Sony is, yet again, reportedlty taking care of the problem to clear the deck ahead of the inevitable PS5 launch.
Sony’s mostly been trying to get ahead of any potential areas of weakness it has that may hold it back and drag it down next generation these last few months. On a hardware front, they’re secured: their console will be powerful enough, and easy to develop for, and that’s the extent of how much hardware matters when it comes to third parties. On the games front, they are especially covered, thanks to not just the third party AAA games they will naturally get, but also the games from Japan they get, plus their own, high end, highly acclaimed first party exclusives that compel many to buy their systems.
Their weaknesses, so far, have been on the services front. Services may generally seem like a tertiary concern to many, but in today’s day and age, theya re increasingly becoming important. Services are what cause “ecosystem stickiness” (i.e. they cause the customer to stick around with an ecosystem), in addition to generating ongoing revenue and recurring profits. Services also offer multiple QoL benefits and perks to users, that, when added up, can become substantial.
"While Sony have doubled down on services, leading to us seeing them emphasize PS Plus, PS Now, PS Vue, and so on, in general, they’ve lagged in terms of actual functionality here."
Sony’s weakness this generation has been in this area. While they’ve doubled down on services, leading to us seeing them emphasize PS Plus, PS Now, PS Vue, and so on, in general, they’ve lagged in terms of actual functionality here. PS Now, for instance, was until recently streaming only, and required a high end internet connection—automatically prohibitive for a large swathe of the market. PS Plus, sure, you pay for online access, and get some good games on a monthly basis as part of the subscription benefits, but PSN itself lags behind the competition is so many regards. Until recently, the PS4 was the only platform locking itself out from wider cross platform play, for example. Basic features and functionality such as gifting and refunds have been lacking from the console for the longest time, and are still nowhere in sight. And then, of course, there’s the issue of your user ID changes.
Steam allows username changes ad infinitum, even giving users tools to keep track of their friends in spite of possible high frequency changes. Xbox allows username changes, giving you one for free, and then charging you a fee from then on for all subsequent ones, presumably to prevent abuse of the function (it doesn’t hurt that it’s a revenue stream for Microsoft, too). Nintendo allows infinite username changes on the Switch (since the Friend Code is the primary identifier for the profile anyway).
On PlayStation, this is not an option. PSN first went live in 2005, back when many of us were probably barely in our teens and may have selected a username that’s really, well, cringey today. So our options on PS4, in the absence of a “change username” feature, are either to make a new account, and lose all our Trophies, Friends, Communities, messages, and digital game and DLC purchases, or to stay stuck with xXLinkinPark69Xx as our username. Neither of those sounds particularly appealing.
"Sony finally went back on its obstinate refusal to allow PS4 players to play with Switch and Xbox openers last week, by enabling that function for Fortnite, and promising it would come to “select third party games” in the future."
However, over the past few weeks, Sony has been doubling down on its areas of weaknesses, and addressing all the complaints leveled at them. For instance, PS Now now allows you to download PS4 and PS2 games, and play them as long as you remain subscribed to the service. You no longer have to stream games (except for PS3 games, which presumably can’t be locally emulated on the PS4, owing to the complexity of the Cell, and the weakness of the Jaguar CPU), and you can even play them online without a PS Plus subscription. Not only does this mean that the service is now wide open to markets it would never have reached before, but it also makes it, with its catalog of over 500 games, a compelling counter on Sony’s part to Microsoft’s Game Pass.
Then there is the issue of cross platform play. Arguably Sony’s biggest misstep so far this generation, the company finally went back on its obstinate refusal to allow PS4 players to play with Switch and Xbox openers last week, by enabling that function for Fortnite, and promising it would come to “select third party games” in the future. At the time, I already argued that it was smart of Sony to play this card now and get ahead of any ill will or bad sentiment towards them brewing over the long term. Sony’s proactivity in responding to the situation was characteristic of a strong market leader.
And now, we have rumblings that the company is planning on introducing name changes for PSN IDs soon. In fact, reportedly, third party developers of multiplayer games are already aware of Sony’s plans, and have spent the last few months accommodating them, in preparation for the feature going live… some time. It’s important to remember that this isn’t confirmed yet, it’s only a rumor. It’s a rumor from a very well placed source, but it’s still a rumor.
"If the rumor about PSN name changes is true, then this speaks, yet again, to Sony’s getting ahead of the criticism, and clamping down on perceived and real issues with their offerings, now, ahead of the launch of the PS5, rather than waiting for the launch of the PS5 itself to fix them."
Still, if this is true, then this speaks, yet again, to Sony’s getting ahead of the criticism, and clamping down on perceived and real issues with their offerings, now, ahead of the launch of the PS5, rather than waiting for the launch of the PS5 itself to fix them. See, it would have been all too easy for Sony to not budge on name changes and cross platform play, and then announce them with the PS5 as big features, to make it look comparatively more appealing next to the PS4. But doing this now speaks to their confidence in their product—they don’t need to artificially buff up the features list for the PS5 to make it look more attractive, they’re confident that the hardware and games they offer will take care of that on their own. Instead, they will take this time to address complaints leveled at them by their customers, and try to address them the best they can, now.
As I said last week, truly, that is the mark of a market leader.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.