With the next gen approaching soon, it is not surprising to see the amount of talk about the PS4, Xbox 720, and the Wii U. A lot of people are scouring the ‘net looking for the latest rumors or most recent possible spec sheets. Everyone wants to know what will happen with the new consoles. These times are always the most entertaining as we get to see rumors pop up that range from reasonable and logical to bat-crap crazy. The PS4 is undoubtedly the one with the most on the line, however. All eyes on Sony, you could say.
With Sony’s financial future being tested, the PlayStation brand has a lot to live up to. Being saved from any cuts, the head honchos are most likely expecting big things with the coming generation and the Vita. That being said, I’ve come up with ten things that Sony needs to ensure for the PS4 to be a success out of the gate and not relive first year nightmares. Don’t pay attention to the numbers, though. All ten are very important. The list numbers are just for show here.
You see that picture to the right? Click on it. Now, tell me how insane that must be to have to explain all of this to customers at retail stores. I used to work at GameStop. It was hell. “I have an 80GB, so I can play PS2 games right?” Welllll, depends. Which 80GB do you have? “The 80GB…” Yeah, it wasn’t fun. It isn’t a far-reaching statement to say that a lot of people just don’t have a clue. Trying to tell them to read off their serial number or look for a specific thing is a hassle, especially over the phone. Sony needs to ensure this does not happen again. Why? Because it will make it easier for people to just go in and make a purchase. Not everyone researches what they’re going to buy, an unfortunate truth. A grandmother needs to be able to walk into a store and say “I want to buy a PS4 for my grandson” and have no hassle. She isn’t going to know what an HDMI port is, hard drive sizes, backwards compatibility, or if her grandson had a PS2 or PS3. She just isn’t.
Cut this out or begin using the Apple system of classification: PS4 Summer 2014, PS4 Fall 2014, and so forth. The multi-sku method needs to die. Oh, and trust me, I know that Sony isn’t the only perpetrator of this.
9. No Cell Architecture
We’ve heard a lot of rumors that the PS4 will be using some sort of AMD build, which is for the best. This will really throw a hammer in the whole PS3 backwards compatibility scene but overall, this will be sure to put smiles back on developers’ faces. The Cell and the PS3 as a whole is a pain to develop for. We’ve heard it from plenty of studios over the course of this generation. It has made multiplatform games mostly play worse than the 360 counterparts and put a damper on the PS3′s reputation. Sure you get insane exclusives, but if Uncharted was also made for the 360 which version would be better? A lot would argue and still give the win to the PS3 but it is hard, very hard to deny that the PS3 is a pain to create on.
If Sony can end this and enable developers to go back to more pressing matters than stressing over the architecture of the console, the PS4 will be in better shape for non-exclusive games.
You have to know that even with the 720′s release, Microsoft will not give up on the Kinect. We will see Kinect 2.0 come out with the next gen offering from Redmond. We’ve already seen what Nintendo is doing. We also have seen Microsoft attempt to one-up or just play catch up already with SmartGlass. What will the PS4 have? Who. Cares. I don’t care if the Move makes the journey over to the next gen, but do not focus on it during conferences or retail strategies. I understand that your add-ons have to sell but you need to look at what failed and what did not this generation. The Move did not move. The Wonderbook will not turn the page. You know what did do well? Game sales that did not need the Move. Hmm..
Sony needs to get back on the ball with games and off gimmicks. Just because one company did well with one does not mean it will work for every company. Sony and the PlayStation brand are known for games. Damn good games. Bring that focus back with the PS4.
7. Used Games
The first rumor to come out about a used games ban was with the Durango rumor and Microsoft. Then it came up again but with the Orbis rumor and Sony. Jack Tretton said back in May that he believes blocking used games is anti-consumerist. However, he also said he does not speak for Sony as a whole about that. We have not heard a yes or no from Microsoft about the dilemma, but one has to assume that the issue is still up in the air for both companies. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, developers lose money if someone buys a game for $59.99, returns it five hours later because it wasn’t for him or something, and then GameStop sells it again for $54.99 used. That potential second customer gives nothing to the people who made it. However, on the other hand, people love a good deal and in times like these it is sometimes necessary to look at the used games section first before moving to the new.
I don’t care for used games. I try not to buy them as I not only want to help out the creators but I also enjoy taking off that wrapper and seeing everything in the case. Like a manual. Oh, and a clean disc. However, this would likely cause a huge backlash with gamers. Reselling of stuff goes back to when physical media began. Ending that tradition is not something that will make everyone look at the future but rather look at how they would be unable to get any value for their games once done with them. Not everyone is a collector and keeps everything. Hell, I’m not. If I was I’d have more games then I could fit in my kitchen space. What am I to do? Throw stuff out during spring cleaning?
6. Don’t Let Microsoft One-Up You
A very common subject of news during this generation was “Microsoft opened up their wallets again”. Now, you can’t fault them for that. It’s their money and they’ll spend it how they want. However, in the past couple of years we’ve seen deals like this between the 360 and devs/publishers become timed exclusives rather then permanent exclusives. This has to be because of the growing popularity and sales trend of the PS3. Devs did not want awesome features not crossing the pond and hitting a now gigantic congregation of gamers. Microsoft will be doing this for years and years to come. They have the extra cash and Xbox Live’s membership cost just helps them even more. Sony needs to combat this either with giving money to ensure this doesn’t happen or start off so strong that neither console gets an advantage.
Sony is struggling financially, so I find the notion of them handing money out for a timed exclusive just below the impossible gauge. However, something needs to click in the PlayStation brand to stop devs and publishers from being so quick to give up something either for good or timed release.
5. Backwards Compatibility
The PS3′s original 60GB and one (see above) of the 80GBs allowed playback of PS2 games. After that, poof! No more. However, PS1 games are playable on all systems. This needs to be rectified with the PS4. We’ve heard Sony constantly saying “PlayStation family”. It seems more like a post-apocalyptic survival group than a family. Everyone is distant and doesn’t want to get cozy with each other. The PS1′s playback is something easily emulated and works well that way. I have no doubt that we’ll see this return with the PS4. The PS2′s emotion engine can’t be that expensive to produce these days, not like back in 2006 and 2007. Perhaps we’ll see it return for perfect PS2 emulation. Now, the PS3 games will require the Cell architecture to run and since we’ve heard so many rumors of the Cell splitting town next generation, this will become a huge problem. That is why a partnership with either OnLive or Gaikai is so important.
One of these cloud gaming providers can work with Sony to create a PS4 streaming hub where PS3 (and maybe PS2 if no emotion engine) games can be bought and streamed for enjoyment. This will give the PS4 a full family of games to work with. If they can get this to work from launch, that gives the PS4 a gigantic library of games to play with at the beginning. Though, they would also have to figure out how to make it so the cloud streamer can detect PS3 discs and call up that stream to be played, thus allowing already purchased games to be played without a second buy.
4. Better 3rd Party Support
I’m not saying that the PS3 did not receive enough multiplatform games, because it obviously did. However, many times those games were inferior to the Xbox 360 versions due to tougher development resources. Sony needs to help these folks out. Sure, some devs get it and make things great no matter what platform they go on. Others don’t and that’s what counts. You can’t segregate gaming studios and be like, “well, l2code”. That won’t fly. They’ll just make their games for other systems. If, for some reason Sony keeps the Cell architecture, they’ll need to work with 3rd party studios to help them gain the knowledge needed for future releases. This will get rid of any inferior titles sitting on the shelves with store employees saying, “oh it plays better on the 360.”
Store employees make it or break it for most buyers. Their experiences, biases, or unresearched/researched comments will influence customers one way or the other. If they say, “BioShock 4 plays just as great on the PS4 as it does on the 720.” People are then just going to buy it on the console of their choice, which is out of Sony’s hands. If they continue to say, “BioShock 4 plays best on the 720. The PS4 version has choppy framerate, lag on the online portion of the game, and is taking forever to patch it up” then customers are going to see an obvious choice, which is something Sony needs to fix.
3. Continue Exclusive Dominance
PS3′s exclusives have delivered some of the best entertainment in gaming history. There is no denying that when it comes to exclusives, you just need a PS3. Sure, you got some choice titles on the 360 and you can’t take those away but there are more titles with more variety that you can only find on Sony’s current gen system. This needs to continue and I can’t see why it wouldn’t. The studios that make the exclusives aren’t going anywhere and most of them call the PS3 their choice system. Will this change with the PS4? Most likely not. Still, this is very important for next gen. Having strong exclusives will make the PS4 look like a trophy when the display box sits next to the shelf. Its always bothered me that stores like GameStop would never make a PS3 exclusives section topped with system boxes. That is the main reason to own a PS3, in my opinion. That would sell consoles left and right.
Exclusives don’t crown a console. See point #4. However, it goes a long way. Games like Uncharted, inFamous, LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet & Clank, Heavy Rain, and Valkyria Chronicles are some of the best games on the PS3 and deserve to be highlighted. The PS4 needs to continue this amazing exclusives push.
Sony needs to look no further then their own Vita to see what a system launch should be like. The Vita had, in my opinion, one of the top 3 launches of all time. So many choices, so much variety, and plenty of accessories to pick up. Now, I’m talking about the North American launch here. The games that came out with the Vita were especially geared for the gaming audiences here. Uncharted, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Rayman Origins are great games but how do they fare overseas? The biggest problem for the Vita at launch in Japan was that it was going up against Monster Hunter on the 3DS and without a smash series like that debuting with it. Japan has its favorite gaming series and themes. Monster Hunter happens to be almost as big as Pokemon over there. If Monster Hunter and Pokemon ever mixed up like Nobunaga is for Pokemon Conquest, the Japanese would buy whatever they had to in order to play the crap out of it.
The Vita did not have that kind of title for that audience. It led with Uncharted. Sony really should have looked at the target audiences in each territory and tailored each release of the Vita to them. FIFA and Uncharted did amazing in Europe. Uncharted and MarvelCap did great here. What did great in Japan? This all should be top priority for the PS4 in terms of territory launches. Can you get a Monster Hunter game for the PS4 launch? Excellent. Does it have to make it to the US for their launch, too? No not really. Just make sure the US and Euro audiences have something to entice them, as well.
1. PSN 2.0
Gaming is headed towards the online realm more and more every year. More games are having online features. Whether or not they are fully online or just have some sort of way to connect to Xbox Live or the PSN, it just goes to show you that having the ability to connect for some odd reason is key among players these days. The PSN lags behind Live. Nothing else to say about that. We did see a lot of improvements with the Vita’s online capabilities, though. This is a great sign for the future of the PlayStation brand. The PS4′s online system needs to have great connection between players. Put in a headset with every console. Offer cheap headsets in-store. Microsoft basically begged you to use the chat, party, and type message features on Xbox Live. They gave you the means to do it and people did use them. Play that same game. It doesn’t have to be a $99 premium headset. Don’t increase the price of the console just for a headset. Microsoft gave them away but made you pay $20 for a replacement, extra, or your first one if you bought used.
Also, make PSN a paid service. Having it for free was nice and gave something for people to use in arguments. However, people who thought about that yearly price tag saw the positive points of having it. The cost of using Xbox Live helps Microsoft do some crazy cool things for its users. All that money not only keeps the servers going for Xbox Live but also increases security measures, puts a necessity on customer service, and brings about events, giveaways, and exclusive content for gamers. They can do this not just because of Microsoft’s giant wallet but because of the extra Live payment money.
Having a strong online component is mandatory now and you can not deny that Live is the leader in that category. Emulate or, even better, one-up Microsoft and create a more social, paid, and exclusive service that can only be found on the PS4. Usher in more content and deals thanks to the payment. Give players the online experience they can’t get anywhere else.