Our young industry has been anything but predicable over the last few decades. The transition from gaming in arcades to a couch, Nintendo’s eventual triumph over Sega, the explosion of military first-person shooters – what eventually “clicks” and wins over the crowd is pretty difficult to deduce, even if you happen to be the person developing the technology.
Sony’s fall from grace in our current console generation is just one of those unexpected turn of events. If you would have told me back in 2005 that Microsoft’s earsplitting, red-ringed box would outperform the technologically superior PlayStation 3, I’d probably laugh hard enough to shoot Yoo-Hoo from my nostrils. Yet, a better price point, well-timed release and little game called Gears of War helped propel the Xbox 360 into millions of homes; leaving Mr. Sony with nothing to do but scratch his head and battle “giant enemy crabs” alone.
Of course, this level of capriciousness just makes the future even more interesting. The landscape has significantly changed since the last hardware upgrade, and while Microsoft may be in the lead at the moment, a heavy swing in the marketplace is looking more and more likely. Sony’s PlayStation 4 hasn’t even been announced yet, but there are a handful of good reasons why it will not only better compete with the next Xbox, but overtake it in the console race.
5. Indie Support
The biggest independent games have been debuting on the Xbox Live Marketplace all throughout this generation, but more outspoken developers like Team Meat and Polytron have revealed a bit of the darker side of Microsoft’s business. Contract disputes, long certification periods and the excessive price of a single patch have all driven developers to much more welcoming services like Steam, and before long, we’ll see the heavy hitters on the PlayStation Network.
Sony’s acceptance of new, unusual ideas (Flower, Noby Noby Boy) has driven a slew of talented minds over to the Network, and an exciting new console with even greater online functionality might be difficult to pass up. Xbox Live isn’t leagues ahead of the competition anymore, so indie developers will have a wider scope of options in a few years when deciding on which platform they want to make their living. Expect a wave of creativity and, let’s be honest, 2D platformers to flood the PlayStation 4.
4. A better online service
It’s come a long way since 2006, but the PlayStation Network still lags behind Live in some key areas. It’s simple to connect to your favorite games or find other PSN friends through Sony’s service, but a lack of cross-game chat and insufferable updates have put a stigma on the Network that must be lifted before it expands. Friends want to be able to chat while just watching Netflix or playing a single-player experience, and the ability to sit and socialize in a room while partaking in whatever service you’d like will be key to building a community. The lack of mics in any given online game has already made it difficult to not feel alone in a full, 32-player game of Killzone 3, so a greater communal component would do wonders for PSN’s popularity.
It’ll only take a bit of tweaking to surpass Microsoft’s service, too. Higher awareness and visibility of games on the store, a greater sense of community and faster networking capabilities are all achievable, and with the Xbox 360’s dashboard being as ad-riddled and unattractive as it currently is, Sony won’t have to start a revolution to become the de facto online service.
The PlayStation 3’s foreign infrastructure has made it difficult for developers to simply port their games over from the PC or 360. Hell, Skyrim’s “Dawnguard” may not even make it to PSN due to technological complications. It’s great to be different, but when you’re running on such unique equipment that people just don’t want to mess with your hardware, the graphical benefits just aren’t enough to justify the tools.
Thankfully, the PlayStation 4 is rumored to be running on AMD’s quad-core 2.9GHzA8-3850 APU and an AMD Fusion CPU/GPU. This powerful-yet-streamlined format should allow for simple porting – allowing developers familiar with PC development to move their products right on over the PlayStation 4. We won’t know if this is really the case until further down the line, but multiplatform quality should see a significant bump on Sony’s end with this more universal core.
2. The right timing
Remember when the PlayStation 3 launched about a full year after the Xbox 360? Yeah, that was pretty awful. Both newcomers who wanted to see what this “next-gen gaming” thing was all about and PS2 veterans who just couldn’t wait for Sony to get its act together flocked to Microsoft’s future-graphics machine like sweaty, Doritos-filled sheep. Continued hardware failure proved that the system had been rushed to the marketplace, but even so, it began to build a dedicated following that weren’t willing to shell out $599 for another machine with similar capabilities.
This won’t happen again. Sony has stated on multiple occasions that it’s learned a lesson from the launch of the PlayStation 3, and recent reports point to its next console hitting store shelves months before Mircosoft’s. These “facts” change on a weekly basis, but GameStop CEO Paul Raines recently stated, “We’re expecting Wii U this holiday, another one next year, and another in ’14.”
That blurb, coupled with rumors that the 720 may be delayed due to poor processor quality, leads me to believe that there may be a role reversal during this particular launch. Sony being first (second to the Wii U, which is essentially running a different race) wouldn’t guarantee the company’s dominance. Yet, with Microsoft captivating millions of gamers with an unfinished, unreliable Xbox 360 back in 2005, an early start sure as hell won’t hurt the PlayStation 4’s chances.
1. Bigger, better exclusives
Strong PlayStation 3 exclusives were almost impossible to come by in the first few years of the console’s existence, but that’s just no longer the case. There may be no sales juggernaut like Halo or Gears of War to sell an inordinate amount of copies, but high-quality experiences like Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, Infamous and Killzone have established Sony as the software kingpin. The sheer variety in the PlayStation 3’s current library is staggering, and with third-party exclusivity only visible in the form of downloadable content, the first-party titles are all console manufacturers have left to make a statement.
Not every new franchise has stuck, but just like in the downloadable space, Sony isn’t afraid to take chances. No other company would take a chance on something as crazy as Heavy Rain, and that attitude is what will truly put the PlayStation 4 back in the front of the pack. Social integration and popular services may entice an audience that would never touch a first-person shooter, but it’ll be the actual games that decide which console makes it out of the next generation with a legion of loyal subjects. And when it comes to games, Sony only has everything.
Who do you think will come out on top in the next generation? Do you think Microsoft will once again grab the most gamers? Let us know what you think below, or head on over to our forums!