Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sony: Leftovers Await

Remember when I said Sony was remarkably incapable of learning from its past mistakes? Here's Exhibit A.

If you're in a TL;DR mood, I'll just say that Sony is harnessing the power of the Playstation 4 to give you games you already played two years ago. And their reasoning for this is rich. Just listen to Sony press flack Andrew "All the charm of Doctor" House:

"I hesitate to say this because I know committed gamers may roll their eyes about it..."

Oh yes, definitely!

"...but there's an opportunity with some of the remastering or re-imagining from PS3 franchises that will potentially find an audience that hasn't played them in the previous generation because they skipped that generation."

Charade you are, House-proud town mouse! Do you have any idea why those gamers skipped the Playstation 3 and went straight to the Nintendo Wii in the last console cycle? I mean, aside from the PS3's mammoth price tag and Sony's maddening arrogance. Lapsed gamers gave up on the hobby because the software for the Playstation 3 (and in all fairness, the Xbox 360 too) drove them away. With only a few exceptions, software for these two consoles was too punishing, too complicated, too grim, and too humorless. There was no room for players who just wanted to grab a controller, have a ball for fifteen minutes, and walk away with a goofy grin on their faces.

You could accommodate those players by squeezing a few fun, approachable titles into a library bulging with military shooters, impenetrable role-playing games, and violent bloodbaths. Instead, you're telling disenfranchised gamers that they were wrong, and that you'll help them see the error of their ways by giving them the same experiences until they reluctantly choke them down. It's an attitude I remember all too well from my childhood...

Image from
"Come on, honey! You'll like The Last of Us if you give it a chance! Don't make this hard for both of us... just take a bite. If you don't eat it, I'll just put it in the fridge and serve it to you for breakfast tomorrow."

"Eat your vegetables" has a quaint charm coming from the mother of two picky eaters, but that statement is not so endearing from a leader in electronic entertainment. It's not our responsibility to fall in line and grudgingly accept the games Sony chooses to make. It's Sony's responsibility to entertain its customers... all of them. The ones who aren't entertained will find their kicks elsewhere; either from the more casual-friendly Wii U or the growing mobile games market.

Later in the Joystiq interview, House praises rival entertainment giant Disney and expresses the hope that Sony can follow in its footsteps, introducing its franchises to future audiences "over time." The fabled Disney vault, where the company's films are retired for seven years at a time, builds anticipation and makes fans eager to re-acquaint themselves with nearly a hundred years of animated classics. 

This is the part of Disney's strategy that Sony fails to understand. It doesn't give its properties time to mature, or their fans a chance to miss them. The Last of Us originally debuted on the Playstation 3 last year. The remastered edition for the Playstation 4 is coming in a couple of days. The gap between releases of indie favorite Flower is larger, but not significantly, with the PS3 game making its debut in 2009 and the PS4 version arriving four years later. There are never pangs of nostalgia for these games, because they're always available on something.

Sony is currently dominating this console cycle, but serving up leftovers from the past generation won't help them keep that lead. Dismissing the concerns of lapsed gamers isn't doing them any favors, either.


  1. Yeah, this kind of thing really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sadly, I think we're going to see more of it in the coming years, especially for those companies that make games for the PS4 and Xbox One, as development costs have reached such a level that selling a game twice (or more) likely seems like a really appealing way of recouping some of those expenditures. I'm kind of surprised we haven't seen more of it from Nintendo, honestly, especially given the Wii U's terrible sales and the winding-down sales of the 3DS. I mean, we got a few remakes early on for the 3DS (Ocarina of Time and Starfox) and Wind Waker HD for the Wii U, but you think they'd dip into that well a bit more than that given their current status. Not that I'm complaining, mind you! :)

    1. I had written a longer response, but Google ated it. :(

      Long story short, I don't think the "Malibu Stacy: Now with a New Hat!" approach is going to get Microsoft and Sony very far in the long term. They're making a compelling case for sticking with the old hardware, and that's exactly what I plan to do. If the Playstation 3 has all the games the PS4 does and a whole lot more, why not save yourself $250 and buy that instead?

      I worry slightly that the video game industry has gotten unsustainably large, and that neither Sony and Microsoft will be able to keep up with it. All the re-releases seem to suggest this, as does the sudden embrace of the indie games market. What's going to happen when the two companies run out of properties to regurgitate and are forced to release new ones? They just won't have the budget to make games that fully tap the power of these new consoles. Game studios (BIG game studios, like Midway and T*HQ!) already went out of business trying to make software for the last generation of systems!

    2. Hell, Jess, I seriously worry about the whole industry at this point--Nintendo included. All of the "players" seem to be struggling with how to deal with the current situation. Sony and Microsoft, along with companies like Square Enix, are mostly to blame for this, of course, thanks to their obsession with pumping out hardware and software that pushes the boundaries of technology with each new release. That's cool in many ways, but it also seems to be slowly (or quickly?) killing the industry. Anyway, hopefully the companies I most care about it find a way to survive it all...

    3. What's the old saying again? "Pop will eat itself."