Don't be ridiculous, Sony: PS4 can't compete with PC

As many of you will know by now, Sony has announced the PS4 Pro, serving as something of a stop-gap between this generation and the next (if console generations will even continue to be a thing after this one). Sony's 4K and HDR compatible console could be hitting the scene as much as a full year before Microsoft's Project Scorpio hits the scene, giving Sony a significant head start that is so massively important in this console arms race it and Microsoft have found themselves in.

Except, to hear Sony Interactive Entertainment president Andrew House explain it, Sony isn't competing with the Xbox One or Project Scorpio with this latest console. No, instead it's competing with PC. That's what he said in an interview with The Guardian, pointing to data that showed a lull in mid-cycle console sales triggered by people choosing PC over consoles for a better-looking games experience. The PS4 Pro is intended to be an answer to that, supposedly offering a graphics experience on par with PC with the goal of keeping people in the PlayStation ecosystem.

If House thinks that PS4 Pro will be able to compete with PC just because it offers support for 4K and HDR, he's sorely mistaken. Don't get me wrong, graphics are a major reason people choose PCs, and I'm skeptical that the PS4 Pro can actually compete with what a gaming PC can put out with just a $399 price tag, but PC has more advantages aside from prettier graphics.

PC as a games platform has a certain openness and accessibility that consoles can't match. For starters, PC players don't have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to play online. It seems silly to me that House would claim the PS4 Pro is meant to compete with PC at a time when Sony is bumping up the price on PlayStation Plus subscriptions. The only thing that limits me when it comes to playing multiplayer games is the speed of the network I find myself on, and things are usually pretty decent in that department. Other than that, I'm free to play online as much as I want.

I also have actual options for backwards compatibility while playing on PC, and I'm not talking about a subscription service that holds the games I already paid good money for behind a $20 monthly fee. I understand that emulating the PS3 would be difficult for the PS4 and therefore the lack of backwards compatibility isn't entirely Sony's fault here, but still, $20 a month? That's a little high given PlayStation Now's catalog. That would be an absurd price for PS Now even if it included every PlayStation 3 game to ever be released.

But hey, value is in the eye of the beholder (or, as it is in this case, the spender). I'm not going to tell someone they're wrong for finding value in a $20-per-month PlayStation Now subscription. I will, however, point out that I can run most old games on PC, even if they require a little tweaking at first. If I don't feel like doing that tweaking, there's a good chance that I can find what I'm looking for on, where classic games are updated to be compatible with modern operating systems and then sold for what usually amounts to a pittance.

Now we come to the big one: the differences in the openness of PlayStation 4 and PC. One of the greatest things about playing on PC is the community that can spring up around a game. These communities do wonderful things, from creating private servers for older games and keeping them running long after the official servers have shut down, to making mods you can install to extend the life of a game past the main story. Mod support is going to be a rather touchy subject for me.

Bethesda recently said that PlayStation 4 owners won't be getting mod support for Fallout 4 or the upcoming Skyrim Remastered. In explaining why that wouldn't happen, Bethesda said that Sony wasn't prepared to allow mods to exist on PSN in the way they should, allowing players to do whatever they like. Bethesda said it had "long been prepared" to bring mods to the PS4, but Sony wasn't going to allow that.

I'm not sure how Sony thinks that makes its platform a viable competitor to PC, especially when mods are available on Xbox One. Sure, some of the blame may lay with Bethesda for making the promise in the first place, but at the end of the day, the PS4 is Sony's platform, not Bethesda's. Whatever problem Sony has with Fallout 4 and Skyrim mods isn't Bethesda's fault, and we should hold Sony accountable for its decision.

We can sit here and argue the merits of third-party mods all day long – some people love them, some people hate them. Regardless of your opinion, mod support has long been a major draw of Bethesda's games on PC, and it's currently a feature that's available on two of the three major platforms. The ball was in Sony's court and Sony decided it didn't want to play. That's not competing, that's refusing to keep pace.

This all reinforces the notion that Sony has no intention of making PSN a more open network. Obviously, Sony can do what it wants with the network and platform it owns, but if Andrew House is going to shrug off Microsoft and say that it considers PC gaming to be the true competitor of PS4 Pro, we need to see that in more ways than just a boost in graphics fidelity. Frankly, anything less than that is posturing and that means nothing.