It has certainly been an interesting week for Sony. The reveals of two new consoles, the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro, have been met with mixed reactions. I have no doubt that both of these consoles will be successful. Unfortunately, this week’s news was overshadowed by an announcement that was less than favorable for Sony. If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, a recent post from Bethesda Softworks confirmed that the PS4 versions of Fallout 4 and Skyrim: Special Edition will not receive mod support. At best, Sony’s refusal to give their players a choice in the matter simply blocks millions of gamers on PS4 from enjoying a fairly popular feature. At worst, this latest development marks the latest in a string of decisions that could ultimately limit the potential of modern gaming.
User generated mods have long been a staple of PC gaming and are slowly surfacing on the Xbox One. This feature allows players to change the game in significant ways. Examples include changing the appearance of weapons to look like real world guns, simplifying the process of building structures, improving the menu system or inserting new characters into the game. Some mods are a bit bizarre – one will allow you to pit NPCs against each other in arena combat. The point is that mods can let users customize their game experience to their own liking. It is a great choice to have. This feature went live on Xbox One back in May and the PS4 was supposed to get it in June but Sony has resisted allowing players to brose and install mods.
Back in 2013 the Xbox One was criticized – and rightly so – for the perceived lack of choice that Microsoft’s original vision of the console offered consumers. In contrast, the PlayStation 4 was positioned as the system that let players retain the power to make a choice for themselves.
Three years have passed and things didn’t quite work out that way. Would you like to subscribe to EA Access and try out new games early as well as play all of those titles in the Vault? You won’t be able to on PS4 because Sony decided that you can’t. Would you like the option to expand your console’s hard drive space to 32 terabytes? No, Sony made that decision for you too.
Hell, would you like the option to turn that light on your DualShock 4 controller off? Sorry, Sony decided that you can’t.
Trust me, I am well aware that some of these issues are not that big of a deal. I am also aware that Microsoft is guilty of the hard drive issue in reverse – they currently do not allow users to replace internal hard drives. However, all of the aforementioned issues show a pattern of Sony taking the power of choice away from gamers. The delicious irony lies in the fact that Sony began this generation by positioning themselves as “for the players”.
For the players… unless they want to make their own choice.
Console warriors may find the situation to be amusing but they shouldn’t. Sony’s control freak mindset is already having an impact on the state of gaming. Consider the case of Rocket League. The developers of Rocket League are very interested in enabling cross network play between Xbox One and PS4 gamers. This should be a no-brainer. It is good for the developers and it is good for gamers when we have a large community for a game instead of three fractured ones. Cross-platform play could lead to even more features such as friends list, party chat and clubs that are not confined to a single system. With the rise of cloud platforms we may even see a future when you can buy a game and play it on different consoles similar to how Disney Movies Anywhere allows us to watch our purchased films on competing platforms today.
Unfortunately, we can’t have that yet even though the developers of Rocket League and Microsoft themselves are ready to make it happen. Once again, Sony is the one holding back progress. (I know somebody will counter this argument by pointing out that Microsoft resisted cross-platform play last generation and that was a valid criticism… back then. Today’s Microsoft is a different organization with different leadership.)
Perhaps you as a PS4 player do not want EA Access or game mods or cross-platform play. That is perfectly fine but then I have two questions for you. How many decisions do you want Sony to make on your behalf? What happens if Sony decides you can’t have a feature that you DO want?
Looking at this modern world of interconnectivity it seems logical to me that one day we will have cross-platform features, openly available mods on all major consoles and perhaps benefits we can’t foresee just yet. It seems silly that Sony is dragging its feet in this area.
If Sony wishes to join the rest of the gaming industry as it marches to the future then the first step will be to allow its players to make more choices for themselves.