2019 has so far been an interesting year for me and the way I interact with video games as an entertainment medium. I suspect it’s been this way for many. There are just too many releases that are almost too good — and I’ve basically given up on being able to keep up and play everything as it releases just so that I can stay in the now and interact with other gamers online.
So what does that mean for my hobby? Well, long story short – I sold my PlayStation 4.
Second Place Kings
Now, I (eventually) loved the PlayStation 3. It had a rough start with only a few exclusive games. It was as hard to develop for as it was expensive. It sold 1.3 million less machines in America within its first 12 months than Microsoft’s Xbox 360 according to the retail tracking group NPD – and falling into second place in my opinion did nothing but good for them as a first party publisher and console hardware manufacturer.
By the end of the 7th console generation the now-much-slimmer PS3 had potentially one of the greatest libraries of any console ever. Between their fantastic new I.P like Uncharted and Resistance, their ongoing support for niche indie titles and smaller experimental game development, their remasters of legendary PS2-era adventures and a one-emulator-fits-all in-house emulation solution that even included digital re-releases for the greatest hits of the PlayStation 1?! It was a fantastic place and time to be a fan of video games.
Sony and their PlayStation 4 were basically guaranteed a return to the top on the way into the 8th console generation when the Xbox One had an abysmal first showing at E3 2013. Don Mattrick and company showcased a way too bulky DRM-ridden TV-watching machine that required the constant use of a Kinect, with games that looked dated or were just plain no fun to play … I’m looking at you, Ryse: Son of Rome!
First Place Arrogance
Honestly, neither launch line-up appealed to me that much between the PS4 and the Xbox One. But I bought a PS4 after about a year, because I wanted the then-announced Uncharted 4 …and a version of Grand Theft Auto V where the framerate didn’t make me feel seasick.
Over the following six years, I have played a handful of great games on the system, especially standout titles like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Cory Barlog’s God of War … but I had never really felt the same way about the PS4 that I did about the PS3. It’s consistently sort of felt like Sony were just winning — so they just didn’t have to try as hard. There’d be no Fat Princess or Tokyo Jungle here.
There’s also been somewhat of a culture change in management at the company in recent years and it has left me as a player feeling like they don’t “get” what I even like anymore. In 2017, Sony’s head of global sales Jim Ryan said to Time that he “…was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games —and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”
I’d play those, Jim … and respecting your older titles makes me feel like your company cares about its legacy and isn’t always just trying to sell me the newest, shiniest thing. On a similar track, since 2017 the company has been shifting its financial support for indie developers away from traditional games and instead towards creating virtual reality software for the PSVR headset.
It looks like this approach won’t change any time soon because when asked about their upcoming 9th generation PS5, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida described the console as “a niche product aimed at serious players” and a rep for the company told the Wall Street Journal that “Sony still welcomes games from independent studios, but the emphasis is on strengthening relationships with large publishers since resources are limited.”
It’s All About The Game And How You Play It
With those thoughts and recent developments in mind I sold my PlayStation 4 and most of the games I had for it, managing to scrape together enough money for an Xbox One X and a couple of games. I was lured in by “the most powerful console ever” and all of the pro-consumer moves made by Microsoft vice-president of gaming Phil Spencer since he had taken over at Xbox.
Honestly having had quite a similar life to the PlayStation 3, the Xbox One was now looking very different to its awful debut for a lot of reasons.
For starters, there a lot I wanted to play! The majority of the biggest third-party multi-platform releases from Capcom, SEGA and Bandai Namco were still available and although I wasn’t a huge fan of a lot of the first party titles from Microsoft or Sony this generation, it seemed evident to me at this point that Xbox Game Studios wanted to fill the gaps in their AAA schedule with promising indie titles and would continue to pursue a strong relationship with indie developers via the ID@XBOX program.
That was more my speed anyway – and as a big fan of the Nintendo Switch their cross-play efforts only sweetened the deal. I have also been fortunate enough to have owned both previous Xbox consoles alongside their rivals in previous generations and Xbox One backwards compatibility is a simply a thing of beauty, with over 616 Xbox and Xbox 360 titles available at the time of writing.
These games are treated much like the PS1 titles on the PS3, giving you the option to either put the disc in and play free of charge, or download the game from the Microsoft Store. This in turn allows some games that have become high in price due to the collectors market to be available to gamers at a low cost for the first time in years. It’s a celebration of the Xbox legacy and I can only hope the back catalogue available continues to grow with time.
On top of that, the subscription based Xbox Game Pass library of over 100 games, with no investment on singular releases is almost like the return of the demo disc. If you don’t enjoy a game, you haven’t really lost anything other than a little bit of time. Not to mention that Microsoft giving out their blockbuster first party library on the day of release gives the service the potential strength of a Netflix or Prime Video.
Again, What Does That Mean For Your Hobby?
Put simply, I’m playing more games and feeling less pressure about the financial investment I’d have to make to play them. In general, games on the Xbox One X are feeling less disposable and more accessible and long-lived.
If I don’t pick up an indie title straight away on my Nintendo Switch for whatever reason, there’s a good chance I’ll get to give it a go on Xbox Game Pass later – and at this point, I’m probably going to pick up the next generation Xbox “Project Scarlett” at the start of the next console generation, because I have a feeling (at least most) of my console’s game library will be there waiting for me.