PlayStation Launch Titles Compared (PS1, PS2, PS3 & PS4) Which Sony console wins in this area?

It’s often been said that a video game console is only as good as its top-tier titles.  Or, to put it another way; regardless of how technical and amazing your computer hardware is, without a few big games that can really show it off it’s just not that interesting.  Needless to say, the PlayStation brand has had no shortage of great titles in its catalog.  From incredible multi-console ports to exclusives, each PlayStation console has had its very own mega-hits which helped to shape user experience with each machine.  Moreover, most of these games happened to be launch titles, which only further highlights Sony’s ability to think ahead and follow through with complex business logistics.

Of course comparing launch titles from 4 separate console generations is no easy task; in fact, one might argue that it’s virtually impossible to do a fair analysis because of the dramatic technological leaps which keep occurring.  Nevertheless, if we set aside our tendency to examine items like graphics and sound design, focusing instead on the overall execution and success of each console’s major titles, comparisons might be possible.  Note* - the primary focus here will be on US and European launch titles.

The PS1

Being the first console to make use of the CD format, the original PlayStation won our hearts and minds with its promises of increased capabilities and graphics.  But what about its launch game lineup, was it truly spectacular or indicative of a company that was just trying to pull the pieces together in a significant way?  Unlike the more modern approach which involves standardized releases across all regions, usually simultaneously or within close proximity in terms of specific dates, the PS1 provided 3 entirely separate lists for Japanese, US and European gamers.  In this instance Europe actually got the short end of the stick with far fewer launch titles that what was made available in the US or Japan.

For example, Ridge Racer was one of the only titles to be offered across all regions which may or may not have ultimately contributed to its ongoing success from a franchise perspective.  In the US, Rayman and Air Combat were made available at launch, perhaps giving consumers there more of a reason to get excited about Sony’s new console.  In short, while it was a good start / effort, the PS1’s launch title list simply cannot compare with what would come later.

The PS2

The popularity and fervor with which the PS2 sold has yet to be matched to this very day, by all accounts, it is the most successful console (overall) from a business standpoint.   But what about its launch titles, eh?  Just because the PS2 proved itself on one front doesn’t mean we have to simply grant it dominion in all other areas.  Simply put, the PS2 really upped the ante in terms of overall launch title pizzazz.  Sure, there were your token misses, or games which seemed to be almost rushed to production, but one cannot argue that the PS2’s list was a vast improvement over that of the PS1’s.

For starters, several key franchises were either birthed or pushed forward at the time of the PS2 launch, including:

Naturally, more than a few of these would develop into fully-fledged series which would go on to alter the game development landscape in fairly significant ways.  For instance, Tekken basically redefined fighting games for legions of devoted Sony fans, competing for space and attention with the very popular Street Fighter franchise.  Similarly, we also saw Dead or Alive 2 and Dynasty Warriors 2 hit the scene, giving gamers some other fighting flavors to savor.

At the same time, the racing genre was evolving, with titles like Midnight Club: Street Racing taking things in a new direction, perhaps moving away from pure simulation and more toward plot-based themes within an arcade-like atmosphere.

Moreover, the PS2 was the first console to bring gamers who are into sports some more interesting choices.  FIFA 2001 was added to the European launch list thereby enhancing graphics and pushing the series forward in a very exciting new direction.   Similarly, in the US the Madden and NHL series were pushing graphics further on their respective fronts as well.  SSX also made a strong outing, serving as both one of the best winter-themed sports games available at the time as well as being visually impressive enough to demo the system itself.

Additionally, games like TimeSplitters, Unreal Tournament and Silent Scope were helping to define the new experience for shooters, whether it was in first person perspective or on rails.  TimeSplitters and Unreal Tournament in particular might have served as proving grounds for some of the world’s more well-known FPS gaming champions.  While Unreal Tournament was essentially a detached multiplayer element with some superb artificial intelligence to help you hone and polish your skills, TimeSplitters was a game that pushed the single player campaign in interesting new directions.

The PS3

With the launch of the PS3 in 2006 and 2007, European gamers were treated to a much wider variety of games to choose from than either the Japanese or Americans.  The PS3 is also responsible for bringing many of our favorite franchises to market as well, which makes it a benchmark console, to say the least.  Naturally, the biggest benefit afforded by the PS3 was its vastly improved power and graphics-rendering potential, which substantially improved upon everything that had come before.

For US audiences, Call of Duty 3 was a major attraction as well as the two NBA-themed titles and Madden offering (NFL ‘07).  However, one might argue that the spotlight was stolen away by Resistance: Fall of Man, which introduced us all to a dynamic new IP which would continue to grow in power and influence.  What make Resistance 1 so great was the way it blended hardcore FPS action with horror elements – something that most game developers tended not to do, instead keeping everything neatly separated.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’07 was also a bit hit, becoming one of the de facto golf gaming franchises around by this point.  Tony Hawk’s Project 8 is also worth mentioning as it integrated some near RPG-like elements in a more or less completely unexpected manner.  As far as true action-oriented role play is concerned, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance helped to fuel tie-ins with the movie industry.  Lest we forget about racing, Need for Speed: Carbon helped to further develop the concept of the open world driving game, paving the way for what’s to come on the PS4, of course.

In Europe, all of the above selections were also available at launch in addition to quite a few others. The reason for this is simple – the European launch came months after that of the Japanese and US, thereby giving game developers an opportunity to pump out the goods. Titles like Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII and Def Jam: Icon helped to create diversity within the marketplace, perhaps even expanding the overall appeal of the PS3 to people who might be considered “non-gamers”.

Most notable was the launch release of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, which only further cemented the popularity and success of the franchise within Europe.  Of course there was also The Godfather: The Don’s Edition for those who might have been looking for an open world title to delve into.  Sports and racing were well represented on the European continent with titles like Formula One Championship Edition, Fight Night Round 3, MotorStorm, NBA Street Homecourt, Ridge Racer 7 and others rounding out the list.

The PS4

This of course brings us to the present time; right on the cusp of the release of the 8th generation consoles and poised to experience a new level of depth and intricacy in gaming.   To make a long story short, the PS4 launch lineup is impressive to say the least.  Sony has learned its lessons from past mistakes and successes and used them to transform its image and provide its constituents with more of what they want on all fronts.

As you are probably already well aware, they’ve finally abolished the notion of specific regions requiring NTSC or PAL formatting, opting instead for one international standard.  This essentially means that everyone across the world will be playing the same games at around the same time – a first for the industry.

Here is the current PS4 launch title list:

As you can clearly see, each and every individual genre seems to be covered here, with truly satisfying titles being released in each area.  For example, open world adventurers will certainly want to get lost in the massive watery world of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, FPS lunatics will certain become addicted to Battlefield 4 and/or Call of Duty: Ghosts, and sports / racing aficionados have their choices to contend with as well.

Not only are we seeing major franchises like FIFA throwing games at us at launch, we’re also witnessing a few new IP’s hitting the ground as well.  Most notably among the new crowd is Knack, which is basically a modern take on the platformer, designed to have a very wide appeal.  On the opposite end of that spectrum there’s the new Killzone game, KZ: Shadow Fall, which not only looks very impressive visually, but also offers you an opportunity to dive into a great story as well as catch up on some great multiplayer action.   Other notables include Just Dance 14, Minecraft, Blacklight: Retribution, and Warframe, the last two of which are going to be offered as off-the-shelf free-to-play titles which are available to everyone on the PSN.

So, which Sony console boasts the best launch titles?

Even setting aside any discrepancies related to the differences in terms of graphics, it’s pretty obvious that the big winner here is the PS4.   As many reviewers and gamers have already remarked, it could be said the PlayStation 4 has what might be considered the strongest launch title lineup in console history (up to this point).  Certainly among the 4 PS consoles currently on the table, the PS4 reigns supreme as offering the greatest launch selections.

Had Watch Dogs remained one of the featured games, the PS4’s initial offerings would have been perhaps truly “stacked”, however it’s still rather impressive sans that particularly stunning open-world title.  Furthermore, with no plans to bring hits like Grand Theft Auto V to the PS4, one might wonder just how much bigger a splash Sony might have made had they pushed for Rockstar to launch GTA V alongside the new console.  Nevertheless, the list as it is right now is nothing short of spectacular, if the impending releases which will be scattered across the next several quarters are as good or better than these launch titles, well, the PS4 might be poised to dethrone the PS2 in the sales department.

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