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‘Horizon Forbidden West’ Looms Large in Sony’s PlayStation Strategy

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(Bloomberg) -- Sony Group Corp. releases the highly anticipated new entry in its Horizon video game franchise on Friday, and early reviews suggest it’s primed to be another big PlayStation hit.

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Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, earned an 89 on the review aggregation website Metacritic. Bloomberg called it “fantastic” and a worthy successor that’s bigger, better and more beautiful than the original. The action-adventure game is set in a post-apocalyptic world full of warring tribes and robot dinosaurs.

This new Horizon is the first big PlayStation launch of 2022 and reflects Sony’s strategy of releasing blockbuster exclusives that can only be played on its consoles. While Microsoft Corp. has focused largely on its Game Pass subscription service and releases all of its games on multiple platforms, Sony has stuck to a traditional approach, relying on franchises like Horizon to help sell hardware like the PlayStation 5.

But this new game will be available for the latest generation PlayStation 5 and the previous PlayStation 4, an unusual move 16 months into the lifecycle of the new console that may have been prompted in part by the ongoing chip shortage. Sony has sold more than 17 million PS5s since the console launched in November 2020, but it has been difficult to find. Desperate fans have resorted to rapidly refreshing Twitter to see what stores get new supplies or paying large sums to scalpers.

Horizon is one of the newest franchises in Sony’s stable. The company’s Guerrilla Games studio, based in Amsterdam, first began conceiving Horizon’s world a decade ago while finishing up the latest entry in its Killzone series. Whereas the Killzone games were dark, grim shooters, Horizon is a vivid, colorful open-world role-playing game. The first installment was a massive critical success on PS4 and was released for PCs in 2020. A spinoff, Horizon Call of the Mountain, was announced earlier this year for PlayStation’s next-generation virtual reality headset.

In recent years, Sony has shown signs of releasing more titles that can be played on multiple platforms. It has released several older PlayStation hits on PCs and even put its baseball series, MLB The Show, on Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo Switch. Sony purchased Destiny maker Bungie Inc. earlier this month for $3.6 billion, promising that the company’s games would remain on a variety of devices. It also plans to put out a subscription platform, code-named Spartacus, to compete with Xbox’s Game Pass, Bloomberg has reported.

Earlier this week, Sony said that Horizon Zero Dawn sold more than 20 million copies, setting lofty expectations for Forbidden West. But Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Amine Bensaid said he’d be surprised if the game “doesn’t top its predecessor.”

Sony will also release another blockbuster, God of War Ragnarok, later this year.

(Corrects spelling of Guerrilla in deck headline.)

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