Play station The Play at Home initiative has undoubtedly been a bright spot for many players during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed fans to download free PlayStation games and helped small developers continue to make great games despite the economic hardships created by the pandemic.
In a recent interview, PlayStation boss and Sony Interactive CEO Jim Ryan said free-to-play games from Play at Home may return in the future. However, this is not necessarily good news, as it would require a continuation of the ongoing pandemic.
Christopher Dring of GamesIndustry.biz recently spoke to Ryan at an event in London. The interview touched on several topics, including his career, the future of PlayStation, and Sony’s response to COVID-19. Dring brought up Play at Home in the middle of the conversation. Ryan explained that Sony Interactive Entertainment kicked off the initiative to keep people entertained during the first wave of lockdowns in 2020. The company then brought it back during the COVID resurgence last winter. Asked about the future of Play at Home, Ryan said PlayStation will continue to bring it back for as long as it feels necessary. This means free-to-play games will likely only return if COVID experiences another resurgence.
This is bittersweet news for anyone hoping that the free Play at Home games will continue. According to Ryan, players repurchased 60 million games during the initiative. The titles available included a variety of PS4 and PS VR titles including Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Ratchet and Clank, Subnautical, and Horizon Zero Dawn – Complete Edition. Play at Home also offered free in-game items and currency, as well as an extended trial of the Funimation streaming service.
The interview also touched on other ways Sony has responded to the ongoing pandemic. Ryan spoke about the difficulties of deploying a console amid hardware shortages linked to the pandemic. There was also a discussion of the challenges of promoting games without hands-on demonstrations or public events. Ryan himself noted that he had to adjust to an unusual schedule due to his life in London and his virtual meetings with people in Japan and the United States. He also noted that launching the PlayStation 5 from his dining room was an odd experience that he preferred not to repeat.
However, Ryan says he is satisfied with the way the company has handled the difficulties of the past two years. The PlayStation executive notes that the company has managed to move 10 million PS5 consoles in an incredibly short time. He also referred to the double success of Ghost of Tsushima and The last of us 2 and other games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. While this did not come up during the interview, and at the risk of sounding jaded, one could even argue that the COVID lockdowns have done Sony a great service.
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