Hordes of anxious gamers eagerly awaited Sony’s announcement of a new system earlier this afternoon. The gaming universe has already welcomed in one next-gen system – the Wii U – alongside new handhelds with the 3DS and Vita. But a new PlayStation? That’s even better.
Unfortunately, Sony rambled through a marathon two-hour briefing and showed it lacks vision for where video games and consoles are headed.
Now before we go into our problems with today’s briefing, know that we aren’t Microsoft fanboys. We love all the systems, enjoy all the games, and don’t play favorites.
But what happened today was an unmitigated disaster, and don’t let the Sony fanboys convince you otherwise (as much as we love them).
Sony held a press conference to unveil a new system. After a coma-inducing two hour briefing, talking about social networking minutia and enough buzzwords to shake a stick at, THEY NEVER UNVEILED THE SYSTEM.
This may have never been done before in the history of marketing consumer electronics, and by itself destroys the credibility of the event. Major buzzkill.
Sony failed to address the number one concern gamers have about next-generation systems: will the system play used games?
If it doesn’t, it will fail within six months. Why? Because the legion of gamers either can’t afford $60 games as quickly as the industry has come to expect, or even if they can, they’ve grown accustomed to financing new purchases with old merchandise and spending less cash. Old habits die hard, and the first new console to try to wean gamers off of used games will not stand a chance, especially in this economy where an estimated 25% of Americans are either unemployed or “under-employed.”
PCs don’t support used games. Guess what? They’re dead, unless you count gamers buying PC games for pennies on the dollar from Steam. The PSP Go didn’t support used games. Guess what? It was the worst handheld launched in the modern era of gaming. Resident Evil: Mercenaries, a great game for the 3DS, had disappointing sales because it waded out into no-used-games-land with its “forever saves” idea.
Sony beating Microsoft to market, in this new generation, should be an advantage to them…but if they test some new technology and deny gamers the ability to truly own their games, swap with friends, sell when done, etc. this first-to-market approach will backfire. The door would then be wide open for Microsoft to learn from Sony’s mistake and make the right moves for their next system launch.
UPDATE (2/21/13): After the PS4 press briefing concluded, Sony Worldwide Studios CEO Shuhei Yoshida confirmed in an interview that used games would be playable on the PlayStation 4. Why they mentioned this so casually in a later interview, instead of emphatically revealing this information in the press briefing, is anyone’s guess.
Sony failed to address the major “elephant in the room” – the fact that their online network is second-rate compared to Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Worse performance, worse features, worse everything.
They should’ve come right out, acknowledged they have ground to re-gain, and announced a major new investment into their online network infrastructure that would allow it to rival or surpass Xbox Live in the next generation of consoles. Instead, they talked up integration with social media and a “Remote Play” option which no one will likely care about.
So when you’re lagging out of games in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 on the PS4′s PlayStation Network, perhaps you can tweet about it a little easier than before.
Sony attempted to disguise a lack of vision for the future with sheer quantity of content – a massive two-hour briefing. Way too long. Should’ve been an hour, at maximum. Two hours was disrespectful, honestly, to the gaming audience watching it.
Why? So much of this was hype, buzzwords, and non-exclusive titles. Horrible.
By the way, here’s a newsflash for all console makers, from here on out: DO NOT EVER WASTE PRESS CONFERENCE TIME TALKING ABOUT NON-EXCLUSIVE GAMES. They are on all the systems! Who cares! Tell us why the PS4 is a must-own, over everything else. Leave anything else out.
Sony announced the PS4 would have no backward compatibility to the PS3. What? Terrible idea.
And then, they announced the PS4 would feature cloud-streaming-enabled play of PS1, PS2, and PS3 games, without going a step further to explain whether gamers would have to re-buy these games or not. Another awful idea. Nobody wants to stream games. They want to download them to their system, and own them. See: OnLive.
Last, but not least, no press conference announcing a new system should ever occur without giving the public the bare minimum of what they came for: A LAUNCH DATE. “Holiday 2013″ doesn’t cut it. Tell us the exact launch date. Plant the flag on the calendar and go with it.
Having a press briefing, without giving a firm release date (and especially without even showing the system itself) is pathetic and amateurish.
All of this is really unfortunate, because the PlayStation 4 will probably end up being a cool, must-own system. But they really botched it today.
Let’s hope the system itself is better executed.
Bradley Metrock is President of Score Holdings LLC, author of Video Games and the Family, and long-time Sony fan … even taking time to write this instead of finishing Ni no Kuni.
Nashville’s video game convention, ScoreCon 3, is coming in April! Lee and Kenny from the Walking Dead, Grammy-nominated composer from Journey on PS3, the main lobbyist from the video game industry, state championship tournaments in Halo 4 and Super Smash Bros Melee, the 2013 Video Game Olympics, and much more!