Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Sony's Director's Cut Problem

 By: Patrick Morris

Sony dominated the eighth generation of consoles by providing some of the best platform exclusive games ever made. Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, the list goes on. And they're looking to continue that dominance into the PlayStation 5, getting started by borrowing terminology from the film industry and branding re-releases of some of their best games as "director's cut." Already this generation Sony has been hyper focused on their first party branding, adding a new marvel-esque intro screen before the main menu on all of their first party titles. The idea of introducing some level of standardization of terminology to the industry is a good one but the way in which Sony is doing it is not so good. When you really break it down Sony's new "director's cut" branding is yet another way of saying definitive edition and while I appreciate the attempt, their usage of the phrase as a means of reselling game's with minor performance upgrades to take advantage of the new consoles flies in the face of Microsoft's significantly more consumer friendly approach on Xbox. 


Essentially what the whole director's cut branding on Sony games indicates is that this is a first party PlayStation game that is being re-released with additional content. Both Ghost of Tsushima and Death Stranding will be coming later on this year with an additional island to explore and more building mechanics respectively just to name a few. In the case of Ghost of Tsushima that additional content can be purchased independently of the director's cut but the Director's Cut also offers some content, like DualSense specific functionality, that is exclusive to that version of the game. In addition to making use of the DualSenese hardware the Director's Cut will also be able to utilize PS5 hardware like highspeed SSD loading and 3D audio. 


Let's face it, Sony isn't re-releasing Ghost of Tsushima with added functionality that takes advantage of the PS5 for their health, they're doing it for money, but that doesn’t mean it's entirely negative. There are definitely some ways in which the PlayStation Director's Cut branding could benefit the industry at large. Relative to other medium's of entertainment video game's are just reaching adolescence and as such are still defining their identity. Were Sony's attempt to standardize the terminology for video game's to gain traction and begin to be used in the same or similar ways by other publisher's it could be another step toward the industry being taken more seriously in general and perceived as more than just a toy. But the term is helping in smaller scale ways as well, re-packaging these games in their Director's Cut form demands additional content in order to justify full retail price to consumers again. As a result there are games that previously may not have gotten any additional content getting that content to justify the price. 


While there are a few good thing's coming as a result of this new brand initiative it's mostly bad. Arguably the biggest sin these Director's Cut releases are committing is in the term being extremely misleading. The director behind Death Stranding Hideo Kojima himself tweeted:

"A director's cut in a movie is an additional edit to a shortened version that was either released reluctantly because the director did not have the right to edit it, or because the running time had to be shortened. In the game it is not what was cut, but what was additionally produced that was included. Delector's Plus? So, in my opinion, I don’t like to call 'director's cut'."

With that in mind it becomes evident that this new term is nothing but an attempt to double dip on some of their most popular games. 


The Last of Us originally released in 2013 on the PlayStation 3 and was then re-released a year later on the PlayStation 4 as The Last of Us Remastered. In a very similar way to how Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut will be utilizing the new hardware of the PlayStation 5 with DLC bundled in, The Last of Us Remastered was basically the same game that was already on PS3 with very minor improvements made possible by the PS4 as well as the Left Behind DLC bundled in. The difference then, was that there wasn’t evidence indicating that this would be something Sony would be continuing to do. The implementation of the Director's Cut branding combined with it being used in such quick succession from Ghost of Tsushima to Death Stranding leads me to believe that this wont be a one and done the way it was on the PlayStation 4. Having already gotten Spider-Man and now two more it's clear that Sony plans to use this branding more in the future. 


What makes this new practice concerning is made infinitely worse when evaluated in the context of competition. With the exception of bundled DLC all the features of the Director's Cut version's of Sony's games are being added for free on Xbox. And that bundled DLC can be purchased independently by anyone that wishes to do so. Put simply: while Sony is charging $70 for new features Microsoft is giving those features away for free. And while Sony is most definitely not going to forgo the revenue they’ll be able to generate by selling their greatest hits again, they could still overcome the issue of the branding being misleading by resurrecting something old and leaning into the fact that these game's are exactly that, their greatest hits. The industry undoubtedly needs a standard term for an edition of any game that is sold in this way. Something like the Greatest Hits term Sony has used in the past or the more ubiquitous Definitive Edition would do an excellent job of communicating exactly what is needing to be communicated while avoiding the confusion incurred from the dedication to evoking a cinematic expectation.


Like I said before, I'll be buying Ghost of Tsushima and probably Death Stranding both again but I'll be feeling frustrated and bitter while I do. The Director's Cut branding is just another in a long list of ways in which Sony has proven themselves to be aggressively anti-consumer this generation. I'm thrilled to see the discourse surrounding the Xbox finally moving away from the terrible Don Mattrick "TV TV TV" days but I'm just as concerned that Sony has moved away from the "This is how you share your games on PS4" days and people haven't seemed to notice. Only time will tell if this initiative falls flat or if it becomes another mainstay in what seems to be the unstoppable juggernaut that is PlayStation despite their own attempts to shoot every foot they have. 

No comments:

Post a Comment