The End of a Generation – How Sony is Getting it So Right

This year at Gamescom, I thought Sony really excelled. That’s not to say that I was excited about everything they showed, some of it just isn’t for me. But whatever your personal feelings about Wonderbook, PlayStation Mobile or Nihilistic’s Black Ops Declassified footage, there’s no question that they will bring attention to Sony’s business over the coming months. They’ve had a week with plenty of buzz and excitement. Meanwhile, where are Nintendo and Microsoft?

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Nintendo’s Wii U is due out in a matter of months and they don’t seem to be ready to give it a good thorough showing. Ubisoft seems to have shown more of the console than Nintendo has. That will need to change as the expected late November release date approaches.

The Wii U seems to be directing Nintendo in a slightly different direction, with a strong focus on first party titles and group experiences finally being complemented by more solid, mainstream, third party support. They’re aiming the Wii U at Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners, at least in part, so why weren’t they in Cologne shouting about it?

Of course, as the old games media cliché goes: never discount Nintendo. What we have seen of the Wii U is impressive enough to compete with current offerings from Microsoft and Sony. And there will always be that special draw for the key Nintendo properties like Mario and Zelda. As much as many will complain about a lack of originality and innovation, incorrectly in many instances, the formula works and those iterations within key franchises are usually more successful than similar offerings from their competitors. But skipping Gamescom gave up the chance to capture some excitement in a key market among the exact demographic the company wants to be interested in the Wii U.

Microsoft is treading water with the Xbox 360. As much as I love some of the experiences the console has given me over the past few years and as much as I look forward to Forza Horizon and Halo 4, the hardware was ready for replacement a long time ago. Kinect has made the Xbox brand look good in business reports but to those of us who want more traditional console experiences, the first party showing has been a little anaemic for a long time now. So their absence from Gamescom – outside of supporting Activision’s Black Ops 2 marketing campaign – is quite simply explained by the fact that they’ve not really got anything to show.

Was it worth spending the money to set up a presence in Cologne with only a handful of games to show? Surely some Halo 4 footage and a playable section from Forza Horizon would have been a big deal? Microsoft clearly didn’t think so, their biggest public presence at the German show was their company cheerleader, Larry Hryb, playing Halo’s biggest competitor for the multiplayer shooter crowd’s attention against the EU community PR team. That Black Ops II live stream was entertaining enough and the team involved did a great job but was it what the Xbox 360 needed to be seen doing at Gamescom? What big, showcase games has Microsoft got for the first half of 2013?

Of course, with many of Microsoft’s development teams clearly not working on 360 games, they’ll be well prepared to support a fantastic launch for the next hardware from the company.

Sony has been here before though. While this generation was undoubtedly dominated by Nintendo, and Microsoft seems to have captured more of the western mind share than ever before as well as having a slight edge on Sony in the sales charts, it’s Sony who are finishing the home console generation strong. Just as they did with the PlayStation 2, they’re reducing price and cost of the PS3 while simultaneously increasing the output of the kind of software that appeals to their new wave of owners. Wonderbook might be this generation’s Buzz!

So the PlayStation 3’s wind down is familiar to those of us who witnessed the PS2’s autumn years. We’re seeing a rise of family-focussed software, reliant on peripherals that break the entry barrier of the complicated traditional controllers. There’s new and interesting IP in the shape of Beyond and The Last of Us as well as familiar franchises like God of War: Ascension to keep the brand prominent in the hearts of existing fans.

The PlayStation Vita could finally be about to get the shot in the arm it quite desperately needs in the shape of key partnerships for beloved franchises, bundles and PlayStation Mobile but there is still an air of uncertainty surrounding it. It’s too early to write it off, obviously, but there’s no denying that it will need to have a strong showing in the latter half of its first year in order to avoid becoming an also-ran. Luckily, Sony is really trying to invigorate the Vita with a multitude of strategies aimed at a wide range of users. But will that range be too wide and the message become too unfocussed? We’ll need to wait and see.

The PlayStation 4 is imminent, too. Regardless of how tight-lipped the company is about its existence, it’s on the way soon and Sony has several studios who have been a little quiet for a while – we suspect they’re well into development on software for that hardware which doesn’t officially exist yet. Hopefully, this will enable a good strong launch for their next generation which, by their own admission, will need to arrive around the same time as Microsoft’s.

Gamescom has allowed Sony to answer critics who thought the E3 showing was a little flat. I believe that they’ve done that in the best way possible – by addressing concerns, giving us a little surprise and expanding on strategies that will ensure the outgoing home console generation, and the changing market for portable game consumption, generates revenue for the coming years of investment in that much anticipated new hardware.

The next 12 months will be amazing.

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24 Comments

  1. Sony are full of good ideas but seem to flounder terribly for a reason I’m still looking to pin down. Things often never become fully realised and it’s a failing of Sony’s that I’m all too familiar with. Why the negative words? Because they can then knock it out of the park with things like this. Gamescom was a solid showing of everything that makes people want to enjoy the Playstation family. Also, to add to your comments about the 360’s Autumn years, I too am noticing a few friends starting to comment on how Sony seem to be looking after the traditional gamer more and more as the life-cycle progresses.

    If they can learn from their mistakes then the next gen will be something spectacular.

    • Am I the only one that is getting the impression that microsoft don’t care about existing users? I picked the word user rather than customer there, its like towards the beginning of this generation they really pushed everything for strong first and third party games and now they’re just content to let it tick over with xbox live subscriptions.

      I get the opposite impression with sony, they seem to care about gamers as gamers and not just customers. (but I bet they like the money too)

  2. Wouldnt it be great if they not only finished strongly with titles like the Last of Us but then also launched the PS4 first with a huge, scheduled line up of things like Killzone 4, Uncharted 4, Last of Us 2 or maybe even The Last Guardian to kick things off in style.

    Maybe im just dreaming.

    • I actually think LAst of us will be a cross gen title. Late 2013 release for both ps3 and ps4. Last of us 2 a bit to forward thinking there :D

      • Yeah, forward thinking is my point. Get the stuff together now to be all set and ready for an amazing start. Its not inconceivable that they are already making it. However, im just putting out a wish list which Sony generally dont fulfil :)

        A game from Insomniac similar to Resistance or Ratchet and Clank and another interacttive movie game like Heavy Rain would be nice to start the new gen with too.

  3. Nintendo producsts I have never been a fan of. They seem to be living in the 80’s albeit a lucrative 80’s :)

    Microsoft clearly are gearing up for Windows 8, Surface Tablets, W8 Mobiles etc and sidelining 360 ready for next years inevitable Windows 8 based Xbox console (cross compat with win 8 pc’s/surface tablets/phones etc).

    Sony however are focussing on the games even so far in this generation. Although unlike Nintendo/MS Sony look to be going out with a bang with imo bridge games Last of Us / Beyond leading to PS4 and probably Uncharted 4 / Killzone 4 / Infamous 3.

    Check this post next E3 and see if this is correct :)

  4. I am losing faith in Sony!
    They have some great games for sure, with more on the way as they have shown. As a gamer I believe they have the best exclusives and perhaps the best hardware.
    But…….
    Slow connection speeds despite a 130Mb Fibre speed, corrupt date when trying to install games, silly little bugs, performance issues and glitches with big games such as (Skyrim, Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3), PS3 downtime for them to maintain what exactly? It has all added up and started to drive me nuts!
    Next generation I am buying just the one console and it won’t be based soley on who has the better exclusives as online conncectivity, stability, speed, 3rd Party support and interaction with friends and fellow gamers will play a very big part too.

    Whilst I agree with the article in that Sony are coming out with some brialliant ideas – I disagree with them getting it “so right”. The only thing I can fault the 360 for is lack of answers to games such as Uncharted, LBP, Heavy Rain. It does exactly what is says on the tin with few hiccups at all. The PS3 / Vita on the other hand – are designed for greatness and clear domintation – but don’t have the support in the basic areas that really do make a difference to the overall experience.

    • While I agree with you about Sony’s slow servers, I certainly can’t see your point about losing faith in Sony because of bugs and glitches when all you mention are third party games. You should be blaming the likes of Bethesda and Bioware for their lazy approach to PS3 development, after all it’s not Sony making these games. The argument that the PS3 is more difficult to develop for certainly doesn’t hold any weight any more with most studios creating games on par and better than 360 offerings with no problems. The problems with the games you’ve mentioned are simply down to lazy, lazy development work by big studios like Bethesda. Honestly, how people praise them is beyond me. They create games that are good for one platform but are a disgrace on others.

      The 360 not having an answer to the Sony exclusive offerings is exactly it’s problem at this stage in the generation. I can assure you I’d rather have the experiences Sony is putting out than better servers on Xbox Live. As for hiccups with the 360, Xbox Live Gold is becoming increasingly irrelevant due to Sony’s PS Plus offering which gives you games for your subscription and doesn’t have online play locked to it, the 360 dashboard in its current state is an unholy mess and let’s be honest, absolutely appalling. The focus on pushing ads at you rather than being inherently functional has turned it into absolute garbage.

      It’s part of the reason I haven’t bought a new 360 since mine RRODd: better games on PS3, better services like PS+ and an overall strategy that seems to provide for their audience rather than advertise to them. MS may have got that head start, but for me Sony has and is still doing exactly what I want as a core gamer, and Gamescom only emphasised that. If you’re a gamer there’s only one console in the race at the moment, and only one company who’s doing it right going into next gen

      • Free games aside – Xbox LIVE (for me) is far more consistent, reliable and feature rich. It links me with my friends and games online better than any other service right now.
        I understand that bugs and glitches are down to 3rd party developers, but the experience is still on Sonys console and the PS3 hardware. The difficulties to develop DO hold weight – hence the PS4 is rumoured to be using similar tech to the next Xbox to avoid the same mistake. But I will admit I would much rather have seen the PS3 take the lead in development as it certainly produces the better visuals / performance when made to sing by developers such as Naughty Dog.

        As for PS+ it is better how? Free games – that’s it. Cloud saves – 360 has those too. Auto-patch games – a game on the 360 takes a few minutes for the biggest patches. Automatic Trophy Sync – never seen an Achievement Sync on the 360 since I’ve had it. It is simply free games, that are not free – they are £50 a year free ;-)

        With two kids I simply do not have the money for two consoles again, nor the time to hang around waiting for a patch or download to play a game. If the issues I mentioned are sorted and accompany the fantastic line-up Sony have announced – then i’ll eat my 360! But I doubt they will and sadly the games they have announced are not enough alone to redeem my faith in the PS4 being a safer bet over the next Xbox.

      • ps+ is £40 the only fault for me is the slow patches downloads use my connection to its full speed gaikai should make patches a thing of the past.

        online play is no different 360 users are getting ripped of in my eyes PS+ wipes the floor with gold. next gen is going to be great Sony has the studios to dominate, games is why I own a console. blaming Sony for other studios games is like blaming EA for a uncharted bug.

      • Online play IS different, the whole LIVE experience just works and with minimal downtime or hiccups. You get what you pay for.

      • Fruit has got a point. I own both consoles and multiple 3rd party online games and XBL is consistently better, the exception is EA games. But for games like CoD, theres noticeably less lag and connection issues, the matchmaking is quicker and 360 users use their mics more. communication might not be on the list of network issues, but in general XBL also has alot more people talking during a match which IMO also makes a better experience. Its hard to argue that XBL isnt better because it was planned out better, Sony has constantly been tweaking the PSN, which I give them credit for, but the 360 was designed around XBL, the PSN didn’t even launch with a store. XBL and PSN are simular but they’re not equals.

      • As has always been the case this gen:
        PS3 for great retail exclusives, 360 for everything else

        I’ve owned both consoles this generation so this is hardly a fanboy comment, just a straight fact.
        Anyone who thinks the PS3s patching and overall online service is better than Xbox’s really needs to get a grip.

    • Agreed. For a company with genuinely good ideas, it’s almost unfathomable to see them get certain things so very, very wrong.

    • Erm.. yeah PS+ is (when it is) good whether it discounts a new game or even gives it away is great. To me for a gaming service Xbox Live doesn’t even compare to what it offers and has a gamer many of what it offers wouldn’t appeal to me because I want to play the gaimz not to use some internet site, streaming or even the odd sports. Even if I may be the odd one out for saying that’s not a good thing its simply because Microsoft to me has almost abandoned the core gamer, I’m still one of the crazies that thinks MS should try making new IP, something that makes me want to have a 360 not some camera, the same sequels or other media service’s because at first its a Gaming console therefore games should be first on there minds…and it should be something fresh…..

      Somehow I believe the traditional gamer is shortly becoming extinct….

  5. Well I do remember this gen starting with cross platform titles, releasing on ps2 and ps3. Splinter cell double agent I had on ps3 which looked better than the ps2 version my mate had, yet didn’t seem like the ‘next gen’ games I had in mind. When uncharted, killzone 2 and MW came along though I was happily surprised.
    I think unless all 3 companies pull it outta the bag, the first 6 month to a year of next gen may be the same….

    • yeah, there’s always a weird set of third party games that straddle the generational gap. It’ll be the same this time, although I don’t think they generally let first party games spread generations.

  6. I love the ps3, but why are people always trying to say it’s got a lot more power than the 360? Honestly it doesn’t, the 2 are equals. The 360 actually has a better graphics card, but the ps3 has a better cpu. The 2 consoles trade blows. You can say stuff like “oh uncharted 3 is better looking than GoW, etc”, but it’s the artstyle. In terms of textures, the 360 and ps3 equal eachother.

    • nice to see someone talking a bit of sense – we can all have our favourites, for various reasons, but there’s so little to choose between the two that it just doesn’t really matter.
      You find whatever you enjoy and go enjoy it – just let others do the same :)

    • I see the point you are trying to make, but the two machines are only comparable in terms of what they produce. When sony were making the ps3 the idea was to make a beastly processor that could process graphics, as well as physics and AI, etc. The ps3’s graphics card is just there to push the frames out of the door, although developers use it for other things too. The reason third party games don’t use either machine’s full potential is because of this, they have to write games for two completely different machines. First party ps3 games are consistently better looking and more technically impressive than the xbox’s counterparts

      • Honestly it’s moved into the days where the gpu does the processing, I’m not sure why you would mention the cpu processing the graphics. The cpu can be used for AI. And what you said isn’t necessarily true. You’re talking about artstyle, not just looks. Texture wise GoW looks just as impressive as killzone and uncharted.

      • In terms of textures they’re pretty much the same, but the playstation has so much more to put into things like particle effects and shaders. I wasn’t talking about the art style. If I was then I think okami on the ps2 looked better than anything I’ve seen this generation.
        Also what I said is completely true. On the ps3 developers can write whatever they want to whichever bit of memory on the machine they want, whereas on the xbox they don’t get that kind of versatility.

  7. I’m not surprised that MS opted out of gamescom. They have the philosophy of when next gen starts the last gen is dead. Honestly, its worked for them so why change it. Once Next gen starts they’re 100% focused on it, its has it’s benefits to specialize and their fanbase will be hungry to upgrade. Sony on the other hand will have to support 3 different consoles which divides the resources and triples the costs. I don’t know if you can fault MS for not wanting to follow Sony on the whole 10 year life. Sony may be making strides with the PS3, but as a whole only time will tell if they’re getting it right.
    Missing a trade show doesn’t spell doom, Nintendo is obviously saving their load for the TGS shootout. It’d be pretty embarrassing if Nintendo didn’t have any major announcements for their hometown affair, and who knows maybe MS will reveal the 720 during TGS to suck the Wii U and Sony momentum, as any new console news from either MS or Sony will trump Nintendo.

    • It’s worth noting that Microsoft has never really bothered with Gamescom – even though it’s Europe’s biggest show and we make a big deal of it, in the US they barely hear of it and they care even less. Plenty of US media outlets didn’t even bother covering it and never really do, aside from any of the semi-big announcements Sony makes.

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