Sony is in an amazing position this generation. Their PlayStation 4 console is dominating the gaming market in a way we haven’t seen since the PS2 era. Not only that, but the PlayStation name is becoming the new industry standard. Remember back in the 1980s and 1990s when all video game systems were “Nintendos” to our parents? Increasingly, the PlayStation name is becoming synonymous with video games in this regard.
Sony was able to reach these stratospheric heights by championing the gamer. At the start of this generation, the PS4 stood for everything that was right in gaming. It was the white knight of the console world, the polar opposite of the sinister Xbox One. It was the more powerful console, yet it was also cheaper. Sony’s gamer-friendly policies were in direct response to always-online DRM malarkey being spewed by Don Mattrick. Furthermore, Sony has released a barrage of excellent exclusive games this generation, starting with Bloodborne in 2015.
There’s a dark side to this story, though. As Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Sadly, it seems as though Sony is beginning to abuse their power. Their stranglehold on the gaming industry has caused the PlayStation division to lose sight of what got them back to the top of the mountain.
I’m not saying that the PS4 is a bad system. On the contrary; it has a slick, snappy UI and is home to the overall best and most diverse library of games this generation. It needs to be said, however, that Shuhei Yoshida and company need to step down a bit from their high horse.
This all started in 2014 when Sony emphatically said “no” to Electronic Arts’ excellent EA Access program. The weak excuse given was that it “wasn’t a good value” for PS4 gamers. Every consumer is different. Therefore, only the consumer can determine what services are or are not a good value for them. Taking this decision out of gamers’ hands marked the first of Sony’s anti-consumer decisions this generation.
Then there was the issue of mod support, specifically for Bethesda games. While Microsoft allowed the full use of mods on Xbox One, it took months for Sony to get on board because Sony would not “approve user mods the way they should work.” When they finally did, the selection of mods was more limited than what was on Xbox One because of this asinine doctrine.
Sony’s stance on allowing cross-platform online support in games is also extremely questionable. Jim Ryan, head of global sales and marketing at PlayStation and chronic foot-in-mouth disease sufferer, gave a rather poor excuse regarding the safety of its users earlier this year. Meanwhile, Minecraft players on all platforms will soon be able to enjoy cross-platform gameplay in the near future. Except, that is, on PS4.
In each of the above scenarios, Sony took the decision-making ability away from the consumer. Companies like Apple are routinely chastised for such practices, while Sony seemingly gets a free pass. It should be up to the gamer who paid for the system and product to decide whether services like EA Access are useful to them. The gamer should decide whether they want to play Minecraft with somebody else playing on a Nintendo Switch. Sony making those decisions for gamers is unquestionably anti-consumer.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop there.
Last summer, Sony inexplicably increased the price of their PlayStation Network online service to $60 annually, the same price as Xbox Live. The network did not see any meaningful improvements as a result of the price increase. PS4 users still cannot change their PSN ID. Basically, Sony took more money from gamers’ wallets, just because they could.
Lastly, Sony’s stance on game exclusivity is disturbing. As if timed exclusive practices aren’t bad enough, Sony seems to relish in keeping games and content from other platforms. This is evident in Xbox gamers not getting games like Nier Automata or missing content in big games like Destiny. Even more insidious is the rumor that games with Sony marketing rights may actually be scaled back on the far more powerful Xbox One X to ensure parity.
All of these signs point to a Sony that is far less altruistic than they were in 2013. We’ve seen this type of thing happen in previous generations. It happened from PS2 to PS3 and from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. After one console became the market leader, the successful company made questionable decisions and suffered.
I, for one, do not want Sony to suffer the same fate that Microsoft did early this generation, or to have a repeat of what happened with the PS3. I also don’t want other companies emulating Sony’s dastardly ways. While all companies are anti-consumer to a degree, Sony’s anti-consumerism seems to be far more egregious in recent years. It’s a sad state of affairs, and the only people to lose out are gamers.