Opinion: Four Mistakes Sony Should Correct Next Console Generation
When people look back at how this gaming generation panned out, they’ll no doubt focus on Sony’s painfully slow start. Not only did the PlayStation 3 lag a year behind the Xbox 360, but it was also massively more expensive than it – with arguably little benefit in terms of technical performance. While Sony attempted to convince the world they needed a system with a built-in Blu-Ray player and Sixaxis motion control, Microsoft marketed their console well and established a lead that Sony has taken several years to catch-up with.
So, how can such mistakes be avoided when the PlayStation 4, or ‘Orbis’, sees a release? Well, Sony should probably think about correcting…
The loss of strong first-party developers
2012 has already seen the closure of Zipper Interactive (SOCOM, MAG) and SCE Studio Liverpool (Wipeout), and any more first-party casualties could seriously hurt the PlayStation brand. Some of the PlayStation 3’s best games have come from studios owned by Sony (Uncharted, inFamous, Killzone, LittleBigPlanet, MotorStorm etc), and so keeping this healthy system alive should ensure plenty of quality titles for the next PlayStation console.
Studios like Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch developing exclusively for PlayStation consoles continues to be THE reason to buy a Sony console over a Microsoft one. Obviously Sony have fallen on hard times, which explains the reason closures, but to further disrupt their first-party family would be a big mistake leading up to the next generation. They’ve already demolished the possibility of a next-gen Wipeout or SOCOM game, so to lose any more great franchises would be extremely detrimental.
Failing to integrate the PlayStation Vita with their flagship console
This may be a controversial choice, but as someone who has looked on in horror at the disappointing launch of the PlayStation Vita, it seems vital that the handheld is made an integral part of the PlayStation 4. By taking a leaf out of Nintendo’s book and using the Vita as a tablet controller, Sony could potentially find a selling point for the Vita that the masses can understand, while competing directly with Nintendo at the same time.
It may seem a bit extreme to ask that all PlayStation 4 releases include Vita support, but even if it’s just an interactive multiplayer map or ‘create a class’ screen in Call of Duty, the use of a touch-screen handheld could really work in creating a great gaming experience. It’s a system that works with the Wii U and could allow developers to create ZombiU-type experiences for the PlayStation 4 – which gives consumers an excellent reason to buy it over the Wii U.
Ultimately, the Vita is a failing handheld, and it’s such a good piece of hardware that it would be a massive shame to see it become an outright flop. If Sony can use it to work with their next home console in inventive ways, sales are sure to sky-rocket and the Vita can be a success after all. Cross-controller support is only recently being explored with the PlayStation 3 in titles like LittleBigPlanet, and if this is developed as an important part of Sony’s next console the results really could be exciting.
The PlayStation Network
Sony’s online service gets a fair bit of flack in comparison to Xbox Live, but with the lack of indie game support and features like cross-game chat, these criticisms aren’t exactly unfounded. The PSN has housed some great games over the years (with recent examples including two FMV ‘Game of the Year’ choices in The Walking Dead and Journey) , but there isn’t the quantity of titles from indie developers many would have wanted.
The problem is that it’s much more difficult to get your game onto the PlayStation Network than Xbox LIVE. The App Store is a good example of how Sony could do it – allow a lot of games to be put on to the system, but highlight the really good ones so the consumer doesn’t get bogged down by all the content.
There are some positives to the PlayStation’s free online service – the ‘PlayStation +’ subscription continues to be an excellent deal – but a few more features that perhaps do a better job of dealing with social interaction would really help Sony’s success for the next generation of consoles. Because, arguably, this is the only thing they are truly behind the times on.
Launching with a ridiculous price, and inadequate line-up
This article’s all about learning from mistakes – and here’s an absolute zinger. Even the most hardcore PlayStation fans held off from buying the PlayStation 3 when it came out, for one simple reason – they just couldn’t afford it. Gaming has never been a hobby enjoyed only by the rich, and that made Sony’s starting price completely ridiculous. While you can grab a PS3 for around £200 nowadays, at launch they were going in the region of triple that, which played into Microsoft’s (and indeed Nintendo’s) hands.
The selection of games available at launch was also somewhat lacking. But with the aforementioned first-party studios at Sony’s disposal, that can be rectified. Imagine the excitement if a new Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted, inFamous, Killzone and LittleBigPlanet were all available to buy on launch day? It may seem unlikely, but with each franchise’s respective developers on board it’s a distinct possibility. If Sony launches the PlayStation 4 with a £300 price-point and a strong lineup of titles, I’m confident they’ll see their console fly off the starting blocks.
If you happen to work for Sony and are reading this: you are welcome. This is how Sony can re-claim dominance in the next generation – and most of it is about learning from mistakes. That said, the PlayStation brand has an awful lot going for it, and it would take some ridiculous decisions for the PlayStation 4 to be a failure.