Part three of my four part series.
I watch gaming news pretty closely, and I follow as many games prior to release as I possibly can. Being so immersed in the news instilled in me the desire to own a PlayStation 4 because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on any games I wanted to play, as I did with the PlayStation 3. It was difficult to not buy one back in 2013 when November 15th rolled around, but I held strong for a while.
I’m glad I own a PS4, but damn is it hard to like Sony sometimes. I’m not nearly as enamored with their games lineup as most, so I suppose that plays a big role in my relative indifference towards the PS4. I just wish that the PS4 was really the pro-consumer stronghold that it’s often proposed to be.
Blocking Features And Services
Remember back when Electronic Arts announced EA Access? Originally, EA was aiming the service to be present across both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, except the PS4 version never came to be. Surely, Microsoft must’ve been to blame for that, probably buying up exclusivity or something.
Well, not exactly.
Whether you like EA Games or not, it’s a little ludicrous that Sony took the decision out of the hands of their customers. The console hero of this generation, lauded for being all about the games and the people wanting to play them, decided that an optional $5 a month subscription service wasn’t good value. This is the same company that increased the cost of their yearly subscription service while not offering anything to further increase the value. Of course, a common reason that’s put forward for why EA Access was barred from the PS4 is that Sony already offers a service to
download stream games to their console: PS Now. Whether or not there’s any truth to this is left to speculation.
If EA Access had been the end of their lockdown of the console to third parties, that’d be the end of this. Except that back with the announcements of Fallout 4 and Skyrim: Special Edition, Bethesda revealed that mod support would be coming to the console versions. Fallout 4 received mod support first on the Xbox One, with PS4 players waiting in the wings to get their sweet modding on, only for it to get delayed again and again. Bethesda quickly began taking heat for the lack of mod support on PS4, but the truth came to light once Bethesda revealed the reason why mods hadn’t made it onto the PS4 yet: Sony wasn’t allowing it.
When Sony finally capitulated, it happened under the condition that mods be severely limited on their platform. Namely, external assets cannot be used in the production of mods; everything in a mod for a Bethesda PS4 game has use assets that are already present in the game’s files.
Good job, Sony. You’re really looking out for your players.
The Dualshock 4’s Poor Quality
Don’t get me wrong. The Dualshock 4 controller is an improvement over a controller design that goes down as the second most uncomfortable gamepad I’ve ever used (the NES takes first place). The elongated grips and triggers, and better-designed analog sticks are wonderful. However, that’s where the improvements more or less end.
Beginning this generation, Sony’s Dualshock 4 controller had a nasty habit of the thumbstick material wearing off, much like the way that heavily used 360 controllers used to. Gamers with faulty controllers were often directed to buying thumbstick covers as a solution, but as anyone who has criticized the Xbox 360/One controller’s battery options should echo, a solution to a design problem shouldn’t need to be solved by being forced to buy another product.
Unlike the apparently solved analog stick issue, the Dualshock 4 controller still suffers from having an abysmal battery life. It’s true that there’s a built in battery, meaning that gamers don’t need to purchase an additional accessory, but being required to plug in your controller between every session of gameplay is ridiculous. There’s been much speculation as to why the controller has such poor battery life, with some pointing to the nearly pointless lightbar or the massive yet underutilized touchpad, but no true cause has been narrowed down.
Speaking of the touchpad and lightbar, it’s still unclear as to why Sony insists that the lightbar always be on, and the touchpad is seldom used. The lightbar itself sometimes has some gimmicky uses, like flashing red and blue while being chased by the police in Grand Theft Auto V or showing different colors for each player if multiple controllers are being used. The thing is though, that being forced to devote an apparently already strained power source to make glowing light stay on (one of which can annoyingly glow against a TV screen in the dark) is a little stupid. Supposedly the lightbar is supposed to have something to do with the PlayStation 4 Camera but how many people use the camera for something other than streaming or VR?
The touchpad itself, is almost never used aside from functioning as a “Select” button, which is odd since it takes up so much space on the controller. Used as a way to input letters in messages? Nope, that’s one of the only uses for the Sixaxis feature in the DS4. Are the directional inputs on the pad used in any way? Not usually.
Why? For the same reason that the Kinect sensor is never used: designing game controls around a platform specific input device is a pain, and developers have better things to worry about.
Taking From Microsoft’s Old Playbook
Sony has been on a roll for the last four to five years, crushing sales and really driving home that they’re the company that’s looking out for their customers. In fact, they’ve gone to such great lengths to make sure that their customers get whatever they want, that they’ve capitalized on Microsoft’s refusal to deal in timed exclusive content under Phil Spencer.
The one month exclusive contracts between Microsoft and Activision for Call of Duty are over and done with, putting to rest the long history of Microsoft’s authoritarian stranglehold on the annual shooter. Microsoft also ended their exclusive agreements with other companies as well, with the last titles featuring any exclusivity being Rise of the Tomb Raider (which Microsoft co-published) and The Division.
Sony, on the other hand, has gone all in this generation with exclusivity deals. Destiny featured exclusive access to the alpha test of their game on PS4, early access to the beta on PS4, and year-long early access to strikes, weapons, and multiplayer maps. Some content for Destiny still can’t be accessed by Xbox One players. Meanwhile, Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare have shifted month-long exclusivity on all DLC to the PS4, and Destiny 2 as well as Call of Duty: WWII and Red Dead Redemption 2 are already confirmed to host PS4 exclusive content.
That isn’t all either.
Batman: Arkham Knight, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Resident Evil 7, Street Fighter V, and basically every Ubisoft game sans The Division all sport timed exclusive content for the PS4. Despite gamers hating the practice to the point of the company that’s often criticized for being the sole offender, Sony seems awfully insistent on doubling down on buying up exclusivity as often as it can, and people seem fine with it.
Sony’s Legacy Of Arrogance
There were hints of Sony’s arrogance popping up again at E3 in 2013, with their super classy jab at Microsoft taking front stage. The same Sony that came out swinging with the PS3 by saying it was worth the exorbitant price. The same Sony that didn’t disclose that their customer’s sensitive information might’ve been leaked until their customers had been left in the dark for over a week regarding the matter.
Like many companies, Sony appears to operate under the assumption that their customer’s goodwill is something that needs to be spent once it’s gathered. Their line of thinking appears to be that if people flock to your platform, you don’t need to keep trying anymore.
For instance, when they announced that PlayStation VR would use the antiquated PlayStation Move controllers for input, it wasn’t exactly expected that a peripheral originally released in 2010 would still be the same price, six years later. Likewise, as I listed above, Sony has repeatedly demonstrated that they’re willing to cash in on their sterling reputation again and again.
Could The PS4 Avoid Becoming Anathema To Gamers?
Realistically, the prospect that gamers would eventually turn on Sony for their anti-consumer practices is unlikely. The negative view of Microsoft is too heavily ingrained in the gaming community, and Sony holds the keys to the game developers in the east. Sony’s grip is tight enough on the gaming industry that it’s unlikely that the gaming community will grow tired of anything they do, barring them making huge mistakes.
But damn, they sure do make it pretty easy to not want to like them.
What’s your stance on the PlayStation 4? Is it really everything it’s cracked up to be? Sound off!
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