As E3 fades to a distant memory in the back of our minds, like a traumatic repressed event from our childhoods, speculation has begun on where “the big three” are headed next, particularly as the current generation enters its twilight era. I actually wrote a piece last week about how well I thought Xbox had played their hand in recent times, something which was not warmly received by all. So, in the true spirit of Marxism, all must be treated equally, as we take a look at what Sony have got up their sleeves going forward.
Sony, for me at least, had an E3 with tip-top highs and unexpected lows. The Last of Us 2 springs to mind as one of the most impressive demonstrations of a game, not just at the Sony conference, but across the entirety of the expo. So good, in fact, that notable people in the video game industry actually questioned whether it was a gameplay demonstration at all. At the same time, much hyped releases like Death Stranding showed off a confusing and repetitive looking experience that didn’t make me excited to get involved. Since then, complications around cross-play and a lack of information about what is going to happen next for the company, has led some to question if there is a lack of direction there. The issue with that viewpoint is twofold. First, does it really matter? Sony have already comfortably won this generation of consoles, comfortably outselling their counterparts at Microsoft pretty much every month since release. Secondly, it does a disservice to the company’s track record of running a very functional and successful business model in the sector for two decades. That’s not to say that they are immune from mistakes, but merely that in all likelihood they do know what they are doing.
So, with that said, what is the plan going forward? Well, in the short term at least, its very much as you were. The current generation is a one-sided affair in the exclusive titles department (Nintendo notwithstanding), and with a new raft of world class exclusives on the way, the next couple of years are sewn up. The foreboding silence around what has been going on at PlayStation in recent times is merely a reflection of this fact. It’s what comes after that which is much more up in the air, with rumours abound about what form the next generation of consoles will take. If I’m 100% honest with you, I don’t believe that generation nine, which some say started with the Switch, will be entirely digital or some sort of monstrous streaming nightmare (which as far as I’m aware is all our current internet, and the required technologies, will allow for). It could be that Gen 9 is the last of the semi-traditional consoles but I just think they will be arriving too soon to be truly seismic in their paradigm shift.
There is no doubt that work will have begun some time ago in this regard and the strategy has to be reflective of the PS4’s successes, rather than the PS3’s shortcomings. Sony can’t really preempt what Microsoft are going to do, nor should they, so the plan going forward is clear. Tie up any wavering exclusive studios, to make sure that the very best of the bunch remain on board. The loss of Ninja Theory was somewhat of a hit for the juggernaut, with Hellblade one of my favourite games of recent times, but it’s not a huge deal on its own. Only a mass exodus would be. Secondly they have to make sure the technology squares up to their competitors, as developers who are approaching Gen 9 will undoubtedly take this into account when producing demanding AAA titles. Lastly, and perhaps least critically given Sony’s perpetual popularity, it would be great if they shed some of the bad feeling around their recent PR activities, if only to demonstrate the fact that their considerable consumer base is hugely important, and should be treated as such.
If we’re all honest, there is almost no doubt that Sony will hit the ground running whatever form the future of consoles takes. It’s up to their main rival, Microsoft, to close the gap. It doesn’t need saying again that complacency breeds contempt, particularly for the consumer, but the experienced heads at the very top of the company will know that better than most.