The recent PlayStation Meeting announced the latest unit in the PlayStation family, the PS4 Pro, but news quickly killed any hype the unit may have had. Initial reports directly after the announcement proclaimed the unit can’t read UHD discs (4K Blu-ray’s) something the less powerful, and cheaper, Xbox One S is currently capable of. Then reports continued to downplay the console. Soon it was learned that most games won’t even run in 4K and will instead be “upscaled to 4K” resolution, or close enough to not be able to tell the difference. This is what PS4 Pro was intended for, but it leaves us questioning why Sony didn’t simply go with updating the specs of a Slim model similar to what Microsoft did with Xbox One S? Now we have two different units.
All the bad news doesn’t circulate around the PS4 Pro announcement though, as 2016 hasn’t been a bright spot for Sony’s arrogant decision making. Just before PlayStation Meeting it was announced that the PlayStation Network would see substantial price increases for almost all subscription models. The announcement wasn’t even that public and was instead hidden within an updated PlayStation Blog post talking about new PS Plus releases. The service then crashed during the weekend while the Battlefield 1 Beta was in climax. Another poor decision was the inclusion of front facing lights on new controllers. Fans have almost outright begged Sony to allow us to disable the light bar on PS4 controllers, and instead Sony added an additional front light to remodeled controllers with no formal explanation as to why. The light bar is basically useless for most users. It offers a slight integration with games (such as turning red when you die, or notifying players in couch co-op situations) but it’s initial inclusion was for PS VR and the camera, meaning if you have neither you don’t really need it.
Then we add additional generation decision making such as the how Sony decided none of their fans would like EA Access and instead offered casual indie titles on PS Plus to make up for it. PS Plus hasn’t been interesting for PS4 users at all with very few bright spots. Microsoft pushed Sony fans on edge when they finally jumped on the multi-platform network play idea, while Sony distanced itself from the idea immediately after. Then there is the question of backwards compatibility. Sony utilizes PS Now and digital trophy compatible re-releases to offer previous generation titles, instead of allowing users to simply insert a disc for codes, downloads, or simple backwards compatible play. (Like Microsoft does) The decisions have been so faulty that even Bethesda outright got fed up with Sony’s decision making and publicly pointed at them as a reason mods can’t be put in their games on PS4. Normally publishers, especially publishers as big as Bethesda, are quiet about these things so there must be a big problem to have an outcry like this. It also seems that communication is poor with other developers too. Certain developers publicly stated they were shocked all current PS4 units would get HDR, as Sony only noted PS4 Pro would get it. This means most games won’t even support the feature when it’s released this week.
Where are things going wrong? Core leaders of the PlayStation brand, such asShuhei Yoshida, have been rather quiet since Sony put the company behind the oddball PlayStation label. It wasn’t too long ago that PlayStation wasn’t a focus for Sony, and now that it’s carrying the company it seems the poor decision making of other branches has found a way to PlayStation. It begs the question of who is really in charge? Is Sony allowing the leaders of PlayStation to continue their success, or are other branch leaders stepping in the way and forcing these poor decisions on them?
It seems strange that the company that was outright applauded at E3 for respecting gamers, and took that applause to heart, is now the complete opposite company. A company that once cared now feels distant and out of touch with fans. Sony feels that that those same fans that applauded them for putting them first, will now buy whatever is thrown at them, and deal with whatever decisions they make. That same company laughed as they watched their competitor trip and fall over the same mistakes it is now making.
Sony made very similar mistakes early on with PS3 by expecting fans to pay a high price and deal with decisions they made. They took the PlayStation brand and used it to force feed new company ideas. The PS3 began to struggle and it wasn’t until Sony took a new focus, a focus of putting fans first, that the PS3 started to compete in the market. It’s the return of this arrogance that is appalling to me. Every time Sony finds themselves on top of the industry, their focus on fans vanishes. Then they start to hurt, competitors take the lead, before Sony decides to focus on fans again. Perhaps we should be cheering for Microsoft or Nintendo because when Sony is down, they do better.
My personal take: I have been a PlayStation fan all my life, but that doesn’t mean I will stand by and support their every decision. This generation especially, I find myself enjoying competing units a lot more. I sold my Vita for a 3DS, and my Xbox One seems to be getting a lot more use than my 360 ever did. This generation as a whole has been rather bland, and I feel it’s because Sony isn’t pushing as hard as they used to to kick competing makers harder. At first I was pumped because we got games like InFamous: Second Son or Killzone: Shadow Fall, but quality has slipped since then. You get excited for a game only for it to be short and not polished. (Don’t get me wrong, Horizon: Zero Dawn looks amazing, but how many games of that standard we will get all year?)
I normally get excited when Sony is talking about anything because it normally means it will benefit me in some way. New PlayStation Blog posts lead to cool games (like The Tomorrow Children), new updates lead to features I love, and new hardware normally makes me want to run to Best Buy to pre-order. Yet I felt none of that as of late. I got super excited when Sony announced all PS4 units would get HDR updates this week, and they seemed thrilled to announce it. They even paused to let the applause take the room, the only time it happened during the entire conference. Then they failed to explain how they will actually deliver on that promise, considering current units probably can’t physically support HDR via the dated HDMI ports. Luckily we don’t have to wait too long to test that out.
It’s a mixed bag for me as of late. I love Sony products, I love PlayStation, but I absolutely hate their decision making as of late. They need to remember their slogan “for the gamers” and go back to standing behind it. That slogan alone is why PS4 became as successful as it is, not arrogant decision making without consumers in mind. They are releasing 3 new products this year alone which is a problem on it’s own. That’s a lot of shelf space for 3 new units. One of them, PS VR, needs to be a success. If they want that same success PS2 and PS4 has had, they need to go back to caring. They need to stop thinking it’s their way or no way because it will only hurt them in the end.
Sony isn’t supposed to be the arrogant “my way” leaders of the industry. Leave that position to someone else, go back to being exciting. Their E3 was a good fan service, let’s repeat that.