I think we can safely conclude that 2017 was one of Sony, and the PS4’s, strongest showings ever. Sony had their most successful showings of all time commercially in 2017, across PlayStation’s entire 20+ year history, they managed to see a year-on-year increase for the PlayStation 4 for the fourth year running, and they had a hell of a lineup of exclusives that widened the lead over the competition and cemented their lead comfortably. 2017 was, in other words, the year that the PS4 finally cemented its domination to such an absolute degree that the competition could no longer harbour any thoughts of realistically catching up.
It was not, however, perfect. While Sony had an exemplary year, they still ended up having several missteps through 2017 that put blemishes on what was otherwise a bumper showing from them. Make no mistake, Sony’s showing isn’t diminished in any way because of these problems- and they still convincingly beat the Xbox One and held their own against the Nintendo Switch. But it’s still a bit of a shame that they made these five mistakes that held them back from having a perfect 2017.
Look, no player should ever be against cross-platform play. It’s as simple as that. Getting to play with all of your friends, no matter what system they own, is a fantastic concept. The future of the industry is going to be one of platform agnostic services, and we have seen the various PC gaming storefronts, iOS and Android, and Xbox and even Nintendo, make moves towards cross platform play.
But not Sony.
"Sony doesn’t have an excuse. Their open refusal to support cross platform play in 2017 is undoubtedly their biggest failing this year."
Sony’s stance on cross-platform play is puzzling, because for the longest time, they held that they were all too willing to do it, but the competition wouldn’t play ball with them. They pioneered the concept with Final Fantasy 11 on the PS2, and then with several games in the PS3 and early PS4 era. But then, Xbox came around and decided to play ball. And so did Nintendo. And all of a sudden, Sony wasn’t interested, and their bluff was called out.
Multiple developers have openly called Sony out on their archaic and laughable stance with cross-platform play at this point. CD Projekt RED, Bandai Namco, and Psyonix are three very prominent ones that I remember off the top of my head. Sony really has no excuse- when developers want it, players want it, and even a company like Nintendo is playing ball, Sony really has no reason to be sitting out of the party. And yes, I get the whole argument against Minecraft, because that uses Xbox Live, sure; guess what? Rocket League doesn’t. Neither does any other third party game. Sony doesn’t have an excuse. Their open refusal to support cross platform play in 2017 is undoubtedly their biggest failing this year.
Sony’s stance on backward compatibility has been well known and well documented for a while now. Not only will Sony not let us play our PS1, PS2, and PS3 games on the PS4, but they have also started selling PS2 games on the PSN Store on the PS4, making it so that even if you bought and owned PS2 Classics on the PS3 already, you will have to rebuy them.
So that’s already a pretty weak stance to have, especially compared to how well Xbox has been faring on this regard, but the situation became worse when Sony’s Jim Ryan made some unsavoury remarks about how classic PS1 games – you know, the games that Sony’s legacy is founded on, that millions of their fans the world over are nosatalgic for – look so dated that no one will want to play them.
So, not only does Sony not want to honor your past purchases, they are also all too happy to take a dump on their legacy to justify their not doing so. Oh, but they’re all too happy to sell you re-releases of PS1 games on the PS4, such as with Wipeout, Parappa, and of course, Crash.
Sony had a three year head start in Japan. They had the support of the entire Japanese third party industry in their corner. They were coming off of the launch of a brand new mainline Final Fantasy game. They saw the launch of the first new single player Dragon Quest game in almost a decade. They saw the announcement of a brand new console Monster Hunter game, exclusive to the PS4 in Japan, and the first console title in the series since 2009. They saw a new Yakuza game launch on their system. Basically, Japan’s biggest third party games were announced or released on the PS4. They even had a brand new PS4 Pro special edition SKU to commemorate the upcoming launch of Monster Hunter World out.
"The Switch, in just nine months, is already more than halfway caught up with the total sales the PS4 has managed in almost four years in Japan."
And yet, in spite of all of this, Sony is now in danger of losing its position of dominance in Japan, in danger of losing and ceding it all to Nintendo, who, with the Switch, have now got the attention of the larger third party community in Japan who are suddenly seeing a more viable system, domestically and internationally, to put their games on. And the Switch, in just nine months, is already more than halfway caught up with the total sales the PS4 has managed in almost four years in Japan.
Sony was unprepared. They messed up here. To be honest, I don’t know what they could have done to counter the sudden Switch onslaught in Japan, which has caught them on the back foot. But I do think that at the very least, Sony’s refusal to continue to create, grow, and cultivate Japan specific franchises and games, is going to end up hurting them in then long run in this regard.
GRAN TURISMO SPORT
Once upon a time, Gran Turismo was unstoppable. It was Sony’s flagship franchise, and each new entry ended up selling millions of units, also selling systems across the world, and especially in Europe and Japan.
Gran Turismo Sport… did not do that. It failed to do much in North America, Japan, and Europe, with its misguided focus on online and eSports alienating would be fans, who were turned off when news began to break that, for instance, they wouldn’t be able to save their progress offline unless they logged online. Middling reviews didn’t help, and Sony was forced to slash prices, which led to sales improving in at least Europe (but not anywhere else); this was a muck up of what was once Sony’s premier franchise.
PS4 PRO SUPPORT CONTINUES TO LAG
Sony never managed to get developers as enthusiastic or on board with the PS4 Pro as Microsoft managed with the Xbox One X. Thanks to Microsoft’s superior developer outreach and ease of development, developers rallied behind the One X, and support for it already seems to dwarf support for the PS4 Pro, which has consistently lagged all through 2017.
"Make no mistake, the PS4 Pro continues to shine when it comes to first party games like Horizonj and Gran Turismo, and all of Microsoft’s developer outreach won’t help the Xbox One X overcome its lack of exclusives; but it is undeniable that Sony hasn’t been able to handle the Pro quite as well as Microsoft has the One X, and in 2017, that became clearer than ever."
Consider, for example, how many third party games launched without PS4 Pro support, or that, when they finally got it, that support was middling at best- games like Prey or The Evil Within 2, and even The Witcher 3, which didn’t actually get any PS4 Pro support confirmed until Microsoft got CDPR to work on an enhancement patch for the Xbox One X, and it presumably made sense to put an enhancement update for the PS4 Pro out along the way too.
Make no mistake, the PS4 Pro continues to shine when it comes to first party games like Horizon and Gran Turismo, and all of Microsoft’s developer outreach won’t help the Xbox One X overcome its lack of exclusives; but it is undeniable that Sony hasn’t been able to handle the Pro quite as well as Microsoft has the One X, and in 2017, that became clearer than ever.