The reveal of the box art for upcoming PS5 title Spider-Man: Miles Morales probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, it’s just a picture of a jeweled case and some cover art, right?
While there’s some truth to that, there are a few other things to consider. First off, it’s been a strange year all-around, but it’s been an especially strange year for what is typically seen as next-gen reveal season. With the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly causing Microsoft and Sony to hold off on revealing the price, release dates, and launch lineups of their next-gen consoles, we’ll take whatever information we can get.
Second, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is easily one of the most anticipated games on the horizon, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that any information regarding it has drawn so much attention so quickly.
Yet, the most fascinating thing about this cover isn’t what’s on it; it’s what’s not on it.
Covers for PlayStation 4 games that are exclusive to PlayStation platforms feature the words “Only on PlayStation” (or your regional equivalent of that phrase). You may notice that the cover for Spider-Man: Miles Morales doesn’t feature those words despite being developed by a first-party PlayStation developer.
Some have already pointed out that the presence of the PlayStation Studios logo could be designed to replace that wording. For those who don’t know, Sony recently united all of its first-party developers under the new “PlayStation Studios” banner. That logo you see for that collective will grace the box art of games developed by PlayStation Studios partners. It would stand to reason that if you’re a PlayStation Studios developer, you’re probably making games exclusive to PlayStation platforms.
That explanation doesn’t hold up quite as well once you’ve sat with it a while, though. For one thing, “Only on PlayStation” sends a clear message. It raises the value of the brand, a console, and potentially the game itself. We just don’t see the PlayStation Studios logo effectively conveying that same information (at least in the short term).
But maybe the point here is that Sony isn’t just thinking about the short term with this seemingly simple change. They could be trying to tell us something about the distant future of PlayStation exclusives.
In case you didn’t hear, Sony has recently confirmed that they’re porting Horizon Zero Dawn to PC. Considering that the history of Sony deciding to port former PlayStation exclusives to PC before now is just north of non-existent, it’s a pretty big deal that such a deal was made. It should also be noted that Horizon Zero Dawn was once listed as an “Only on PlayStation” game once upon a time.
Sony hasn’t tried to hide their interest in porting other PlayStation games to PC, but they’ve been quiet in terms of whether or not we should treat such ports as extreme rarities or whether that’s something we can expect more of moving forward.
The removal of the “Only on PlayStation” phrase tends to suggest the latter. Considering how much Sony values their exclusives (they’re arguably the biggest reason behind the PlayStation 4’s dominant success) we doubt that they intend to port every PlayStation Studios game to PC months after their debut, but the fact that Sony seems to no longer be interested in using the “Only on PlayStation” wording would tend to suggest that they may not be able to use that statement as confidently as they did in the past.
Maybe we’re reading too much into this, but with Microsoft committing to releasing more and more games on PC and Japanese developers seeing tremendous success with PC ports, you’ve got to feel like there’s something to this change that goes beyond a simple design decision.
Until now, PlayStation and Nintendo have been two of the biggest modern-day champions of the console exclusive. Now, it seems that Sony may indeed be taking the first steps to explore a more inclusive future.