PlayStation Experience 2016: Maintaining The Status Quo

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Sony had a pretty good showing at PlayStation Experience 2016, even though a lot of it was really more of what the company showed off last year. Overall, Sony’s last few large game presentations have just solidified the main difference between it and Microsoft that has probably existed since the later part of the previous console generation: first and third party exclusives.

Sony definitely showed off big new reveals like The Last of Us Part IIUncharted The Lost Legacy, Wipeout Omega Collection, or the remasters, but a good chunk of the show was just more footage of what we saw last year. We got new Yakuza games (in English), more footage of Ace Combat 7Ni No Kuni IIGravity Rush II, that Nier sequel, Gran Turismo Sport, and so-on.

I’m not phrasing this like a bad thing. It’s just that PSX this year wasn’t as new a some may have expected it to be. I’m mostly hyped for Yakuza 6 and Ace combat 7, but I’ve been hyped for those games for a year now. They all show a trend too: the somewhat smaller-budget but interesting Japanese games along with a big focus on first-party games, though those games seem to be taking pretty long (or Sony had their publishers show them off really early) because this is the second year we’ve seen a lot of them.

Between the two consoles the PS4 is the one I chose, but I think Xbox might actually be the better platform for distributing and playing games. Microsoft seems to have a better digital back-end in place, it has a long-term plan for bringing all its software under one roof (Xbox One games, future Xbox games, Xbox 360 games, and Windows Store stuff), and what Microsoft is doing with its future hardware looks a bit smarter than Sony making the PS4 Pro simply a mid-generation stop-gap.

The issue with this though is that Microsoft doesn’t focus as much on first-party games, and if you’re interested in say, Japanese RPGs, then market forces have pushed those games and games like them to PlayStation. The main reason I got a PS4 was not for the blockbuster games which I just play on PC, but the games one step in funding below that like Odin SphereBloodborneYakuza, or Ni No Kuni II.

I felt like this was the case during the later years of the PS3 and Xbox 360 too. Back then Microsoft could ease off on the exclusive Xbox games because the Xbox Live service was dominant in North America and the UK (and actually still is if you look at Xbox One sales), while Sony dug the PS3 out of its hole with the help of first party and the Japanese developers that had themselves begun to recover from their mid-2000’s problems. Today however that might not matter much for Microsoft until blockbuster games start actually selling more on Xbox One than PlayStation 4 (do the NPDs even still track per-platform game sales?).

An odd thing I’m noticing about Sony’s current stable of exclusives though is how much they’re trading on the power of characters and stories in today’s world of games-as-a-service. I just did a blog post about how the biggest blockbuster games are becoming services you continually play and buy into instead of singular stories, but Sony seems ready to defend the latter idea — the idea of people enjoying games as, essentially, books. UnchartedLast of UsYakuzaNi No KuniGravity RushDays GoneGod of War, and The Last Guardian are not mainly focused on multiplayer, DLC, or season passes. Their main value lies in how their fans hold them up as pieces of art. It’s even more odd when you look back at the performance of The Order: 1886 — a game similarly focused entirely on a linear story. Compare that to Microsoft’s exclusives: HaloGears of War, and Forza, all of which are heavily multiplayer and online-oriented. Sony’s biggest game falling into that category is probably Gran Turismo.

Maybe Sony hasn’t followed that trend wholeheartedly because that idea of games as interesting pieces of art is part of what got PlayStation on the map in the first place. The original PlayStation gained its notoriety through games like Final Fantasy VII, the original Resident Evil, or Metal Gear Solid, which shocked a lot of people who had never seen console games try to tell dense stories before.

Whatever, I guess what’s important is that 2017 is looking like a good year for PlayStation games in particular, just in a more predictable way.

BULLETS:

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