The launch of the PlayStation 4 has been Sony’s most successful in years. With more than seven million sold worldwide, it has handily outstripped nearest competitor the Xbox One, and snagged much goodwill by simply offering the same thing that allowed the PlayStation 3 to flourish: a powerful, game-focussed system. Sony’s marathon two-hour press conference at E3 this year stayed the course for the most part, and why not? It’s working.
However, the Japanese company should make sure it does not become complacent as its slate of exclusives is arguably slightly weaker than Microsoft’s this year, and the Vita is withering. However, Sony’s backing of virtual reality over classic motion control is wise, it’s doing free-to-play better than Microsoft, and its indie-friendly stance looks like it will pay dividends in the coming year with a slew of smaller exclusives on the way.
The obvious and expected lead title for the PlayStation 4 is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, a game whose buzz has been amplified thanks to the wild success of stablemate The Last of Us. Speaking of, The Last of Us: Remastered is guaranteed to go gangbusters at release, even though no-one thought it was ugly in the first place. It’s one of those rare titles that most will be more than happy to pay for and play again, this writer included. The Order: 1886 is also much-hyped and certainly takes place in an evocative setting, but it remains to be seen if it can offer more than standard third-person cover-shooting.
Given Sackboy’s mascot status, LittleBigPlanet 3 was always going to happen, and although it’s unlikely to take any risks, its broad appeal will see it sell like hotcakes. Conversely, despite sitting firmly in the hardest of the hardcore bracket, Bloodborne is an excellent get for Sony that will cash in on the popularity of the universally-praised and much-adored Souls games.
Grim Fandango is another excellent score for Sony, as it's a (fantastic) known quantity whose availability is close to zero and besides, many PS4 owners will never have experienced its delights. Same goes for a Ratchet & Clank remake. And certainly, more Infamous: Second Son in the form of First Light standalone DLC is a good thing. A similar sentiment applies to the console-exclusive Magicka 2.
That leaves No Man’s Sky, which certainly looks impressive, and Abzu, which will ride Journey’s coat-tails all the way to the bank. Really, the only stinker in the bunch looks to be Let It Die from ever-regressing manchild Suda 51, who isn’t nearly as subversive, clever, or extreme as he seems to think he is.
Elsewhere, Sony did its best to convince the public that its other “exclusive” offerings were actually anything to crow about. Seven big releases will feature exclusive content on PlayStation 4, but Sony was really twisting the meaning of the word. Can't we all just agree that “exclusively first” is one of the more horrific redundancies concocted, and “exclusive launch character” is just plain insulting.
The company’s vague spiel about seemingly-annoying game spectator interaction was rightly flatly received too, and PlayStation Now is unlikely to be relevant to many in New Zealand for years. However, the cursory Vita section was the obvious lowlight, with little of interest hitting the platform, as usual. Those last two points make the PlayStation TV practically redundant here too – a mere remote extension for PlayStation 4 and little else. Is anyone really clamouring to play Vita JRPGs on their TV?
Yet Sony did more than enough overall to hold a handy lead for another year. As mentioned, its commitment to free-to-play and indies is admirable, its experimentation with Project Morpheus could pay off in a big way down the line, and it has a lot of talent at its first party studios. No wonder Andrew House looked so relaxed.