The console business is a weird, funny little thing. With three companies all vying for your gaming dollars, there’s a ton of competition which has bled over into the actual fanbase itself. Console gamers fight over who has the better system, who has the better games, and who has sold more than the others. This generation there’s a fairly clear winner with the PS4. Until recently, the PS4 was the answer to all three of these questions, with the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One X only swooping in to possibly usurp its positions. So, what made it so successful over the last few years? It’s actually pretty simple, it made its fans happy.
I think this has been clear at every single E3 press conference that the company presented for the PS4. The impact of the epic $399 announcement can’t be oversold. That one announcement, and the other ones surrounding it like that physical PS4 games would operate as normal, in contrast to the Xbox One, was massive and shaped the console battle to come.
The impact of the PS4’s epic $399 announcement can’t be oversold
However, the success that the PS4 has seen over the last few years can’t just be attributed to the $100 buyers could save initially. There was more to it, and Sony’s strategies have helped sustain that success. For one, at launch the PS4 was more powerful, and noticeably so. The gap has been shortened and surpassed depending on which Xbox One system you’re talking about now, but at the time we were seeing games launch with different resolutions and levels of detail, so the PS4 was the optimal choice for gamesr who wanted the best graphical presentation.
All of this was certainly important in gaining and maintaining the PS4’s massive sales lead over Xbox One, its chief rival. However, the thing that I think has been the most valuable over the years is that Sony has gone out of their way to make their fans happy and keep them happy. This was clear the last few E3’s where Sony announced huge, surprising titles like The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and God of War.
Sitting in the crowd at these last few E3 presentations has been surreal. Sony simply wowed the audience every single year, hitting them with one big game after the other. E3 2015 was certainly the biggest, with the audience flabbergasted at how many wishes had been fulfilled by Sony. Have all of those promises come to fruition? No, but for those deciding where to invest their console dollars that’s not really that important. As long as they arrive at some point, and on PS4, they’ll be happy.
What Sony seems to be doing here is finding out what their audience wants and then working to deliver it, even if the audience is too niche to really deserve such effort. The Last Guardian was a game I’d been dying to see released for almost a decade, and I’d all but given up hope of ever seeing it. Then E3 2015 happened and I knew that if I hadn’t already bought a PS4, I would have for that one game. There’s other out there just like me, but for different games that Sony has focused on, such as the ones I mentioned before.
Sony has come out of every E3 since that initial $399 announcement in 2013 with most people agreeing that they won. Now, some disagree due to the fact that Sony’s promises are a bit loftier than their actual results. We’re still waiting on a lot of the games that they used to wow the audience. But the fact that they’re trying to deliver these experiences, and that they are giving time to them at the biggest show of the year is what is making everyone so happy. And then when they deliver, as they did for The Last Guardian, it’s all the sweeter.
Microsoft could follow this same strategy, but they don’t seem interested. They’re busy making the “most powerful console of all time” and pushing gamers into accepting games as a service. Now, this isn’t all bad, the Xbox Game Pass is actually an amazing deal, and it shows the end goal that Microsoft has been working toward. But they could be doing this while delivering what their fans are begging them for.
They seemed to start down this path with Rare Replay and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The latter did more harm than good though as it launched in a totally broken state. The last few years though have been all about shifting the console landscape, without delivering the games their fans want. Battletoads, Banjo-Kazooie, and others are ripe for the picking. They’ve done well with stuff like this in the past, and Microsoft has delivered some awesome stuff like Backward Compatibility, but they need these big, earth shattering announcements if they want to keep their diehard fans happy.
I use my Xbox One way more than I do my PS4. I only pull out my PS4 when there’s a big new exclusive game, like Shadow of the Colossus or some of the cool PSVR titles we’ve been seeing. And yet, there’s no way I could ever sell the console. It has too many exclusives, and too many great games that I want to play. Sony has ensured that I will always have a PS4 ready to go, in case they make some new big announcement that everyone has been waiting for. I don’t know what that could be right now, but they probably do. They knew we wanted Crash Bandicoot back after all, so anything is possible.