The Comeback: Sony’s Fight To Make Gaming Synonymous with PlayStation
Sony wants to make a comeback with the PS4; not only to become top dog in the industry, but to make gaming synonymous with the PlayStation brand once again. Right now Sony’s like a former champion, hungry and determined to win his prestigious title back and return to the spotlight.
When we become the best, we oftentimes become overconfident and complacent. Given the PlayStation and PS2’s runaway successes, Sony came into the current generation like an overconfident fighter – complete with posturing and an inflated ego. All of a sudden gamers were “lucky” to become part of the PlayStation conglomerate. Remember when Sony (Ken Kutaragi specifically) boldly stated that “The PS3 is for consumers to think to themselves, ‘I will work more hours to buy one’?” Alas, like many memorable fights, the hungrier and more determined of the contenders reign supreme; and Sony’s overconfidence became it’s downfall.
Well consumers responded, and for the first time in many years, Sony was on the defensive. The once mighty, unstoppable Sony juggernaut was knocked down by rivals Microsoft and Nintendo. For many years, developers shied away from the PS3 because it had an overly-complicated architecture that made development harder than it should have been. For many years, console sales lagged behind the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii because let’s be honest, the PlayStation brand isn’t as synonymous with gaming as it once was. The company fought back with the successful “It Only Does Everything” campaign featuring the extremely popular Kevin Butler, but even that wasn’t enough to truly knock out the competition. It also didn’t help that the company was/is notorious for launching brand new (and even established IP’s) with little to no marketing push – a death sentence to larger productions positioning their game to be a blockbuster.
Once the mighty hunter, Sony became the hunted and they knew it. It’s a good thing though as the current generation’s losses have taught the company valuable lessons as it enters the next generation. Even cornered animals can be dangerous, and Sony just proved once again that they’re willing and able to claw and scratch from the bottom to the top of the industry again with the PlayStation 4.
The market has changed drastically this generation, social gaming has become standard, Indie and adventure games rose to the forefront of the industry, and cloud gaming technology looks like it will take the game industry to the future. And Sony made sure that the PS4’s design and architecture reflected those changes. In the last few years, Sony secretly met with first and third party developers to find out what they needed, what the system should be able to do, and where the market was headed.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Herman Hulst, co-founder of Guerilla Games said that they and other developers worked quite closely with Sony in the development of the PS4.
“We’ve been very closely involved in the development of the machine,” says Herman Hulst, the co-founder of Guerrilla Games. “We’ve had [PS4 system architect] Mark Cerny over several times. We got the entire group of core developers together and gave deep feedback on everything system-related. It’s no longer designed in an Ivory tower somewhere in Tokyo, it’s shared with us, with Naughty Dog, with Sony San Diego – and together we’ve built the machine. As Mark said at one point during the launch event, it’s a console for gamers by gamers.”
In many ways, the PlayStation 4 reveal on February 20, 2013 signified a comeback for the fledgling PlayStation brand. That Ivory tower than Mr. Hulst mentioned was long gone, replaced by a developer-and-consumer friendly development team. Sony has once again taken steps to becoming the revolutionary it once was with the release of the original PlayStation. It was a time when Sony would throw so many hail Marys, take unbelievable chances, and became known as the game system that pushed boundaries and borders.
It’s great that Sony is positioning the PS4 to reflect those years again. Taking chances on smaller developers and new IP’s, taking the entire PlayStation game catalog and possibly bringing them to different platforms via Gaikai, employing a design philosophy that was closer to a super-powered PC, and making sharing and socializing a hell of a lot easier for gamers. Features that developers and analysts have asked Sony for in the last few years.
Then there are the changes and tweaks that PlayStation consumers have been asking from the entertainment giant for years. Features like actually being able to stream games to the PS Vita using Remote Play, cross-game communication, concave triggers, a low-power suspend/resume function, and easier access to content through cloud gaming technology. We as consumers spoke quite loudly this generation and this new Sony listened and listened well.
Will Sony succeed in its fight to make gaming synonymous with the PlayStation brand again? It’s too early to tell, but it looks like they’re taking the correct first steps towards that goal.
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