The PS4 has proven to be a runaway success ever since it launched back in 2013. This is quite the contrast to how things were going for the ‘Blue Team’ last generation, seeing that the PS3 spent the majority of its life going through hardships. This turn of the tides is clearly good for Sony, but how will this affect its attitude going into the upcoming generation? One thing is for sure, it can’t act too high and mighty.
While Nintendo may be the oldest surviving console maker, Sony is the one that has the most bragging rights. Pretty much every PlayStation system (minus the Vita) has been a hit; even the aforementioned PS3. It had its growing pains, but it still managed to ultimately outsell the Xbox 360 despite launching a year later and being a lot more expensive. Still, that did serve as a big lesson to Sony. The company got cocky after the massive success of the PS2, which led to it believing it could deliver an expensive system and people would be okay with that. Of course, most consumers weren’t. Developers also weren’t very fond of the system. It was the most powerful of the generation (the opposite of the PS2), but its Cell architecture was not easy at all to work with. Ultimately, these factors led to the PS3 spending the majority of its life trying to prove itself. It had all the makings of a great system, which it did eventually turn out to be—but only after enough time passed for it to mature.
Sony knew it couldn’t take an approach like that again, so it opted to do everything right out of the gate. That’s exactly what the PS4 turned out to be. It’s powerful, yet fairly simple to work with and has always been at a comfortable price point. But, the PS4 didn’t turn out to be successful just because of these good design decisions. It also happened to get a massive hand from two unlikely sources: its competitors.
Both Nintendo and Microsoft have spent the majority of this generation going through the exact same situation Sony went through during the last; serious growing pains. Like Sony, they both got comfortable and decided to release consoles that under circumstances that they thought would be fine, but the industry pushed back hard to show them that’s far from the case.
The PS4 is a great system, but Microsoft and Nintendo’s slip-ups this generation played a massive role in ensuring its success. Though, things are changing.
Nintendo’s Wii U had a short-lived four years on the market, coming and going being surrounded by confusion and belittlement. Nintendo wasn’t able to find its footing until last year with the release of its hybrid system, the Switch. It’s been quite a hit so far but is in a bit of an awkward position due to launching in the middle of the current generation and being less capable than the other systems. As for Microsoft, it has stuck to its guns with the Xbox One since the system launched alongside the PS4, but things only truly started looking up for the platform back in 2016 when the Xbox One S released. Now, Microsoft holds the title of having the “most powerful console” on the market with the Xbox One X, but this still hasn’t been enough to really steal the PS4’s thunder. Microsoft hasn’t reported on actual Xbox One sales numbers since 2014, but it’s expected that the platform has moved somewhere between 30-40 million units by now. If true, this isn’t even a full half of what the PS4 has sold (now 81+ million worldwide).
With both Nintendo and Microsoft being brought down by their own mistakes, Sony has essentially had the stage all to itself for the majority of this generation. As mentioned, the PS4 has already sold far too many units for their the Switch or Xbox One to catch up, so it’s undeniably the winner. But, these are the conditions of the present. How will things be in the future?
Popular gaming YouTuber Spawn Wave brought up an interesting point in one of his videos. When the generation shifts again, everyone will be starting at the same spot: zero. Thus, the gap that PlayStation currently has over the platforms will be eradicated. This is where my concern over Sony’s attitude really comes into play.
While the PS3 may have served as a pretty big slice of humble pie, Sony has been tasting the sweet delicacy known as “victory” for the last five years now. This has led to it seemingly showing some of the same arrogant traits it displayed during the beginning of the PS3 era. This has mainly been shown in the way that the company has been handling its policies on cross-platform multiplayer. While Nintendo and Microsoft have been embracing it and even promoting their partnership, Sony has taken a clear stance against letting PS4 players interact with those on Switch and Xbox One. Many gamers have all come to the same conclusion—this is because Sony is winning. And, it’s true, as the market leader Sony doesn’t have to cater to the other platforms. But, as mentioned before, the circumstances will change when the next generation begins.
None of the big three should get comfortable. All three user bases will start from zero next-gen.
Both Nintendo and Microsoft have managed to turn their stained reputations around and are now in the good graces of the industry. While neither has the prestige of PlayStation, gamers are certainly becoming more and more fond of these competing platforms. And, if Sony intends to keep up with the off-putting attitude, that may work against it when the time comes to start over. Thus, what this situation really all boils down to is humility. I’m not just talking about Sony—all three of these companies need to embrace this quality.
Now that all three sides have had their big tumble, what they should do is remember those hard times and use them as reminders to do better. While things weren’t bad enough to cause a downfall as hard as SEGA or Atari, it sure wasn’t a comfortable time for any of these companies’ employees when stocks were falling and bad news was running rampant throughout the media. Now that things have calmed down, this isn’t a time for any side to breathe easy. But, really, as consumers, it’s actually our job to keep these companies in check.
As I stated before, what really ended up slapping Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo back into reality was the pushback from the industry. When sales fell and lambasting news reports were plentiful, these companies were forced to reevaluate their priorities and head back to the drawing board. This led to the great systems that we’re enjoying right now. And, that’s exactly what needs to happen with the next generation. If anything, the events of the current and last generations should serve as a major lesson to all of us: consumer and company alike. As consumers, we want decent products. The companies, of course, want to make money. They do what’s appropriate, and they’re rewarded with the sales they’re looking for. This all sounds fairly straightforward, but it looks like it’s far more easier said than done. So, it will be interesting to see how the next generation starts off. Hopefully, the lessons learned will resonate with not just Sony, but Nintendo and Microsoft too.