PlayStation Reigns Supreme in 2018, But What Comes Next?
When it came to genre-defining titles, amazing console exclusives, and exuberant sales, the PlayStation 4 has been nothing but a success. There have been a number of exclusives to the console this year, all with varying degrees of success and genre-bending. Each exclusive title, from the massively successful Spider-Man to the narrative powerhouse that is God of War, has brought most of the gaming world’s attention to Sony’s platform. Furthermore, the future seems to be brighter than ever for Sony; with future games such as Ghosts of Tsushima, Days Gone, and the eagerly anticipated The Last of Us: Part II, Sony seems to have all but won the eighth console generation.
However, I feel that the domination that Sony has had over the console market may be coming to an end.
While most of the year has been dominated by the number of exclusives by PlayStation, there have been some issues that have certainly raised concern for PlayStation players. One of the more notable controversies for Sony has been their insistence on blocking cross-play with other platforms, such as Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. This came to a head once Nintendo announced that the ever-popular Fortnite would be coming to their portable console. With this announcement, PlayStation users who attempted to link their Epic Games account to another console found that their account could not be used on another platform. This story, while unfortunate, is nothing new for Sony. They attempted the same thing last year by blocking cross-play in other massively successful online games, specifically Rocket League and Minecraft.
When speaking at the IFA technology show this past September, Sony’s CEO Kenchiro Yoshida claimed that the PS4 was the best place to play Fortnite:
“On cross-platform, our way of thinking is always that PlayStation is the best place to play. Fortnite, I believe, partnered with PlayStation 4 is the best experience for users, that’s our belief. But actually, we already opened some games as cross-platform with PC and some others, so we decide based on what is the best user experience. That is our way of thinking for cross-platform.”
Less than a month later, Sony would announce that Fortnite cross-play would begin, to the surprise of many. After a year of constant denials, Sony decided to stop being the primary holdout and to give the gamers what they want. Sony seemed to cave into their customers’ demands after months of pushback, only to come out looking okay in the process.
As 2018 wraps up, one can only look toward the future of the industry as a whole, and what will be the next hurdle for the gaming industry to conquer. Microsoft, and to a lesser extent Nintendo, seem to be making strides to further their current and future platforms. Sony seems content to revel in the fact that they are the winner right now, rather than truly pushing forward and setting up for the next generation.
One could understand why Sony is hesitant to truly commit to the next console generation so early. 2019 seems to be a fruitful year for the Sony brand. With games like Bend Studio’s Days Gone coming next year, as well as the rumored releases of Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, and The Last of Us Part II, Sony seems to be content in resting on their forthcoming titles for this current generation. Furthermore, AAA titles such as BioWare’s Anthem, Netherrealm Studio’s Mortal Kombat 11, Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds, and the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 will undoubtedly have a large impact on their player base and the console at large.
Yet, the looming threat of Microsoft’s next family of consoles should be concerning to Sony. While Microsoft has not had the greatest generation with their Xbox One, and their lack of first-party titles for the consoles, their future seems to be headed in a very interesting direction. In 2017, Microsoft launched their much-lauded Xbox Game Pass, allowing subscribers infinite access to a number of titles, essentially creating a “Netflix for video games.” As the months passed, the number of titles grew exponentially, with the promise of more games coming as the months go on. This idea further evolved with the addition of first party Xbox games coming to the service on their launch day. Furthermore, Xbox introduced their “play anywhere” service, allowing any game that comes out for the Xbox One platform to be played on a PC. Not to mention the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility, as well as the Adaptive Controller for disabled gamers, it seems as if Microsoft has made the right moves to stay relevant for this current generation.
Yet, that does not seem to be enough for Microsoft. Admittedly, the Xbox One has had an issue with first party games. The few releases that have come for the Xbox One, such as Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2, have had lukewarm receptions. In response to this, Microsoft has notably been purchasing a number of game development companies to better prepare them for the next generation of consoles, including the popular Ninja Theory, and the internet darling Obsidian Entertainment to the surprise of many. Additionally, Microsoft seems to be heading in a direction that focuses on streaming games rather than having a game hard installed on a console. Their next console, code named “Scarlett,” is rumored to play into their Xbox Game Pass streaming service while also catering to the typical, game purchasing public.
While Microsoft seems to be on an upward trend, Sony seems to be hesitant to fully commit to the ideas put forth by Microsoft. Their backwards compatibility is nowhere near as robust as the Xbox One’s, and the PlayStation does not seem to have their affairs in order for the next generation. Sony has notably pulled out of next year’s E3 trade show, and have also cancelled their yearly PlayStation Experience expo. To be fair to Sony, they seem to be gearing up for some relatively major game announcements next year, especially with the impending releases of Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part II. That being said, a few games releasing would not be enough to cap a remarkably successful generation. With no vision for the impending console generation, I see Sony falling into the same hole they fell into when their PlayStation 3 console was released: a company with a lack of vision that has a few tricks up their sleeve, rather than the go-to gaming platform.