The PS4 beats the Xbox One on many things, but not exclusives. The question is whether that matters
Sony has enjoyed a number of massive successes during the announcement and subsequent battle for mindshare of the PlayStation 4. The system is $100 cheaper, Sony was able to trounce Microsoft in messaging during this year’s E3, and the lack of Kinect-like camera packaged in with the system may actually work in the console's favor.
There is also the fact that multiplatform games seem to be performing better on the PlayStation 4, and that’s going to be a selling point for the ultra hardcore gamer with the giant televisions and accounts on all the gaming blogs. Even if many gamers can’t visually tell the difference, we like bigger numbers. They may not turn the tide of this battle, but they definitely could be a wave.
Here’s the problem: The PlayStation 4 is suffering from a pretty major lack of games at launch.
Before you jump to the comments…
It’s important to break down what I mean by that statement, because the PlayStation 4 definitely has games. Assassin’s Creed 4, the latest Call of Duty, a few free-to-play entries, new versions of old standbys… if you’re picking up a PlayStation 4 and can’t find enough games to murder your wallet you’re not looking very hard. The PlayStation 4 lineup isn’t bad, it simply pales in comparison to its competition.
The delay of Driveclub leaves Sony without a tentpole racing release, and the new Gran Turismo is going to the PlayStation 3. At least at first. The fact that Forza is one of the best racing games on the market doesn’t help, nor does the fact the game leverages so many interesting aspects of the Xbox One’s infrastructure.
It’s not just a matter of prettier games, but also games that bring new ways to play. Microsoft will have a racing game that shows that off, while Sony’s offering was pushed back into the horizon.
Not to mention how much the delay of Watch Dogs hurt the co-branding Sony was doing with Ubisoft, which was a fine advantage. The game is still coming, sure, but Sony’s push for that game at launch was strong, and now it’s gone.
This is Sony’s main weakness going into the system’s launch. The hardware, according to early reports, can push higher resolutions than the Xbox One. The price is lower. The messaging has been stronger. The multiplatform support is strong. The issue is that the exclusive games at launch simply aren’t that exciting, although the latest Killzone looks gorgeous. Still, even a brilliant Killzone isn’t going to help fight Microsoft’s death grip on Call of Duty due to paying for timed exclusivity on the DLC.
I’m personally very excited for Resogun, and the fact it’s free with a PlayStation Plus account is great news, but that sort of shooter isn’t the sort of game that gets people buying hardware, and Sony don’t have a good answer for a new Dead Rising, or Crimson Dragon, or hell, even Ryse. Sony also doesn’t have a weapon with which to fight Killer Instinct, a brand new 2D fighting game in an established franchise.
When it comes to exclusives, Microsoft is bringing the pain at launch.
So what does this mean?
It could mean nothing. As I said above, the PlayStation 4 launch lineup is far from bad, especially when you consider that many multiplatform games will look best on Sony’s new platform, and hyping up your consoles as being the best place to play Assassin’s Creed 4 is far from nothing.
It’s also possible that above average free-to-play shooters such as Blacklight Retribution may find a receptive audience with PlayStation 4 owners who are willing to try every game they can download on launch day.
Hell, Sony is even launching with DC Universe Online; when’s the last time a console came out swinging with an MMO on day one? Racing fans may be happy with Need 4 Speed: Rivals. The good news is that Sony has at least one game that will appeal to most groups of gamers during launch.
The bad news is that Sony just don’t have the exclusives to fight Microsoft, and the first big game that will fix that is inFamous: Second Son, a 2014 title. Sony has a number of established properties here, but nothing that has the blockbuster potential of games like Titanfall.
This is how Microsoft fights back: By focusing on the games you can't play anywhere else and media features that Sony can't match. That is, of course, as long as all those features work at launch. Sony's $100 price advantage can't be overstated, but games sell systems. The race for the holidays is likely to be much closer than many people believe.