Warning: long one ahead.
Sony to me seems to be riding the coattails of the mistakes MS made earlier in the Xbox One campaign that was before the era of Phil Spencer. Don Mattrick basically did the development and marketing of the console very few favors early on and set up the Xbox One as this villain of the video game world. Shady DRM practices, always online, owning discs provided no ownership of your titles, no game trade ins, the REQUIRED Kinect accessory, no backwards compatibility, and a convoluted rights transfer system. These things took away rights console owners always had before with their games, and that wasn’t going to sit well with gamers.
So Sony pulls this act where they play off of his mistakes and tell people all the things they want to hear like campaign promises. It’s basically stuff they already had, it was just Sony promising they weren’t going to lose it, not like “IF YOU BOUGHT THE DREADED XBOX ONE!” And ever since then Sony has rode those early mistakes and has counted on the support of their fans to blindly propel them, and it’s sort of worked, given the climate and mood of the industry to customer support up into last year.
Phil Spencer changed the atmosphere when he took up head of the gaming division and gave customers everything they wanted and prioritized all the good things about gaming, while still having vision enough of his own. I think the upgrade-able hardware platform is an ambitious idea to say the least, though a risky venture, but only time will tell on that one, given how MS decides to present and market that in a way that doesn’t overburden the consumer with needless money spending and makes these upgrades easy access, affordable, and informs the consumer about it.
His contributions to the XBox brand have been invaluable to forward progression of the console. As a result of his efforts to listen to the fans, we have so many new features and updates to behold on the console front, backwards compatibility being the crown jewel of his xbox one portfolio so far, and he still continues to roll out more ambitious ideas all the time. Diminishing the gap between console and PC games and refusing to further buy into the idea of console and timed exclusives is a powerful marketing move. There is still a lot of apprehensiveness about the situation given the past trust issues the company has with its customer base, but for the most part, the promises made in the “rebuilding period” Xbox has undergone seem to be setting a new precedent of trust.
For the most part, Sony wants you to think it’s successful, but the truth is, there are about one or two overseas markets it has that the Xbox doesn’t and never will. Japan will never embrace the Xbox, unless it undergoes a region-specific remodel that includes a new look and name, but is still the same hardware, and promises a little more support for Japanese game developers and not just American ones. This is the largest difference in sales figures and is the only real reason Sony produces an “illusion” of market dominance.
This combined with the fact they are still resting on the mistakes of the Don Mattrick era of the Xbox brand, they sit comfortably with no new vision as to the forward movement of their console, sitting stagnant and embracing no major change to their gameplan or doing anything ambitious with their lead in sales. They still sit without a true backwards compatibility function, just a streaming service, that no matter how good it is, it’s still just a rental on a server, and without internet connection, you can’t play the game. There’s no sense of ownership on the game, you’re just borrowing it from a digital service which someday may be discontinued and you will never be able to play that game again without the original physical medium, and the original console it was made for.
The games for the PS4, at least in my opinion, seem underwhelming to me too. With Kingdom Hearts 3 being a confirmed multi-console experience, and rumors of FF7 possibly being multi-console as well, it’s a little as if Sony is losing their grip on what made their console experience different from ours, and in the better aspects of it. They may have some exclusives, but several of their titles are also available for PC cross-platform as well, something most of the fanboys from that side don’t mention very much. Several of their exclusive titles are also under-performing as well, with The Order 1886 being a very short lived game, that while it may be fun, hardly feels like it warrants the $60 price tag it launched for, and Bloodborne looks and feels a lot like the same Dark Souls games that have been multi-console for ages, same concept with a different coat of paint.
They are now even guilty of some bad practices MS has now abandoned, such as the timed exclusives. While MS still has Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sony is embracing the “first on PS4” experience which a lot of people expressed distaste when Xbox did it, and still express the same distaste for it on the PS4. Black Ops 3 on the PS4 has new content first, and there are a few timed exclusive titles launching on the PS4 coming later to Xbox, as well as game content.
“Winning” is a very perspective term at this point, and one side or the other can claim dominance all they want. It doesn’t change the landscape to the educated consumer, who’s only real concern is the games and how they can play them. Following games and not consoles is a much better practice for the industry and the customer, and it feels like Xbox is doing a lot more to embrace this philosophy while adding simple convenience and evolving the experience, without hampering the enjoyment of the gaming experience itself. Meanwhile, Sony is content to ride out the success they’ve enjoyed so far because of a few mistakes, to which Xbox is quickly making up and turning around, all while riding mistakes of their own they’ve made.
I mean really, how low can you get? “Hello, everyone, we all know you’ve been waiting 10 forevers for Shenmue 3, and we would like to announce, NOT that it’s in development, but that we’re hosting a kickstarter that if successful, makes you pay for the game twice, but in a more expensive way, and helps cover our costs should it not be very successful. We didn’t have enough faith in you to buy this on your own merit, so we are going to launch a campaign where if you can prove you love it enough, only then will we develop it!”
So I see a very different progression of both companies as well as the PC generation. All sides have good to merit to them, and they all have their problems. I just want to know, when can I get game X and play it on Y? For me right now, that is when is season 3 and “shut up and take my money.”