With the bevy of Sony news for both the PS4 and Vita in recent months, it’s hard to deny that the PlayStation brand is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Things quickly unraveled for Sony after the launch of the PS3, with the overpriced system succumbing to the much more consumer friendly XBox 360. Sony spent the better part of the first half of the PS3’s lifespan trying to maintain a facade of control, when in reality their overbearing attitude had driven away the very fanbase they’d so masterfully cultivated with the PlayStation and PS2. The universe does have a way of eventually balancing things out, however, and it finally did in the form of the XBox One. In a twist of fate, the same mistakes Sony made years ago are being repeated by Microsoft, leaving Sony with the chance to reclaim the top of the heap once more.
Let’s face it, before and after the PS3 launch, Sony looked awfully big-headed. An obnoxious E3 presentation combined with a hefty price left consumers scratching their heads and wondering where PS2 Sony had wandered off to. Fun and games had given way to “computers” and statistics. As more of Sony’s share of the pie got eaten up by Nintendo and the upstart 360, the PlayStation brand’s place in the industry had become suspect. Flash forward a few years, though, and something amazing happened; Sony became humble.
The XBox One was lambasted following its reveal, with gamers incensed over the need for a constant internet connection, used game restrictions, and an over-emphasis on non-gaming features. Suddenly, Microsoft were the oblivious corporate stooges, leaving Sony with a choice; follow suit and share the hate, or do something completely unprecedented. In a move that shocked everyone, Sony decided to embrace the very fans they shunned back in 2006 by taking their side. Instead of shooting for bushels of extra cash and multimedia dominance, the PS4 burst through the gates as the very thing the PS3 pretended to not be; a gaming console.
Sure, the PS4 has a bevy of multimedia features, but Sony made sure fans knew right off the bat that the games were the focus of this new console. In another stunning maneuver, Sony outright slapped Microsoft in the face by declaring that the PS4 would neither have restrictive used game policies or the need for a constant internet connection. Putting this in perspective, Sony’s leadership essentially decided (in terms of the used games policy) to turn down a revenue stream in order to woo fans back into their fold. Wow. In a world driven by profits, it was quite the revelation to see a company be so forward thinking as to forego quick cash in favor of good will.
Clearly, there’s a whole slew of business tactics and so forth that went into Sony’s PS4 plans, but there’s no mistaking humility when it’s obviously on display. Sony screwed up with the PS3 and are finally admitting it with the PS4. Putting the focus back on games, acknowledging the needs of players both here and abroad, and frankly taking the strut out of their stride have put the ball back into Sony’s court. Factor in the potential revitalization of the Vita, which itself suffered from “PS3 syndrome”, and PlayStation has a real shot at returning to dominance.
Touching on the Vita for a moment, if anyone needs further proof of Sony’s attitude change, the recent price drops for the system and memory cards is a perfect example. The PS4 isn’t even out yet, but the positive reaction from loyal and lapsed fans around the world was so powerful that Sony decided to acknowledge the whole spectrum of complaints levied against them. It’s unheard of that a videogame company would take its fans concerns so seriously and that can only be a good thing for Sony in the long run. The Vita is a wholly competent handheld that shouldn’t be struggling as badly as it has been; if it can pick up the pace, it will only serve to reconfirm that Sony is on the right track with this new self-image.
Time is the ultimate arbiter of all, so it’s going to be a stretch before we find out if the PS4 wins out against the One (and the Wii U!). Regardless of the outcome, I find it truly heartening that Sony has at least made the effort to satisfy fans and bring some luster back to their name. Making the PS4 more accessible can only be a good thing for gamers, as there are already enough hurdles keeping more people from embracing videogames. Microsoft might have reversed the controversial policies that Sony capitalized upon, but the very sour taste they left in everyone’s mouths are going to take a long time to go away. As a result, Sony is in the best place its been in years and I’m excited to see what happens.