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Hey PlayStation, I’ll take more games like Astro Bot, please

A robot flies on a controller in Astro Bot.
Sony Interactive Entertainment
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Sony kicked off a marathon of gaming reveals this week with an exciting State of Play stream. The 30-minute broadcast shed some light on what’s coming to the PlayStation 5 in the back half of 2024 and beyond. We saw an extended look at Concord, got a release date for Bloober Team’s Silent Hill 2 remake, and learned more about Supermassive’s Until Dawn remake. But the most exciting announcement of the show wasn’t a live-service shooter or a game pushing photorealistic visuals. It was a cute little robot who stole the show.

Astro Bot got the final slot during the State of Play stream — and for good reason. Sony revealed a delightful trailer for its upcoming platformer that had social media buzzing. Even this morning, you’ll find “GOTY” (game of the year) trending on X (formerly Twitter) and posts preemptively crowning Astro Bot as 2024’s best game.

Astro Bot is exactly the kind of thing I dearly missed from Sony,” John Linneman of Digital Foundry tweets. “I’m overjoyed that they were given the chance to make it. I’m genuinely excited for it. Possible GOTY candidate if it’s as good as I’m hoping.”

Linneman’s thoughts likely echo what a lot of excited fans are feeling right now. It’s not just that Astro Bot looks like an incredibly polished, adorable platformer — it’s that it feels like a return to a lost era of PlayStation that players have long been yearning for.

Blast from the past

I grew up with a few video game consoles, but I have especially cherished memories of my original PlayStation. Countless hours were spent running from boulders in Crash Bandicoot or flying around in Spyro the Dragon. I can’t tell you how many times I played through the first two songs in PaRappa the Rapper or wrecked cars in Twisted Metal. Every game I played felt entirely distinct from one another. My curiosity and imagination were always piqued, and I imagine those feelings helped turn me into the creative person I am today.

All of the games listed above were first-party games published by Sony. The company had a ridiculously wide publishing strategy at the time, supporting everything from Ape Escape to 2Xtreme. That would continue into the PS2 era with oddball launch titles like Fantavision (a game that got a great PSVR2 sequel last year without Sony’s publishing support). Sony really hit its stride in this generation, firming up a stable of great franchises includes Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper. It also gave us one-off masterpieces like Shadow of the Colossus, which would go on to be one of the gaming industry’s most influential releases.

A colossus with a club.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

That started to change during the PS4 era. Sony started to become much more selective in its publishing, focusing its efforts on a collection of trusted studios and IP. PlayStation’s first-party lineup gradually began to narrow with that change. We saw a growing emphasis in cinematic adventure games and open-world titles that pushed the PlayStation’s tech. Titles like Crash Bandicoot started becoming a rarity. Instead, franchises like God of War, Horizon, and The Last of Us took over.

That’s why something like Astro Bot comes as a plesant shock. It’s the kind of creative swing that PlayStation has slowly abandoned over the years. And though its not as out there as I.Q.: Intelligent Qube or Hohokum, it’s different enough from what we’ve been getting to elicit some cheers from those who miss the eclectic days of first-party Sony publishing.

Though I’m thrilled to see Astro Bot thriving as a franchise, it’s troubling that it’s one of very few titles like it in Sony’s arsenal. Sackboy is still kicking around and Insomniac occasionally still drops a Ratchet & Clank game (though a leaked schedule of the studio’s upcoming games show that its working on several Marvel games for the foreseeable future). If Astro Bot flops and Sony decides to move away from the franchise, there won’t be much left for players looking for creative first-party games like it.

A robot punches a boss in Astro Bot.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony could stand to diversify its thin portfolio, though its easy to see why it might want to stay conservative. Game development has become incredibly expensive for companies pursuing console-selling blockbusters. Gambles are much more costly when they don’t pay off these days. Why release a niche game about a rapping dog when you can rerelease the same two Last of Us games over and over? Until major publishers start funding smaller games with lower budgets and scope, games like Astro Bot will continue to be outliers outside of Nintendo’s empire.

Still, I offer a plea to Sony amid a wave of excitement for Astro Bot. Video games can offer an important creative outlet for both kids and adults. At their best, they can inspire us through imaginative design. That feeling still exists in PS5’s current first-party library, but the experiences are narrowing; it’s like going to an amusement park with one ride. I yearn for the day when PlayStation games like Astro Bot no longer feel like an exception to the rule.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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