On This Generation and the Next: Part 2: Sony

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Welcome to the second part of my three part series on the aftermath of E3 and the past generation of consoles. My first article garnered quite the conversation, as everything to do with Microsoft these days, so it will be interesting to see if my thoughts on Sony will do the same, enjoy and again, hit me up on the site or on twitter @Optimusprime223 if you want to chat about anything!


Sony

The house that PlayStation built got quite the reaction didnt it? and a very, very different one from when the PS3 was introduced, especially when the frankly ludicrous price was announced. I remember watching that E3 conference and thinking Robbing B*****ds!. It did not stop me from getting one though, but I did wait over six months before doing so.

I bought my PlayStation 3 primarily as a blu-ray player to go under my main TV. This was one of the best decisions that I could have made, it has proven to be a reliable player of HD movies and games since I bought it all those years ago, and apart from a few lock ups, I have never had a problem with it, which is only a good thing.

My biggest issue with it, though, is that the XMB sucks. It sucked on the PSP and it definitely sucks on the PS3, while the Xbox Live dashboard has become nothing but a series of ads, at least it was pretty and relatively easy to use (or, at least, it was). While the XMB does have everything set out in a relatively easy to find manner, it aint pretty, and truth be told is one of the most boring UIs I have ever encountered.

That said, it works so small graces. There was a time when Sony had the potential to radically change how we interfaced with our consoles, and people were excited. Hell, I was excited, I remember emailing the Giantbombcast asking what they thought about it, and if they thought an idea I had for it would be cool. That idea was a persistent grave yard where you could go and see a given gravestone and find out how many deaths you had in a particular game. The potential, as I am sure you have worked out by now, was PlayStation Home.

I remember watching the reveal of Home and thinking if they pull that off it could be awesome. Seriously, if they just booted the console straight into Home and had you moving around and actually going to meet your friends to hook up and play together, as well as all the other stuff, the console landscape would be very different today.

It was a grand experiment filled with amazing ideas, but several years down the line and Home has become a glorified chat room. The potential is still there, and yes I am aware that many people call Home, well home, on a regular basis, but it could have been so much more. With no mention of what the deal with Home on PS4 is, can we expect it to make an appearance? To be honest, I really do hope, despite my feelings on it, people do like it, so why take it away and upset a ton of people.

If you're wondering why I am not fussed about Home anymore here is why: I downloaded it soon after launch and logged in, setting up my character and going for a wonder. I was bored sometime later, but liked the look of it and again that ever present potential. I then, just for giggles, created a second character, a female one. I loaded into the main hub, appeared outside and within 3 seconds had 5 male characters crowded around me going hey baby, how are you. It was what I expected to happen, but not as quick as that, and so I was out.

The PS3 is a great system, I have enjoyed my time with it. Move and Home were grand experiments that failed to meet potential, and in Moves case, where a little expensive, but the whole generation can be summed up with the term missed potential.

Sony, however, have changed. The original reveal of PS4 was confident, a bold statement that yes, indeed they have listened, not only to consumers, but to developers as well. Gone are the days of custom made Cell Processors, this time only a few items are custom and even then not in a way to completely mess with developers heads.

They anticipated where gaming was heading, and looked to the e-sports scene for inspiration in what software and online features to add. They have changed the interface, removing, at least as far as anyone can tell at this point, the XMB and replacing it with a slick new interface that takes inspiration from Xbox Dashboard with the ads underpinning it all. I am basing that on a few quick looks at the system, but I do know it ain't the XMB, which is great.

Actually while I wrote this Sony confirmed that the XMB is a thing of the past and a new interface, a very slick and cool looking thing has been confirmed, and I hope it lives up to what is promised in the latest video.

They even had developers come out and say that the PS4 is much easier to develop for and that Sony had been a dream to work with. They had indie darling Jonathan Blow announce The Witness and kick off a series of partnerships with smaller studios. It was fantastic news.

Microsoft bit back with its announcement, and I have to say that the PS4 still had me. I would love to say that I wont get an XBO, but that would be a lie, I will, but I will get the PS4 on launch and wait a few months for the Xbox One. This is a decision based mainly on price and it is a fair one, I have no particular love for either company over the other, both have provided me with fantastic gaming experiences over the last seven years and will continue to do so.

That price makes a difference though. Sony knew it as soon as Microsoft announced their price plan, and almost bounded onto the stage at E3 knowing that at the very least the price would cause a stir. But that pesky DRM thing is still causing issues, and Sony capitalised by having Jack Tretton come on stage at the end of the press conference not only to announce the nearly £100 (or exactly $100) cheaper price, but also to say that PS4 will not require an always on internet connection, nor a 24 hour check in, the system will be region free and they support used games, along with trading and all the stuff Microsoft allegedly dont.

Jack could have effectively dropped the mike and walked off stage at this point, the crowd already going wild. I laughed. Not because it was especially funny, but because the biggest reaction anyone got, company, celebrity or game, for the whole show, was the fan reaction to that news from Sony. It said a lot about the state of the games industry.

What Sony did was the PR equivalent of a guiding principle of Korean Martial art Taekwondo: One block, one strike and the fight is over (I am a black belt in TKD so that might help with this reference). They blocked Microsoft's aggressive stance on DRM and exaggerated price, and countered with a strike that knocked them pretty cleanly out of the ring, the ring in this case being the hearts and minds of consumers.

There are, to be fair, still questions Sony have to answer. Just what will the digital DRM policy be? disk based games can be traded fine, but what about digital content? They have stated that season passes are going away, but what are the third parties going to do if they cant use them? Can free to play games still happen, such as Dust 514? Will there be a bundle with the thinly outlined new PlayStation Eye camera? just what does that thing do anyway?

They also, very quietly, very sneakily, announced that multiplayer was being locked behind the PSN+ subscription fee. While personally, I have no issue with this, I can see why some people will take umbridge. I did hear an interview with a Sony exec that said this decision was because multiplayer is an extremely expensive thing to run, and I have no issue with them being honest about the reasons why they have had to make this decision.

The PSN+ subscription is, and will continue to be, fantastic. Mine has paid for itself already just in games I have gotten free. I know I might be taking money from the developers by getting them, but the other side of that coin is that I also known that developers name and if the game is good, can look for future titles, willing to give them money. The fact that it also extends to my Vita is such a massive bonus its untrue, and I cannot wait to see what new goodies come my way as things move along.

The one thing I will say that Sony did extremely badly was promoting the Vita at E3. That system is way, way better than people give it credit for. It may be that the remote play on PS4 gave them plenty of promotion, but it will be down to the games to use that feature in a compelling way, and I honestly dont see it happening, but I could be wrong. The Vita deserves better, and selection of indie titles coming to both it and PlayStation 3 and 4 are compelling reasons to stick with Sony.

Of course, they can still screw this up. It is months until the console is unleashed on the world, and there could be hardware issues, server issues, even both, not to mention what could turn out to be a strong launch but a dwindling supply of games thereafter. Indie titles that can be self published on the system can make up for this, but even they take time to create, something Sony needs to manage carefully.

Still, the PS4 is getting my money on launch day, and I cannot wait. I may have been swayed by the hype, but my decision is mainly based on price, and as I say, an XBO will be in my home some time next year. The games look just as compelling, if not more so, on PS4 and I am always talking about how I need to play more Indie games. It doesnt help that my PC keeps just turning off for no reason, so one of the better avenues to the indie scene is just not reliable enough for me, but still, I the next offering from Sony gives me another way in.


I hope you have enjoyed this article, and that it sparks as much discussion as the last one. Tune in later this week for the final part, on everyones favourite nostalgia house, Nintendo!

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