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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Sony's surprise commitment to make its most-hyped PlayStation 5 games also run on the PS4 is more proof that the start of this console generation is unlike any other.

Why it matters: The gaming industry has long driven its customers to crave the latest technology, but that’s changing.

  • A de-emphasis on exclusive games for the new PlayStation and Xbox makes it easier — perhaps tempting — for gamers to put off purchasing the latest hardware at the highest price as soon as possible.

PlayStation's head of game development Hermen Hulst revealed in an in-house interview on Wednesday that the next "God of War," a 2021 flagship game only announced for the PS5, would instead come out in 2022 on PS5 and PS4.

  • PlayStation 5 launched last November with a mix of PS5 exclusives (“Demon’s Souls,” “Astro’s Playroom,”) and games that ran on PS4, too (“Sackboy: A Big Adventure,” “Miles Morales: Spider-Man.”)
  • That’s standard, but it has not given way to more PS5-only games.
  • Next week's "Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart" may be PS5-only, but Sony's other announced mega-games, including 2021/2022's "Horizon Forbidden West" and "Gran Turismo 7," are coming to PS4 and PS5.

This has confused some fans, in part because Sony PlayStation boss Jim Ryan said last year that "we believe in generations."

  • Ryan's comment appeared to signal a wave of upcoming next-gen-only games, a contrast with a new approach pursued by Microsoft's Xbox.
  • Xbox executives had pledged last year that their big games for their new Xbox Series X/S consoles would also run on the previous generation's Xbox One, for the new machines' first year or two.

Flashback: PS4 launched in late 2013 with games that didn't run on PS3, and, by 2014, Sony's in-house development for PS3 all but stopped.

The big picture: Games made for a 2020 console that also have to run on 2013 tech simply can’t be as advanced as next-gen exclusive games.

  • It's true that history's best-selling and most widely-loved games, from "Tetris" to "Wii Sports" to "Minecraft" to "Fortnite" thrived despite — or perhaps because — they ran on more easily affordable tech.
  • But the business of selling consoles had always involved the proposition that you needed a new console because it would enable games that weren't previously possible, and Sony's PS5 architect, Mark Cerny, had said as much about PS5 last year.

Between the lines: Hulst said Sony's cross-gen commitment was good business, as it makes these new games available to the more than 100 million people who own the PS4.

  • Selling games cross-gen can help, but it doesn’t guarantee bigger sales or, more crucially, bigger revenues, NPD analyst Mat Piscatella told Axios. 
  • He said first- and third-party game publishers need to factor in, among other things, the cost of making a game on multiple generations of technology, the impact of competing games and, new to the PS5 at least, the fact that games made only for the prior console can run on the new one via backwards compatibility.
  • “[We] have the widest variety of market approaches from the big console manufacturers on offer than we ever have seen before,” he said.”Each major manufacturer (and most publishers) seem to be building their assumptions, and doing that math, a bit differently.”

The bottom line: It's going to be hard to find the new consoles for a long time, so Sony and Microsoft releasing games in a way that lets more people play them will probably be good for most people, even if it frustrates others.

Go deeper

Sep 8, 2021 - Sports

IOC suspends North Korea from Beijing Olympics

Members of the North Korean delegation look on from the stands ahead of the figure skating gala event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that it has suspended North Korea from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after the country chose not to participate in this year's Tokyo Games due to the pandemic.

Why it matters: Although the decision will have "little immediate impact," it could prove consequential in shaping other political boycotts of future Olympic games, the Wall Street Journal noted.

By the numbers: Leaving House

Expand chart
Data: House Press Gallery; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) is the latest House lawmaker to announce he won't seek re-election next year, bringing the total number of Democratic retirements to 13, compared to nine Republicans.

Why it matters: The increasing number of Democratic retirements — put against the backdrop of President Biden's sagging approval ratings and uncertainty about redistricting — is adding to concerns the party may not be able to keep its slim majority in the House.

Ohio sues Biden admin over reversal of Trump-era abortion referral ban

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Monday over a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals that President Biden overturned earlier this month.

The big picture: The lawsuit aims to reinstate two measures included in the 2019 legislation that required federally funded family planning clinics to be "financially independent of abortion clinics," and refrain from referring patients for abortions.

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