Anyone who tells you they had predicted such a blazing start for Sony’s newest console is lying to you. It’s been almost 2 years since launch and the PlayStation 4 is nothing short of a phenomenon. With a continuous stream of PS4 sales updates every so often, it becomes more and more apparent that the underdog console is dominating its rivals, at least in sales. At this point selling over 20 million consoles. Almost doubling its closest competitor. So to those that feel invested in this, for all intents and purposes, the PS4 is “winning” the console wars. Their competitors in Nintendo and Microsoft, have struggled to make the same sort of impact on the market to this point.
“for all intents and purposes, the PS4 is ‘winning’ the console wars.”
Let me be absolutely crystal clear, I have zero interest in this “battle”, I actually highly recommend that everyone get every console possible for the sake of balance and the ability to play every exclusive.
Now, to get to the main interest of this article — how in the world is Sony doing this? How is it they are getting people to enjoy the console without the Uncharteds, God of Wars, Gran Truismos, and the AAA exclusive prowess they are known for? For such a complex situation it is a multitude of things but I think it is more simple than one would think. Sony has made sure the console is filled to the brim with quality games. Consumers have also perceived the value of the PS4 to be much higher than other consoles because of a certain specification.
Let’s get right into it. One of the Japanese mega company’s most alluring aspects is their stable of first party and second party developers. Ranging from what I would consider the be the best in the business, in Naughty Dog, all the way to the wonderfully imaginative creators of Little Big Planet, Media Molecule– there is something for everyone. Sony themselves have stated that all of their studios were working on PS4 games before it was even released. It is almost 2 years later and we have yet to see the fruits of their labor. Some notable absentees include: Guerrilla Games, Sony Santa Monica, Media Molecule, Polyphony Digital, and SCE Bend Studio. With E3 around the corner, most of that should be different of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that up to this point, 20 million consoles have been sold while lacking the heaviest of hitters.
“It is almost 2 years later and we have yet to see the fruits of their labor”
The best place to start is in the past. No, not to the beginning of time, simply the last generation of home consoles. Excluding the Wii’s absurd amount of sales, the Xbox 360 dominated in popularity. But sales for both Microsoft and Sony waned off at a little over 80 million consoles sold respectively by the end of their life cycles. Differences in sales between the two are minuscule and thus unimportant. So why bring these numbers up? Two important factors must be accounted for here: the 360 had a year head start and the PS3 had an abysmal first year because of what was deemed a preposterous retail price. Giant crabs anyone? Most in the industry considered the George Forman Grill look alike to be dead in the water not soon after its rocky start. With that in mind, it means that the PlayStation 3 sold even better than the Xbox 360 for its last few years; it is the only way it could catch up with the great lead Xbox enjoyed. Meaning that going into this new generation, the PlayStation brand had all of the momentum. Include, the success of The Last of Us and Sony had all of the buzz going into the new consoles.
All of the momentum would mean nothing if Sony just let it dwindle away. Instead, they used every big gun they had during their E3 press conference in 2013 where they literally dropped the mic (check out the Jack Tretton mic drop). They announced friendly consumer practices, like the ability to trade in games, not having to check the internet every day, and a price point that undercut their most prominent competitor. These announcements were direct contradictions to Microsoft’s, of course. None of those announcements would have the punching power if Microsoft hadn’t taken an errant route and befuddled their own announcements. Thereafter, Microsoft went on to incessantly eradicate everything they had previously declared to be their vision. What Sony gained at that infamous E3 is extremely valuable — the consumer’s trust and good will. Which has become a momentous move on Sony’s part, but it sure isn’t the sole reason the PS4 continually outsells its competitors. Maybe it was enough to garner initial interest but no way it has sustained almost 2 years later. The argument that E3 is the sole reason for Sony’s success, holds no water anymore.
“Outside of Bloodborne which we called a masterpiece, the rest are forgettable, a remake, not very good, or worse yet, didn’t work properly when they launched.”
Now, back to the main question posed: how are they doing it, despite the exclusive AAA influence? Here is a list of a few exclusives that made any sort of splash with the community, whether good or bad: Killzone: Shadowfall, Infamous: Second Son, The Last of Us Remastered, The Order 1886, Knack, Drive Club, Little Big Planet 3, MLB 15: The Show, and Bloodborne. Outside of Bloodborne, which we called a masterpiece, the rest are forgettable, remakes, not very good, or, worse yet, didn’t work properly when they launched.
Both the Xbox One and Wii U have a much superior first party exclusive line-up’s. The Wii U in particular has the best line-up bar none with Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., Super Mario 3D World, Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, I mean the list keeps going. While the X1 has a more than respectable line-up as well with Sunset Overdrive, Titanfall, and the Forza games at the top of that list. Yet, nothing has changed with sales. If you are of the mindset that AAA exclusives are as important as ever, you would think the Wii U sales wold have been excellent. We know that not to be true.
Here is the part that might sound asinine to most gamers: AAA exclusives are not the end-all be-all that we make them out to be. We live in a time where there are new games continuously streaming out of talented developers and publishers almost daily (if not daily, at least weekly). There are very few actual exclusives that singularly will entice a consumer to go to a preferred platform. It is usually the Halos and Uncharteds of the world that have that type of gravitas. If you are not indebted to those titles, then it only acts as the cherry on top to whatever choice you make.
“Here is the part that might sound asinine to most gamers: AAA exclusives are not the end-all be-all”
Instead, what is far more important is to constantly bring quality games into the ecosystem. They don’t need to be great or excellent but at least good enough to pique interest. Sony is killing it on that end, more so than the other two guys. Sure, Bloodborne is a must-play in my opinion, but what will fill in the gaps before and after that? Which makes it so ingenious is that Sony had a huge campaign to bring on indie developers. It was such a chess-like move that now Microsoft (even though they engineered the indie movement on consoles) and Nintendo are trying to play catch-up. In the last month and a half, the PS4 gained Shovel Knight, Bastion, Metal Slug, Titan Souls, Hell Divers, Hotline Miami 2, Axiom Verge, and James Town. Some of them were timed exclusives and some of them have been on other platforms before but these are some great games in the span of a couple of months, that are now available on the PlayStation ecosystem. That is a phenomenal line-up that includes a little something for everyone and aren’t just buffers to the next AAA game, those are great games everyone should try out. It has been like this on the PlayStation side for a while now which the other two big hitters can’t rival.
No game is for everyone, but having a large varying catalogue of titles to choose from ensures there are more chances you will find something you enjoy.
Here is a list of some notable games on PS4 since March 3rd, 2015:
- DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition
- Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
- Battlefield Hardline
- Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
- Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
- Metal Slug 3
- Axiom Verge
- MLB 15 The Show
- Dark Souls 2
- Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones
- Mortal Kombat X
- Titan Souls
- Shovel Knight
- Broken Age
- Double Dragon
- Final Fantasy X/ X2
- The Last of Us: Left Behind
- Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
In grand total, in a little over a 2 month time span, 63 games have been added to the PS4. Not all exclusives, nor all home-runs, but staggering numbers either way. There is bound to be some game for almost anyone to enjoy in those massive numbers.
“in a little over a 2 month time span, 63 games have been added to the PS4”
Now onto the the perceived value aspect of this discussion. If you don’t absolutely love Halo or Uncharted, is there enough on a console to entice you to get on board? Someone purchasing a PlayStation may not get Forza but if the racer was not enough reason for that person to purchase the Xbox One then Drive Club or some other car simulator will fill the void. By being versatile, Sony has ensured that there is always some game for anyone to play and also giving decent alternatives to some of the best titles on other consoles. It begins to snowball from there. At the moment, Sony is stealing headlines by constantly announcing some game is coming to their platform. Garnering the attention of the general public that doesn’t necessarily do incredible amounts of research when purchasing a console. The general populous pays attention to the headlines.
Also, just because they don’t have the first party AAA exclusives, doesn’t mean that Sony doesn’t obtain AAA third-party games. These are part of the ecosystem and for the most part are reported to run better on the PS4. Does the average consumer know about frame-rates or the fact that some games just run better on the Xbox One? No, but they sure do understand that 1080p is better than 900p. Despite the contrast being negligible, why wouldn’t someone prefer to get the 180 p’s extra for the same price?
“The Wii U is another example of why price points don’t matter”
Pricing has also been inconsequential for the PS4. Since the Xbone dropped to $350, it has proven fruitful for the Kinectless box but not detrimental to the eraser looking one, like so many had predicted. Which means that the perceived value still lies with Sony. The Wii U is another example of why price points don’t matter as much as the value each box produces for the consumer. Wii U is by far the cheapest console with an excellent AAA first party exclusive line-up but lacks the ferocity of third parties and doesn’t rival the amount of quality indie/small titles of the PS4. In other words, people would rather spend the extra $50 or $150 because they believe they are getting a box with better graphics and more games, even though that is somewhat subjective.
What Sony has been able to accomplish in the last year and a half has been nothing short of a miracle; they have used all of their momentum and indie game prowess to provide a healthy influx of games for their ecosystem. It is important to consume and digest this historic moment in video games. Sales also have huge implications on the future of gaming and taking a second to understand what is currently going on will give us some insight into the future of our favorite hobby. This will also force Nintendo and Microsoft to step up their game, which will only prove to be advantageous for the consumer. Also, If history has taught us anything it’s that it isn’t over until the fat lady sings. Things can change in the matter of months. It’s also fun to just champion in the success of video games, proving all the naysayers who said console gaming was dead, completely wrong.
“It is important to consume and digest this historic moment in video games.”
Before we end this, I’d like to repeat that the Xbox One is doing great. It is the second fastest selling home console at this point, only behind the PS4. The Wii U is also an excellent console that provides a great experience for everyone. I would love to get a meaningful discussion going, so if you disagree with me and think I am some nut or think I am spot on, make sure to let me know in the comments section below. Keep the positive vibes going everyone.
Disclaimer: Number of games on PS4, calculated through the official PlayStation Blog.