Helldivers 2 on PC is the future of PlayStation 'exclusives'

 Helldivers 2.
Helldivers 2.

Here are some commonly held beliefs about the videogame industry that aged like milk:

  • Xbox and PlayStation will never allow crossplay with PC

  • PC gaming is niche, and dying

  • Xbox will never release games on PC and console simultaneously

  • Sony will never put PlayStation games on PC

  • Microsoft will never put Xbox games on PlayStation

Hey, I was right there too. The first time I played a round of Call of Duty in a lobby with Xbox, PlayStation, and PC players at the same time was an honest to god out-of-body experience. I was similarly shocked when Microsoft rewrote its strategy overnight: every Xbox exclusive would not only come to PC, but release day one alongside console. It made sense that the makers of Windows wanted to be a major power in PC gaming, but it was a significant blow to the status quo. The effects were felt when PlayStation—a platform defined by its strong exclusives—followed suit by investing in staggered PC ports for its biggest games. It was a moment of vindication for our hobby that had been written off as dead or dying for a decade prior.

Tomorrow, reports indicate Microsoft will announce a plan to release some Xbox games on PlayStation and Switch. Yesterday's impossible is today's probable.

So when I see Helldivers 2, a Sony-published game released on PC and PS5, dominating the Steam charts and setting records for Sony's PC efforts, it's hard not to think we're looking at the future of PlayStation. The simultaneous console and PC release just makes sense, and it sounds like Sony sees things that way too. In Sony's latest financial briefing, president Hiroki Totoki spoke about multiplatform releases synergizing with its console business.

"In the past as you all know, we wanted to popularize the console. The first-party title's main purpose was to make the console popular. It is true, but there is a synergy to it," Totoki said. "If you have strong first-party content, not only with our console but also other platforms like computers, first-party can be grown with multiplatform. That can help operating profits to improve."

helldivers 2
helldivers 2

It's an investor-forward way of putting it, but I take that as Sony applying the same lesson as Microsoft: In a time when videogames are expensive, part of a crowded market, and difficult to make, PC releases bolster the sales and awareness of a platform. There's no longer a huge downside to sharing the wealth with a PC community millions strong.

If you have strong first-party content, not only with our console but also other platforms like computers, first-party can be grown with multiplatform.

That Helldivers 2 is the game putting PlayStation PC on the map almost feels like fate. Way back in 2015, the PlayStation PC label had exactly one game to its name: the original Helldivers. It was an anomaly that went largely unnoticed—a PS4, Vita, and Steam exclusive arrangement possibly explained by Arrowhead Game Studios' close PC ties with its first game, Magicka. Helldivers PC was a hit, and you can bet it laid the groundwork for its sequel's splash on Steam.

If Helldivers 2 is Sony testing the water with multiplatform releases, the results are conclusive. According to early metrics shared on Twitter by Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt, Helldivers 2's player base is around 50/50 PlayStation and Steam with over a million copies sold so far. That's a big success for Sony in a year where it plans to release no major singleplayer games.

Sony is planning a few other simultaneous PC releases, and they're all live service games like Helldivers 2—Fairgame$, Marathon, and Concord. A savvy move for games that'll live and die by their active communities, though I have to imagine after Helldivers 2's surprising launch, Sony is seriously asking itself why it's waiting years to sell more copies of Horizon: Forbidden West, God of War: Ragnarok, and Spider-Man 2 on Steam.