Horizon: Zero Dawn, despite being buried in a year with Nintendo Switch blockbuster titles such as Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and of course, game-of-the-year winner The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, made an impressive dent on the industry with strong reception and sales, solidifying Guerilla’s latest title as a roaring hit. From the composition of this article, it has been a little over three years since the release of Horizon, and the once-PlayStation exclusive title is now scheduled to hit the PC platform this summer, presuming no additional delays, to appeal to a much larger demographic of players. It is undoubtedly a bold move on Sony’s part, signaling a potential change in the terms of a PlayStation exclusive, meaning that even more titles could follow Horizon: Zero Dawn’s example. But with Sony’s latest generational console set to hit store shelves this holiday, there is likely another lurking reason beyond just expanding PlayStation’s reach to PC players.
With three years in between the release of the original game on PlayStation 4 and the release of PlayStation 5, the timing seems near perfect for the sequel to Horizon to land on the launch roster for the PlayStation 5. In order to drive sales and buzz amongst the consumer base, Sony needs to have a notable triple-A production from one of their acclaimed internal studios, beyond that of just GodFall and other third-party releases. The Japanese company understands this as well, having done a similar move with the launch of the current generation back in 2013 with yet another Guerilla game: Killzone. Such a strategy is even more critical this time around with Xbox positioning their biggest game announced currently, Halo: Infinite, to debut with their new Xbox Series X console. Should Infinite make tidal waves across both the fan base and the industry, we could see a Breath of the Wild scenario where millions of Xbox Series X consoles are sold just so that players can experience Halo: Infinite.
When the latest Zelda game released with the Nintendo Switch, the Switch immediately became the number one topic in the industry, quickly topping the charts as one of the most desired and prized items for gamers. Such momentum was even able to carry through the entire year, thanks to another critically acclaimed success in Super Mario Odyssey. As of the moment, Xbox does not appear to have positioned a lineup of titles that could replicate the pattern that the Nintendo Switch had with its two massive games from their two biggest franchises, but that does not mean they cannot arrange and reveal such a lineup in the coming months. Either way, simply having a huge release like Halo: Infinite already trumps the meager roster of games that PlayStation has revealed thus far for the PlayStation 5’s launch. GodFall and Quantum Error may be enticing enough purchases for players who are already willing to fork over the estimated five hundred dollars for the console, but neither game is a system-seller like Halo is. And frankly, with declining public interest and fandom, even a Horizon sequel could not match the power that Xbox wields with Halo: Infinite; that is where the unexpected Horizon: Zero Dawn PC release comes in.
By Sony’s own words, the PC port of Zero Dawn is intended simply because it felt like a “good fit” and could introduce different audiences to the dystopian-mech world of the main protagonist Aloy. What better way to boost the popularity of a game than making said game available to more players? By spilling into the PC market, Sony stands to revive interest in the Horizon franchise and position the launch of its sequel to take advantage of the newfound interest. It is undoubtedly an appealing strategy, one that Sony seems to be enlisting in marketing the PlayStation 5’s launch. The only question is whether it will be enough to topple the excitement and hype for Microsoft’s Halo: Infinite. Only time will tell when it comes to answering that question, but the industry will not have to wait much longer with both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X scheduled to hit store shelves this holiday season.