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The PS4′s Biggest Obstacle Is The PS3: The Next-Gen Dilemma

by on March 4, 2013
 

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The PS4′s Biggest Obstacle Is The PS3: The Next Gen Dilemma

Whenever you’re making any kind of presentation, you want to leave on a high note. You want to go out with a bang. You want to leave a lasting impression, save the best for last, and so on. Perhaps, this is the reason why Nintendo’s big Wii U focused E3 2012 presentation was such a bust. We were waiting in rapt attention for Nintendo to show that one killer piece of software that would convince us that we needed the Wii U. When Nintendo ended their conference with a virtual fireworks display in Nintendo Land, you could almost feel the deflation in the room. When Sony finished their PS4 unveiling conference I was left with that same anticlimactic feeling.

Sony’s Playstation meeting featured a wide variety of presenters who talked about tear gas and superpowers, showed off an insanely detailed old man face, trotted out demos we’d seen before, showed of Sony’s Wii Music, and tried their hardest to make jokes. There were highs (Killzone 4, Gaikai) and there were lows (Square Enix), but I was held at attention waiting for the inevitable final bombshell that would drop. Sony chose Activision to be their final presenter. The world’s largest game publisher proudly announced that one of their biggest PC franchises, Diablo 3, and the newest jewel in their crown, Destiny, would both be headed to PS4………….. and PS3. And therein lies the Playstation 4′s problem.

Launching In A Post Exclusive World

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The Wii U has been limping along since a relatively good launch. People don’t seem very interested in Nintendo’s new console, and analysts are trying to give answers as to why. Are people simply not interested in a tablet controller? Are the graphics of the Wii U not enough to excite gamers? Have gamers moved on to iPhones and Farmville? I have a simpler answer to the Wii U dilemma; there aren’t any games.

Let’s take a look at the Wii U’s launch lineup. We have New Super Mario Bros U, an HD version of a tried and true formula that has sold quite a few copies, Nintendo Land, a minigame collection that didn’t quite have the appeal of Wii Sports, and Zombi U, a decent idea that was rushed. Aside from those highlights there was little else in the way of exclusive content. Nintendo’s karaoke game was a bit of a bust, and the rest of the Wii U’s launch exclusives fell into the realm of shovelware. Nintendo was pinning their launch hopes on ports of games like Assassin’s Creed 3 and Black Ops 2 to sell their new console. The obvious flaw in this plan was that people already had machines that were perfectly capable of playing these games, and even if you didn’t have a PS3 or an X-Box 360, you could buy one for less than the price of a Wii U.

So, the Wii U has had a less than stellar launch, and things should continue at this languid pace until the Wii U has some exclusive content. Imagine however, if things were different. What if Just Dance 4 was not available on the Wii, but was a Wii U exclusive? What if Skylanders Giants was only available on the Wii U? What if Assassin’s Creed III was a Wii U only game? What if the unthinkable happened and Black Ops II only hit the Wii U? How would this have changed Nintendo’s situation? Back to the point, how does the Wii U’s struggle relate to the PS4?

The PS3 Anchor

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Now back to the PS4 conference. Sony’s last announcement, their knockout punch, was that Bungie, a company who was instrumental in building the X-Box brand, would be bringing their work to the PS4. This was certainly a reason for Sony fans, at least Sony fans that like FPS games, to rejoice. Having Destiny on the PS4 would be a huge reason for X-Box fans to switch their allegiances. The problem is that Destiny will also be headed to the X-Box 360. Destiny will also come to the PS3 and will presumably come to Microsoft’s next console as well. You don’t need a PS4 to play destiny.

Out of the concrete projects that emerged from yesterday’s conference, only a few were exclusive to the PS4. Knack, Infamous: Second Son, Drive Club, and Killzone: Shadow Fall, all of which are produced by Sony, will be available on the PS4 and the PS4 only. The rest of the night’s games were not. Jonathon Blow’s new title, The Witness, is a timed console exclusive, but it will be available from the get go for PC and IOS fans, and will come to other consoles in due time. No platforms were announced for Deep Down. Diablo III has been available on PC for quite a while, and will be playable on the PS3. In an oddly timed announcement, the Wii U version of Watch Dogs was formally announced the same day as its PS4 counterpart, and Ubisoft’s anticipated title will be available on the X-Box 360 and PS3 as well.

It’s easy to understand why third parties will be reluctant to make PS4 exclusives, or even next-gen exclusives. Creating a new game can often be a 100 million dollar affair and without the large install base that the PS3 and X-Box 360 presents, such projects don’t make sense. If you’re expecting a wide variety of exclusive content that pushes Sony’s new hardware to its limits, you’ve got another thing coming.

The Would People Buy A PS4?

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Unless something unexpected happens, the biggest games for the early months on the PS4 (and Microsoft’s unannounced system) will be the usual suspects. We’ll get out yearly dose of Call of Duty, and we’ll have Battlefield 4 trying to win over fans. According to recent rumors, Assassin’s Creed 4 will be headed to current and next gen consoles. It would be far from shocking if GTA V finds its way to next gen platforms. New IPS like Destiny and Watch Dogs will be available not only to early PS4 adopters, but last gen gamers as well.

So, why would I buy a PS4 to play games my PS3 can play? The graphical jump from PS3 games to PS4 does not seem like enough reason to upgrade, at least not at this early stage, and will be especially lacking when dealing with PS3 ports. Will Gaikai’s social feature inspire people to buy a PS4? I think not. Gaikai integration has great potential, but its value won’t easily be seen by the masses.  Sony’s touch screened Dual Shock 4 won’t generate many sales.

This is why many people were disappointed by the PS4 debut. The most exciting games announced were games that would be available on other consoles.  Aside from that, Sony’s first party offerings were hard to be truly psyched for. Aside from Knack, Sony’s games were bigger and shinier versions of familiar experiences. I’d absolutely love to play Infamous: Second Son, but I probably won’t buy a new console for the pleasure.

Does this mean that the PS4 is doomed? Of course not. What it does mean is that we’re in for a slower start to the next generation that we expect. It will be an awkward period while third parties slowly ween themselves off of the X-Box 360 and PS3. Sony is going to need to pull out some truly interesting software to inspire people to upgrade to the PS4 and Knack, Drive Club, Killzone, and Infamous don’t really fit the bill. Hopefully, Sony has a true system seller waiting for an E3 debut.

Those Awkward Early Years 

I’m pretty optimistic for the next generation of gaming. I think Nintendo and Sony both have a chance to do very well (I haven’t seen anything from Microsoft yet). That being said, it’s going to be a rough couple of years until developers and gamers are willing to let the last generation go. We saw this with the DS, and we’re seeing it with the Wii U and Vita right now. Be optimistic, but be patient as well.

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  • March 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    You watched something different than I watched. What I saw made me want a PS4.

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    • Avatar of Justin Weinblatt
      March 4, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      If what you saw made you want a PS4, that’s fine. I’m certainly not trying to say that the PS4 will sell 0 units at launch. There are bound to be some people who will be willing to buy a console day 1 for Sony’s first party stuff, or just because they enjoy having the newest stuff. But, I think Sony needs to jump beyond those somewhat limited audiences to ensure a strong start. As for me, I’ll most likely wind up with a PS4 at some point in the future. It’s not that I didn’t like what I saw, just that I didn’t like it enough to warrant a day one purchase.

      What was it about the PS4 that makes you want to buy one at launch?

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      • March 4, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I’m not sure when I’ll be able to buy a PS4 but I think Sony showed plenty to make anyone want to buy a PS4. Mainly it has 8GB of fast RAM so third party developers are going to support it better. I don’t think Sony had to show that much yet to make anyone want to buy it. There’s still months to go until it’s out. There’s E3 for that. This was just about showing what they have coming. I liked what Media Molecule showed the most but I’m not sure what that was. I just think lots of gamers will buy a PS4. I sure wouldn’t buy a Wii U now after what Sony showed.

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        • Avatar of Justin Weinblatt
          March 4, 2013 at 12:19 PM

          The hardware specs sure are impressive, and it’s good that they went with so much RAM. Those are good things, but hardware will only be as good as the software it can run. While I was impressed with the hardware, the software was a bit less interesting, mainly because so much of it will be available on the PS3. I agree that Media Molecule showed the most interesting stuff, but I can’t really judge that until I have a fuller idea of what it is.

          I think in general, people are overestimating E3. Over the past few years, E3 has had less and less huge megaton announcements. I could be wrong, but I think what you saw (Knack, Killzone, Drive Club, and Infamous) will probably be Sony’s launch titles for the PS4. They could slip a surprise in there, but I don’t see it happening.

          Again, I’m not saying the PS4 will be bad or not worth buying, but I see the launch period being a lot slower than previous launches, which is bad for the industry. The sooner the PS3 and X-Box 360 die out, the more we’ll see developers really pushing the graphics of the PS4 and the 720, and the more unique games we’ll see.

          As for the Wii U, it offers a lot of benefits that the PS4 doesn’t. It’s much more family friendly, and the off TV play will be really cool, and you won’t have to buy anything extra for it. Dual screens offer some possibilities that didn’t exist before. Nintendo definitely has to do a LOT more to sell people on these features, but I think the Wii U will be able to carve out a large market for itself. Based on the limited information we have, the Wii U has the potential to succeed in a lot of markets where the PS4 will not.

          Thanks for reading and commenting!

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          • kIndofblue
            March 4, 2013 at 2:06 PM

            Hey Justin, the problem with you’re argument is that it doesn’t really carry allot of weight considering the time of year. You’re argument isn’t really original because the points you made were brought upon 2 weeks ago.

            The problem with you’re argument is that it ignores the fact that the PS3 announcement is on 2 weeks old, and the conference was a REVEAL. Sony didn’t have to throw a 2 hour conference. Just saying the PS4 was in development , and announcing a few games would have been enough.

            People like you ignore the fact that we are still quite early in 2013 and that the PS4 is set to release late this year, meaning theres plenty of time, and conferences to announce games and for the launch to grow stronger.

            You also say “I think in general, people are overestimating E3. Over the past few years, E3 has had less and less huge megaton announcements.”
            How can you say that seeing as where extremely late into the console generation ? of corse announcements are gonna grow weak, that and previous E3′s weren’t revealing a new console (except Nintendo) I think E3 this year will most likely focus on software and pricing it will answer you’re questions. Have you also forgotten about TGS, GDC etc

            Do you really think Sony is in the position to screw up again ? the fact that their making the PS4 more developer friendly alone means the’r learning from there past mistakes. I think your underestimating Sony as a company there not in the same position they were in 2006.

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  • Avatar of Justin Weinblatt
    March 4, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    @Blue- I believe Sony did have to throw a conference. E3 is in June, and the console is set to launch in November. I think that Sony needs more than five months to build up hype for the system.

    E3 is a very different event that it used to be. Sony has, over the past few year, made few announcements at E3 itself. Games like GOW Ascension, PSAll Stars, and so on have all been announced before E3. Nintendo announces more at its Nintendo Direct conferences than they do at E3. Microsoft uses E3 to have Usher Dance. It seems like all three companies would rather reveal stuff at their own leisure when they don’t have to shout over each other. This could change this year with new hardware being revealed, but I’m just going by the trend over the past few years. My impression is that the games they showed at this conference will be most of the first party launch lineup.

    However, even if Sony is saving up its games for E3, I don’t think that really changes much about what I said. Sony’s franchises are not as big as things like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, GTA, and so on. Sony’s only franchise that reaches that kind of level is Gran Turismo, and that is unlikely for the PS4′s launch with Drive Club on the way. Even if Sony makes a few more announcements, they’ll still be in the same position where the most of the biggest titles of the year (Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, GTA V, possible new Arkham game, Watch Dogs, etc) are releasing for the PS3 as well as the PS4 or in the case of GTA V).

    Regardless of how early we are in the year, I can’t see a whole lot of next gen exclusives coming from third parties. Financially, it just doesn’t make sense unless Sony or Microsoft wants to subsidize or publish it like Nintendo is doing with Bayonetta 2.

    The issue is going to be a bit different than it was in the last generation, because in the last generation we didn’t have these yearly 200 million dollar budgeted mega franchises roaming the earth, and we will see smaller improvements in graphics and online interface. Basically, Sony’s first party software is going to have to do the job of selling the PS4 and I don’t think its up to the task.

    Of course I could wait to make a decision, but that kind of defeats the purpose of writing about games. We’re supposed to give insight about these sorts of things and make predictions and projections. To me, speculation and analyzing is part of the fun of all this. I definitely could be wrong. If and when that happens feel free to stop back in and say “I told you so” :).

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Hope you found the article interesting even if you didn’t agree with it.

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  • mac
    March 5, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    Well me personally the thing thats got me very excited is that the developers seem to be coming back around to the ps4 im hearing lot of rumors but the best one to me is that the gears of war developers are going tos ps4 another thing I noticed is you still have hope for the wii u enough to compare its launch with the ps4 I own a wii u and honestly Nintendo better have thier first party studios working around the clock because its main problem is its not next gen why buy anything for the wii u that you can buy for the other systens even the gamepad is not a big deal with microsoft and sony able to do the samething with the vita or a smart phone to get back to the point you have to realize that the reason everyone buys a new console at launch is because of better graphics even if the same games come out on ps3 it wont matter because ofcouse sony want to support the ps3 but you have to believe people would rather not buy games on a old console if they plan on getting a new one this system also looks to be getting a lot of games by the end of the holiday season im hearing gta5 new ff and a new lbp

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    • Avatar of Justin Weinblatt
      March 5, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      A few points…

      “its main problem is its not next gen why buy anything for the wii u that you can buy for the other systens even the gamepad”

      The gamepad cannot be replicated on other consoles. For the PS3/4 you’d need to spend 250 dollars on the Vita before you can replicate it, and there are all of 2 games that utilize Vita specific features. Comparing the Vita to the Gamepad is like comparing the Move to the Wiimote. Like the Move, the Vita features are going to go unutilized.

      The argument over what is or isn’t next gen is silly. By your definition, you wouldn’t count the Wii or DS as next gen, but that didn’t stop either from having incredible success.

      “get back to the point you have to realize that the reason everyone buys a new console at launch is because of better graphics even if the same games come out on ps3″

      If that’s the case, why did the Wii have a launch that was several times more successful than the PS3? Why is the Vita struggling? Games are more important than graphics.

      ” it wont matter because ofcouse sony want to support the ps3 but you have to believe people would rather not buy games on a old console if they plan on getting a new one this system also looks to be getting a lot of games by the end of the holiday season im hearing gta5 new ff and a new lbp”

      The key word is IF they plan to buy a new console. Some fans will buy a new console from day one no matter what, but most people will want to wait until the system has must have games. That’s where Sony will have problems.

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