If you believe the hype, then Sony will be revealing the next PlayStation in just a few short weeks at a February 20 event. The announcement of a new console is all well and good, but once the party’s over and the reveal has been made, Sony then faces the difficult task of making the next PlayStation successful in the new generation. It’s something of a blank slate – the other competitors in the console space are releasing new machines as well, so the platform wars can begin anew. Sony did a lot of good things with the PS3, but in order to make the PS4 a smashing success, it’s going to need to ramp it up in a few areas.
First and foremost, Sony needs to get even more serious about securing exclusive games for the PS4. Throughout the entire generation, Sony has offered some excellent exclusives to PS3 players. Microsoft had some good exclusives for the Xbox 360 throughout most of the console’s life, but these days it seems that the company would rather make timed-exclusive DLC deals. That’s all well and good, but timed-exclusive DLC is a poor substitute for exclusive full games. Sony not only needs to make sure the PS4 has a solid exclusive games library, but it also needs to kick it up a bit.
In the next generation, Sony can’t be stingy with its money – it needs to go out there, find good titles, and then plop down the cash needed to make those games exclusive to PS4. If it can offer a large number of exclusive games, that will drive consumers to the console, especially when its still in the early days after launch.
To give you an example, I have a friend who recently went out and bought a PS3 so he could play the US release of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It’s hard for gamers to resist the lure of a really awesome-looking game, which is why I’m willing to bet he isn’t the only one who bought a PS3 for Ni No Kuni. Good games that players can’t find anywhere else will always pull in more consumers than fancy technical specs, despite what the technophiles of the world will tell you.
That being said, Sony needs to get better at recognizing when a franchise doesn’t need any new releases. God of War: Ascension seems to be the God of War title no one was asking for, while a number of Ratchet and Clank games released this generation have been a far cry from the Ratchet and Clank games of the PS2 era. Instead of putting money into franchises that could use a rest, Sony could take that money and invest it in exclusive titles from promising third-parties, or it could even take a risk and develop some new franchises of its own. The temptation to keep milking a franchise with a loyal fanbase is definitely great, but by releasing title after title, you end up alienating gamers who have fond memories with the series. Unfortunately, many of those gamers aren’t going to come back when you’ve finally figured out how to bring something new and exciting to the franchise.
I think Sony should look to Japan more often in the next generation, too. We’ve got a lot of interest in Japanese games at the moment – Persona, Ni No Kuni, Xenoblade, Pandora’s Tower, The Last Story – all of them have been popping up left and right here in North America. They’ve all been getting attention as well. Sony has an advantage over Microsoft in this case, as Japanese developers aren’t making too many games for the Xbox 360. Until Microsoft learns how to effectively tackle the Japanese market, that will remain to be the case, leaving Sony with a flood of unique and interesting titles for its own console.
Why not publish more promising Japanese titles with the intention of bringing them to western markets in the next generation? There seems to be a belief that western gamers aren’t all that interested in Japanese video games, but I think this generation proved that’s more a misconception than anything else.
Sony also needs to pay more attention to indies in the next generation. PSN is already a great place to find indie games, but it seems to be more or less on par with the offerings over on XBLA. It needs to be better with the PS4. Indie games exploded this year, and Sony needs to take a bigger slice of that pie for itself. It needs to make a PSN where it can try new and different things, unlike the by-the-books nature of Xbox Live. Granted, Sony is already doing better than Microsoft in the online market area, but I’d like to see it take even more risks with PSN in the future.
Above all else, though, Sony needs to admit when things just aren’t working out. When you launch something like Move or PS Vita and it doesn’t do much else other than fester, the correct course of action is not to pretend everything is okay and let it fester some more. Move is a cool peripheral, and as far as the other motion control peripherals go, I think it has the Wii remote and Kinect beat. However, that doesn’t matter much when there aren’t any games for it. The same is true of the PS Vita – here we’ve got some excellent portable hardware, and it’s not doing anything but collecting dust because no one’s buying it and no one’s making games for it.
Staying the course doesn’t help in cases like these. If something isn’t working with the PS4, Sony can’t just leave that problem hanging there and hope it gets better on the promise of cool things to come. It needs to get creative and shake things up a bit. I’m not entirely sure how you fix the problems with the Vita, but I’m positive that Sony’s current way of handling these issues isn’t working. Let’s not allow that to happen with the PlayStation 4.