The PlayStation 4 exclusive The Order 1886 was recently released to some rather mixed reviews. A few reviewers sung its praises, but most fell in the neutral to negative camp. The problem, it appears, is that the game fundamentally lacks in the gameplay department. This is a mortal sin, in my opinion, as games, by necessity, have to prioritize gaming, otherwise they become nothing more than interactive movies. It’s a reason that, despite their obvious quality, I’ve cooled quite a bit on Telltale’s games. On top of having very little gameplay, it seems that The Order 1886 contained little else. Critics generally praised the world that the developers were building, but the run time simply wasn’t enough to save it. Clocking in at under 7 hours with zero features that would encourage a second replay (character building choice, multiplayer, etc.) other than a few easily captured collectibles, The Order 1886 seemed obviously dead in the water to all paying attention. The question today isn’t whether The Order deserves the hate. No. Today, I want to look whether the floundering of Sony’s latest exclusive will have an impact on the PlayStation 4.
Before we start, I need to go off topic slightly. I want to congratulate developer Ready at Dawn and publisher Sony. Their game wasn’t going to do well review-wise. However, they allowed for reviews to be released the day before the game came out. Recent critical flops such as Destiny didn’t allow for reviews to come out until after release, thus fooling a large number of gamers, who were buying into the hype. Allowing reviews before release surely hurt sales, but it showed integrity, something I truly respect.
Ever since the entire game got leaked on YouTube and people realized how short The Order actually was, there has been a serious, dedicated campaign against it. Many people have equated this game’s failure with a larger failure on the part of Sony regarding the PS4. The reasons why so many have jumped to this conclusion are obvious. The Order is a PS4 exclusive. This means that it is inherently under considerably more scrutiny than multiplatform games. Multiplatform games are for everyone, meaning that there is nothing political about the success or failure of one of them. Due to the nature of the ever-present console war, gamers will jump heartily on the failure of the opposing side’s exclusives, while they try to brush the successes under the rug. This is one of many reasons why the console war is caustic to the industry despite the marketing it affords.
Some have argued that The Order isn’t an isolated case, that it is the most recent in a long list of Sony PS4 exclusive failures. This is hard to argue against, actually. The AAA sector on the PS4 has been quite trim on the exclusive side. Knack was first blood, garnering little praise from anyone. Subsequent to that, other games such as Drive Club and Little Big Planet 3 have significantly under-performed. I’ve seen some include InFamous Second Son in that list, but I take issue with allegations against that particular game’s quality. The point being, the PS4 hasn’t been swimming in successful exclusives. Microsoft has suffered as well, but not as much. Sunset Overdrive and Titanfall were both well-regarded, even if most of the rest of Microsoft’s stable has followed Sony’s lead. Comparatively, both look awful when set beside Nintendo’s exclusive lineup.
But does any of this matter at this point? It’s easy to point at low review scores, but it’s a little harder to read them in context. We’re barely out of the first year of both consoles. Traditionally, the first year for any console is full of tech demo exclusives, games that show off what can be done on the console so third parties will jump on board. Nintendo suffered heavily in its first year with the Wii U. Even the wildly successful Wii and PS2 had awful libraries until the second year rolled around. It sucks to say it, but the first year exists to give gamers a glimmer of what’s to come. Look at The Order. Even its critics proclaim it to be one of the most beautiful games ever made. That’s the point. Sony needed something to show off its hardware. Remember, The Order was delayed. It was supposed to come out prior to Christmas. Delays rarely exist to improve content. Mostly, they are there to fix bugs. As such, this was a holiday game at heart, meant to survive on the hype and fat of the holiday season, not the scarcity that comes just prior to the March rush.
As explained above, this low-scoring of first year exclusives is normal. However, there’s also something new that’s been slowly creeping in this generation. Sony does not have a single AAA exclusive that I can point to and say ‘every PlayStation 4 owner must own that”. This scares some people, who are used to Mario, Halo, Uncharted, etc. being the figureheads of their respective consoles. But is this the only way of looking at it? PC gamers don’t have such a cornerstone game and they do just fine. Similarly, neither the Xbox One or PS4 are lacking in content. I’ve been playing video games since the NES and I can say without hyperbole that I’ve never had as much content in the first year of a console as with my PS4. I don’t really miss AAA exclusives. I don’t have time to. The point I’m making is that AAA exclusives have never been less important than now. Indie games are coming out in huge waves, some of which look very good. Multiplatform developers pick up the rest of the big budget slack. Exclusives are still good, but, outside of Nintendo, they have been largely defanged.
So, what does this mean for Sony and the PS4? Not much. The huge sales numbers of the PS4 show something that some gamers can’t understand when they look at the traditional exclusives reigning supreme rubric – people don’t care. Games sell consoles. This is a true statement. But games come in many forms and exclusives don’t matter as much anymore. This, of course, isn’t going to stop the hype around big name exclusives, and people will buy and Xbox One for Halo and the PlayStation 4 for Uncharted. The difference is that people will buy both consoles anyway. The content and quality is there even if the exclusives don’t match up. So, to the question of the day – yes, the critical failure of The Order 1886 hurts, but it’s unlikely to affect Sony or the sales the PS4 in any meaningful way. It was released just before the March rush, and people will likely not have enough time to worry about it as third party games start rolling in.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer