Horizon Forbidden West: Bigger and Better Than Zero Dawn and Likely Sony’s Best-Selling PS5 Game in India for 2022
Sales analysis and review of the PS5's most pre-ordered game in India.
Action-RPG Horizon Forbidden West is out this week on the PS4 and PS5. Ahead of its launch I've been fortunate to finish Guerrilla Games' latest Sony exclusive on the PS5, and discussed my thoughts as a guest on The Untitled Gadgets Podcast this week. In addition to this, I've also spent some quality time analysing how the game will sell, courtesy conversations with my sources in distribution and retail. Here's what you need to know.
Horizon Forbidden West India sales analysis
So how would Horizon Forbidden West sell in India? For reference, Horizon Zero Dawn sold an estimated 6,000 units in its first month.
This is a combination of grey market and official stock. Reason being: logistics issues prevented Sony from getting the game to India on time, allowing more efficient grey channels to prosper.
At the time of Horizon Zero Dawn's launch in February 2017, India had around 70,000 PS4s. Now the PS4 install base is around 550,000 units and the PS5 has sold over 60,000. All these figures are both grey and official sales combined.
Assuming Sony brings in Horizon Forbidden West standard copies at a ratio of 1:1 for PS4 and PS5 — as the former is still in widespread use in India — and if you factor in at least a 25 percent increase in sales given the hype surrounding it, positive reviews, and a general increase in marketing around it, we should see 7,000 to 8,000 units sold in the first month itself. And that's before considering the Special, Collector's, and Regalla Editions. All of which will probably be in low supply anyway.
Horizon Zero Dawn was an exercise in growing an IP through wide reach and accessibility
Is this the complete potential of the game? No. It will have a long tail. While Horizon Zero Dawn sold around 6,000 units at launch, it sold even more through the years. Reason being: it received a Complete Edition that was routinely priced at Rs. 999 or lower (to the point where you can find it for Rs. 350 used), was free to all PSN users, and bundled with PS4s. For reference, titles like Assassin’s Creed: Origins sold about 8,000 units on all platforms when it released in 2017. So while 6,000 at launch for Horizon Zero Dawn may seem paltry, it was on one console and continued to sell well years later.
Not to forget it got a PC port that sold well and was applauded for its fair regional pricing (though that changed this week for some reason). Life-time sales for Horizon Zero Dawn should be on par with God of War and Spider-Man in India, partly thanks to it being on the shelves a whole two years or before those two games.
Point is: Horizon Zero Dawn ended up being one of the more accessible PlayStation first-party games in recent memory. That alone should give Sony India the impetus to sell more units of Horizon Forbidden West.
I'd suspect the already healthy pre-order numbers should see a boost in the run up to release. At the time of putting this newsletter together, it’s already the most pre-ordered PS5 game at retail in the country. Despite my conservative estimates, I'd suspect 10,000 units between PS4 and PS5 (in the same 1:1 ratio) would be in line with what Sony has in mind for India before factoring in digital sales.
Why this matters and what about the Collector’s and Regalla Editions for India?
The RPG genre is a super niche for the Indian market (outside of Genshin Impact) and more so on PC and console. For the longest time distributors would bring in the minimum quantity just to appease publishers. The exceptions to this rule are The Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn (you could argue that recent Assassin’s Creed games are in the same vein, but a large part of their player base comes back due to the action mechanics that the franchise was initially known for). While we’re yet to see this consumer preference for the genre trickle down to other IPs in a large way, it’s a welcome turn of events that could lead to a bigger market.
Speaking of which, I’ve been inundated with requests for both Collector’s and Regalla Editions of the game on Twitter. Outside of the PS5 and Pulse 3D headset, these are the most requested items that gamers in India are interested in or at least those that are on Twitter talking to me are.
Sony’s track record has been chequered at best during the PS4 era and the lack of concrete information in the lead up to launch for Horizon Forbidden West seems to suggest more of the same. Odd when you consider other publishers like CD Projekt Red and Ubisoft trot out their special variants like clockwork and well ahead of time. Useful when you consider how expensive these are and fans need that lead time to keep money aside for them. It’s likely that logistics issues play a role in frequent delays for special versions. If these make it we should see both in limited quantity — if not for pre-order from this week — then at launch, much like Ghost of Tsushima’s Collector’s Edition.
Horizon Forbidden West on PS5 — how is it?
As for the game itself, it’s excellent. The core gameplay components that made the first game such a joy — traversal, combat, and exploration are all here and as polished as ever.
Moving across the game world, landing hits up close with your spear or with ranged attacks, and exploring the many mysteries it has to offer is a near zen-like experience.
Horizon Forbidden West PS5 gameplay changes
There are some welcome tweaks to them too. For one, you can now glide and grapple across scenic vistas, making it easier to get to hard to reach areas. Combat has an expansive skill tree with abilities ranging from being able to shoot three arrows at once to over shields that when activated, can turn the tide in battle.
Exploration has a few new wrinkles too, from a wider selection of side-quests that impact the state of the game world to tying in incidental details to the main plot, there's lot going for it. And yes, you can fly mounts too.
Horizon Forbidden West PS5 DualSense support — what to expect
Being a first-party title for the PS5, it's expected that Horizon Forbidden West sports some form of DualSense support. By default the Weapon Trigger Effect setting is on, activating the Adaptive Triggers. This adds resistance to weapons making for a more immersive experience. From pulling bow strings to blaster triggers, combat feels intense. It's a welcome improvement from Horizon Zero Dawn.
That said, outside of Adaptive Trigger feedback in combat, there's little else that uses DualSense in any meaningful way. So if you were expecting implementation in line with say Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart or Death Stranding: Director's Cut, think again.
Horizon Forbidden West PS5 — Performance vs. Resolution mode
The game has two graphics options to choose from in the settings: Favour Performance and Favour Resolution. As far as naming conventions go they’re self-explanatory, which is a good thing given how complicated these have been in some other games that would simply use ‘Performance’, ‘Quality’, and ‘Resolution’ interchangeably.
My nit-picking on nomenclature aside, I played through close to three-fourths of the game in Favour Resolution which resulted in sharper visuals and details albeit at what seemed to be a locked 30fps. Moving over to Favour Performance and the boost in frame rate to what appeared to 60fps made for a much smoother experience which made up for any small loss in visual fidelity. I stuck to it till the very end and will keep it that way when I revisit the game. I simply can’t go back.
Horizon Forbidden West enemy design
One of the big draws of Horizon Zero Dawn was the variety of mechanical beasts you had to slay. From alligator-like Snapmaws to the T-rex-inspired Thunderjaws, Horizon Zero Dawn's enemy design was a thing of beauty.
Without spoiling much, Horizon Forbidden West's improves on the original, resulting in a wider variety of beasts and other foes to impale, shoot, trap, and bomb.
How long is Horizon Forbidden West?
Clearing the campaign took me around 26 hours at Normal difficulty. This was with doing three or four side-quests through the campaign. Like most open-world games, you can take on side-quests once the credits roll. Given how they add some welcome details and context to the world of Horizon Forbidden West, I'll be diving right back in soon enough.
However it’s not perfect…
As you can tell, I really like Horizon Forbidden West. However it isn't without its issues. For one, if you're opting to play through the game in stealth, you may find it more punishing than it should be. Even in Normal difficulty, the enemy AI is surprisingly aware. While you simply scan all foes in an area and plan your route accordingly, button prompts for stealth kills wouldn't show up at times. It's a minor grouse given how enjoyable the combat is.
What's less forgivable though is how one specific minor storyline plays out. The game's embargo prevents me from expanding on this but as someone who is deeply invested in the lore Guerrilla built up through Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, I feel shortchanged by certain events. Expect a deep dive on this on Gameography the week after the game is out.
Speaking of story: I'd highly recommend playing this after playing Horizon Zero Dawn. Sure, there's an easy to grasp recap video that's included with Horizon Forbidden West, but it misses out on a lot of nuances that make this series so compelling.
Plus, Horizon Forbidden West has some callbacks and references to the events of Horizon Zero Dawn that make a lot more sense if you've played through the first game. While I understand that hype and FOMO make people do strange things, like skip the first game in a series and go straight to what's new and shiny, this is the rare occasion where it pays off.
Other interesting insights from the Indian games market:
Doom Eternal received a price cut on Steam for India. While many including yours truly wrongly assumed this had to do with gamers raising their voices against lack of regional pricing, it is mostly to do with Doom Eternal itself getting a permanent price drop in all regions for the base game.
Horizon Zero Dawn for PC now costs 200 percent more than it did at launch and it is now in line with the Steam price of God of War and Days Gone. This makes me wonder if Sony's purchase of Bungie would impact pricing on Destiny 2's expansion packs on Steam. Bungie's shooter has seen a resurgence in the country with its release on Steam and a price spike could essentially destabilise the game's growing community here. Hopefully common sense prevails and Sony lets Bungie continue to handle Destiny 2 as it has been doing so far.
Pre-orders for Elden Ring in the run up to its February 25 release date are the strongest for any From Software 'soulslike' game retailers tell me. Though all of them are for PS4 and PS5. I was told interest in the Xbox version of the game was close to nil — with pre-orders on Microsoft's console being in low single digits. This explains why it's skipping the country on Xbox altogether, officially at least.