Days Gone isn’t great, but Sony was absolutely right to take a risk with it


A vehicle that constantly breaks down. A conversation you’ve had before but are forced to politely accept. A resurrected pile of bones that shits itself. It’s Days Gone, a game filled with convenient metaphors to show just how disappointing it is.

At least Kirk found it disappointing. Others were won over by its big heart and screens full of writhing enemies, but it’s hard to imagine Sony being happy with this Metascore. Overall, Days Gone does more harm than good to the PS4’s proud reputation for first-party exclusives.

It’s natural to wonder what went wrong and wonder if the platform holder made a mistake in giving Sony Bend so much faith and funding. The Oregon developer’s portable releases on Uncharted and Resistance were well-regarded, but the studio had never tackled a project of this scale before, and it’s clearly shunned them.

It happens. As the fidelity and complexity offered by console hardware increases, AAA projects are only getting more expensive, making investments like these riskier than ever. Publisher follies are now occurring on a huge and embarrassing scale.

“For a publisher, relying on the talents of too few teams is dangerous. Contracts are running out. Studios can be cannibalized for their best staff”

Even so, I think Sony has the right idea. Yes, he owns Naughty Dog, Media Molecule, and God of War’s Santa Monica studio. But for a publisher, relying on the talents of too few teams is frankly dangerous.

Contracts are running out, like Journey developer thatgamecompany did with Sony. Studios can be cannibalized for their best staff. When Infinity Ward’s core team left for Titanfall and Activision wasn’t ready to fill the void, Call of Duty entered a decline from which it has yet to recover. Plus, developers with impeccable critical reputations don’t necessarily keep them around forever. Let’s face it, Polyphony Digital is no longer ahead of the pack when it comes to driving simulation.

If publishers want to insure against all of these eventualities, it makes sense to invest heavily in lesser-known teams. Days Gone may not have worked out the way Sony had hoped, but other similar stories are going differently right now. Until recently, Saber Interactive was best known as a backup studio working on Halo remasters. But the French publisher Focus Home trusted Saber for World War Z, and was rewarded for it.

World War Z doesn’t rewrite the rules of cooperative shooters – in fact, it follows Left 4 Dead’s path straight through the malls of an overrun America. But its production values ​​mark a new high for Focus, whose mid-tier budgets have often seen its RPGs and action games fall short of their creative ambitions. The shooting is smooth and satisfying, reminiscent of one of Ubisoft’s most cherished properties, The Division. There’s a touch of novelty to the tower defense-style trap-setting sequences that take place before the hordes arrive. And there’s real spectacle in the moments when the zombies climb over each other, like ants, to reach the top of the pile – just like they did in the 2013 film.

The investment paid off. World War Z sold a million copies in its first week and had 70,000 concurrent players at its peak – “far exceeding expectations”. Focus has now set up Saber to work on a Warhammer 40K game, and suddenly the studio doesn’t look like such an odd choice anymore.

Meanwhile, in Stockholm, Paradox has unexpectedly assigned the task of tracking Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines to a little-known crew. The original game is revered in role-playing circles, and reviewers expected Paradox to build on its existing relationships with established RPG studios like Obsidian. But instead, the publisher poured millions into a minority acquisition of Hardsuit Labs, developer of Blacklight: Retribution, because it liked the company’s passionate talk. A pairing with original Bloodlines screenwriter Brian Mitsoda, as well as unstoppable RPG screenwriter Chris Avellone, even convinced fans of the idea.

There’s no way to tell yet if Bloodlines 2 will be a contemporary classic or another Days Gone-scale stumble. But maybe publishers are realizing they have to take risks on unproven talent – ​​or they risk drying up. In fact, with enough sales, time, and hard-earned experience, it’s possible Sony’s next big exclusive will be Days Gone 2. More bizarre things have happened.

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