With E3 just a month away, the Big 3 are all gearing up for demos of their new products. They might know what’s going on, but the rest of us gamers are stuck in the dark for now, having pretty much nothing to do but sit at our computers hoping for leaks and pondering what kind of greatness/horrors could be in store for the next generation of consoles. Each company’s got a list of demands from consumers about how to make their new system better than the last generation, and I’m going to go ahead and follow suit this week by making my own list. This week’s system-of-choice for Next-Gen Necessities: the Playstation 4/Orbis.
Sony’s got an interesting history with console releases. They’ve been a dominant competitor in the home console market since the original Sony Playstation, and their habit of making slim re-releases has been rather popular as well (PSOne/slim PS2/slim PS3). Their attempts to move into the portable market have been lukewarm-at-best, with a middling performance from the PSP, a hideous failure from the PSPGo, and yet-to-amaze showing from their newest handheld, the Playstation Vita. The Playstation 3 has been a mixed-success system as well, showing some fantastic exclusive title releases, but suffering from some severe shortfalls compared to its main competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox 360. So how can Sony stay in the game and fight for supremacy in the next generation? Here are a few things they can do to keep fighting the good fight:
Make the Price Reasonable From Launch
The PS3’s launch price tag of $499/599 definitely kept it from performing at its launch, especially when compared to the $300 Xbox 360 and $250 Nintendo Wii. The PS3’s Blu-ray player helped to justify the price, but considering that Blu-ray movies hadn’t truly picked up speed yet, all the expensive price did was help to keep PS3s on store shelves instead of in households.
Blu-ray technology is cheaper and mass-produced now, which should keep the price of new technology lower. Considering the amount of competition that Microsoft’s likely going to offer in the next generation with its hardware, Sony’s going to need every advantage they can get to keep a quality market share.
Keep the Current Online Pricing Model
Each company’s going to need to have a vibrant online community to bring players to its side. Multiplayer gaming is larger than ever, and it’s not going to go away any time soon. When deciding whether or not to shell out a few hundred bucks on a new console, the cost of getting that console online is definitely going to factor into consumers’ minds. Playstation owners currently love the fact that they don’t have to pay any money for multiplayer service like Xbox owners; adopting a pay model will definitely turn gamers off.
Sony currently has a great “free-to-play” style model set up, allowing gamers to get online and compete with their friends for free, while allowing access to premium content and cheaper online purchases with its Playstation Plus membership. Considering there will likely be a focus on digital content in the future generation, allowing players to download games at a cheaper price with an optional membership allows everyone to have a good time online while potentially saving gamers money in the long-run if they purchase online games. Still, even though their pricing model is great, they’re still going to have to do some work if they plan to really fight Xbox LIVE…
Tune-Up the Online Experience
Physical limitations to the PS3’s hardware prevented it from living up to Xbox LIVE’s internet service: specifically, RAM. As a gamer on both consoles, I definitely feel a lack of community when I play on my PS3 simply because of the lack of LIVE-style Party Chat. Not being able to talk to my friends who I know are online simply because I want to play White Knight Chronicles and she’s more interested in playing Dead Island is pretty inconvenient, and it’s one of the main reasons I do most of my gaming on my 360. Let’s also not forget that hacking experience that left PSN gamers offline for over two weeks…
Obviously Sony’s tightened its security on its network, and hopefully they’ll keep a watch out new potential problems on incoming technology. Sony’s already started to move in the right direction with the online tweaks they’ve made for the Playstation Vita. It includes a form of party chat, and makes it easy to exchange information and see other players’ game performance on many titles. Considering the cross-play potential that many PS3 and Vita games have, it’d be great to see the PS4/Orbis integrate the Vita’s network into its online system, allowing console gamers to chat and play select titles with Vita owners. This would give Sony an expanded user base and an exclusive perk that Microsoft couldn’t replicate without a quality handheld gaming console. Whether or not Nintendo would be able to use its upcoming Nintendo Network to unite 3DS and Wii U users I’m not sure, but Sony has time to design and craft its console for efficient online play, something Nintendo may not have.
I throw a question mark on this one because even though I think it may be a good idea, it has the potential to be disastrous. The feel of a controller is a pretty vital part of how gamers connect with their gameplay, and Sony devotees have likely gravitated towards the layout they’ve been using since the original Sony DualShock controller. Still, it’s been over 10 years that the DualShock layout and form have been used, and many complain about the lack of ergonomics involved in the controller’s layout. Changing up the shape to allow for greater comfort while keeping the spirit of the original controller alive would show Sony’s commitment to progress in the next generation.
Widening the controller slightly would allow for larger hands to feel more comfortable with the controller. Gamers who’ve played since the PS1 have grown up, and they would likely appreciate a larger layout. In addition, throwing a sync button on the controller that would connect it with a new console without using a USB cable would be great; the other consoles do that already and it feels like a much more efficient process.
These are just a few of the changes that Sony could make to improve their new system. I’m sure we’ll know more after E3 about what this new system will have to offer, but I’m sure Sony will keep quiet about new hidden weapons… What other tactics could Sony try to fight the Microsoft’s “Durango” and the Wii U? Leave them in the comments!