStation has a number of great franchises from this console cycle, many of which I love. For the most part though, these series seem to have run their course. Instead of relying solely on past landmark franchises, Sony has developed new series that define the PlayStation 3, while also mixing in updates and sequels to classic franchises.
Maybe it’s best to start with Sony’s most family-friendly brand. Sackboy has certainly become the closest thing to a mascot Sony has this generation, and after two iterations, the LittleBigPlanet games have proven to be a success for both Sony and its creative community. After the freedom that the second entry offered, it’s hard to imagine where the franchise might go without cannibalizing the already-established expanse of user-created content. For the moment, we might see Sackboy’s main adventures make the jump to the handheld, with a Vita iteration in development. LittleBigPlanet Karting might be indicative of the offshoot fare fans can expect from the series until the PS4.
Taking a decidedly more mature path, let’s look at Sony’s two shooter franchises. While the company can’t lay claim to a name as pervasive in the industry as Halo, both the Resistance and Killzone series enjoy dedicated legions of fans. At times they have seemed at odds, almost as if Sony hoped that one would come out as the victor and flagship FPS for the console. Yet both have proven to be worthy titles, even if neither has exactly set the marketplace ablaze, particularly the latest Resistance title, which, while critically well received, made little impact on sales charts.
If anything, this week’s Resistance: Burning Skies may determine the future of that series, as it could become the marquee handheld shooter if it sells well enough by Vita standards. As for Killzone, there have been a few rumors about another entry or two in the works, and it would not be much of a surprise to see one of these projects next week, though whether it is on consoles or handhelds is anyone’s guess.
If there is a title that has succeeded in the sales department it may be Sony’s biggest name, the Uncharted franchise. Having seen three console and one handheld releases, reception to the series has ranged from very good to labeling the games as console-defining. Yet each entry has been knocked for largely sticking to a formula, and it’s easy to imagine fatigue setting in if the series sees another release on the PS3. Whether or not you’ve grown tired of Drake, Sully and Elena’s similarly plotted adventures, seeing the franchise take a break until the generation ends would not be the worst fate for the globetrotters. I personally love the series, but a few years off, considering where Uncharted 3 left the characters, would allow for some distance to build and only make the return that much more enjoyable.
Another Vita edition that improves on one of the handheld’s launch titles is not unwarranted, however, but anymore would just be over-saturation of the brand. Developer Naughty Dog is releasing The Last of Us this year, which, if it is simply a one-off adventure, could signal Sony’s console plans for the next year or two.
While Uncharted will hopefully be taking a break from its release cycle, we may still see a third inFamous title before the lights dim on the PS3, or at least an expansion of the series. Spoilers ahead: I’m not exactly sure how a third entry might work, if developer Sucker Punch decides to go with the good ending of the game, but it may be possible to do an inFamous game without Cole McGrath as the protagonist. The second outing for the electrified hero hinted that other unsuspecting civilians had been granted powers, so to follow one of them during the events of The Beast’s coastal demolition spree may provide good fodder. Spoilers End. Infamous: Festival of Blood also showed the company is willing to take liberties with the franchise and produce smaller, solitary adventures for Cole and Zeke that reside out of canon. Of course, with the inclusion of Cole in games like Street Fighter X Tekken and (probably) PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, he is not a face Sony wants gamers to forget (nor do I want to forget Cole), and another entry may well be on the way in some fashion.
Whereas Sony’s latest franchises look to be taking a break from the rest of this generation, some of the pillars of the PlayStation 2 may keep the PS3 alive until its inevitable successor. We’ve already seen the release of a new Twisted Metal, and several other franchises look to be making a return as well. Speaking of Sucker Punch, the developer has passed the reins to the Sly Cooper franchise, which will be returning on the PS3 and Vita with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time thanks to Sanzaru. I personally can’t wait for this fourth outing, especially with the chance to take it on the go, as the HD Sly collection can only keep fans busy for so long.
And with God of War: Ascension on the way, Sony appears to be making a push to revive some of its biggest names from the last generation. Perhaps the best place to look for what may be released on the PS3 is the myriad HD collections released over the past few years. Both God of War and Sly Cooper can boast compilations, in addition to a number of other titles. As we all patiently wait for the release of The Last Guardian – if it ever actually sees the light of day – Team ICO earned a collection with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, likely to rebuild awareness of the developer’s style. With this trend, expecting a new Jak & Daxter would not be a far-fetched expectation either.
For the most part, Sony seems to be mixing the old and the new in these final years of the PS3. Having to divvy up franchises for both the home console and the Vita may prove to be a struggle, but Sony has a wealth of options to choose from going into E3. From all the franchises listed above, to deciding what racing titles to release, Wipeout or MotorStorm, which are both due for a new iteration in the coming year or so, Sony needs to come out with a number of impressive new and returning icons to demonstrate why gamers should flock to the PS3 and Vita. If the company can avoid audience exhaustion with this generation’s exclusives, reintroduce some familiar faces from the past, and throw in some singular entries that only strengthen the company’s storehouse of exclusives, then fans may be in for an exciting year or two in the world of PlayStation.
And of course, Kingdom Hearts III wouldn’t hurt.