This gen, it’s very easy to understand why Sony won over Microsoft. They basically had the best price out there and took advantage of the initial boost to spread its wings all over the life cycle. I mean that, for quite a while, PS4 didn’t have any actual reason why it deserved to be in the first spot of the sales chart. But it stayed there, simply because the platform has had the best start thanks to its $399 price tag and a clear promotional message that was cleverly conveyed to the players.
They said: PlayStation 4 is the best place for everyone among you who just need and want to play games. After its greatest generation in gaming, Microsoft offered a too ambitious vision for Xbox One, which led people not to clearly understand what was going on right there. They were said Xbox One would be always online console, allowing them to watch TV shows both live and on demand — but what about games? What was going to happen right there?
On top of that, even simpler, it was given at a price tag which was way too high for what was on offering. It was pretty clear, after just few months, that the reason why Microsoft was going for the $499 was the inclusion of Kinect, a peripheral no one really needed and wanted, but they were told they needed. It’s very rare, it must be noted, that Microsoft tries and pushes the boundaries in terms of technology and platform. They always follow someone else’s lead. This time, they tried and really failed.
Kinect was not a total failure, of course. It sold millions of units both on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and in terms of pure units sold ended up being a very good accessory. It just failed to become the futuristic platform we were said it would become in a few years. It’s just like virtual reality ends up, one day or another, being just a $5-600 accessory and not the platform it is meant to be and is worth of the huge investment players/the industry is promoting right now. (We have no certainty this is not going to happen with VR, of course).
So, this really needs to be the point where Microsoft makes a difference with Project Scorpio. It is required to deliver on both the pricing and the message it is conveying to players. Honestly, I don’t like what I’m seeing – Microsoft simply saying “this is the most powerful console ever” -, also because it didn’t work with PS4 Pro to be honest (I’m pretty disappointed by that console and by what it actually changes in gaming). But E3 2017 is just around the corner, so time will tell.
From that perspective, games are going to have huge relevance. After few years it was lacking exclusives and interesting third party deals/support, PS4 is really doing crazy stuff in 2016/2017, and will probably still be doing that in 2018 when we’ll be playing other titles both already announced and unannounced. So quantity is a huge plus for PlayStation right now, but it’s not like the only thing that matters is quantity.
PS4 is indeed pushing a lot on quality. After the accident known as “The Order: 1886 flop“, Sony’s first party and second party titles have never been disappointing for any reason. Bloodborne is one of the most appreciated action/RPG out there and sold millions of units despite not being exactly everyone’s cup of tea, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Nier Automata, Persona 5, The Last Guardian, Horizon: Zero Dawn — they
were all really meaningful for players, who were left with something emotionally concrete after ending them up.
It’s not like I don’t appreciate Halo, Forza and Gears of War, but they all lack novelty and they’re all suffering franchise fatigue, which is crazy considering Gears has not been around for a while. They’re not managing to leave player’s emotions and feelings Sony’s titles are currently producing and offering, and this is a serious issue considering that video games are just means for creators to convey messages and craft emotional experiences of any genre.
This is why Project Scorpio needs to be the platform of Microsoft’s return to the path it followed so well on Xbox 360. It has the power to do that, and also is the easy platform developers were used to back in the days, before the eSRAM started to be the standard out there. The last thing needed right there is the will to take some risks and offer both new intellectual properties and investment on second party devs who can bring in new ideas and gameplay systems.
The impression here is Sony is still going to lead the way during the next couple of years, thanks to titles like Quantic Dream’s Detroit, Bend Studio’s Days Gone, the upcoming God of War, Kojima’s Death Stranding, Insomniac’s Spider-Man, and all the deals with the third parties like Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: WWII. Project Scorpio could be the biggest thing Microsoft can offer in order to face such wealthy competition, but I don’t know if it’s the right answer.
The gaming landscape is now more than ever filled with hardware and, while it could also prove wrong, the impression out there is that creativity is suffering a lot from video games becoming a proper entertainment industry. So bringing in new games, new intellectual properties like Sony is doing, by both making them in house and financing partners, is sure enough the best way to completely change this picture the business is giving of itself.
Making new hardware when all people are demanding more and better crafted games — honestly, I’m pretty negative about Project Scorpio and the impact that is going to have on video games. Luckily enough E3 2017 is just around the corner so I’ll have to wait for a very little time frame in order to clearly understand where’s Microsoft going with its Xbox platform. Are they going to sustain Scorpio with a total improvement of the Xbox lineup, or they’re just sticking to Sea of Thieves (a possible free to play), Forza 7 (yet another racing), State of Decay 2 (zero story and an online underdog)?