The PlayStation 4 discovered success in simplicity

The PlayStation 4 found success in simplicity

Sony’s PlayStation 4 had the right foil within the Xbox One. In 2013, Microsoft got here out with a confused, entertainment-centric pitch: The new Xbox can be the all-in-one leisure hub of your lounge, delivering dwell tv, apps, NFL soccer, and video video games to early console adopters. In each field, Microsoft packed a Kinect movement controller, the gadget that introduced the Xbox to Ellen and Oprah. Steven Spielberg was going to make a Halo TV collection for Microsoft, which … perhaps you may watch in your new Xbox?

The PlayStation 4, alternatively, would play video video games. And, within the early days of the brand new technology, the PS4 would play video games higher and extra cheaply than Microsoft’s new system.

Sony had its share of lofty ambitions with the PS4, too. Then-PlayStation president Andrew House touted cloud gaming — as did Microsoft, which promised to dump computing work to its Azure service — and second-screen experiences. But these different guarantees have been targeted squarely on the video game-loving base that had grown up with PlayStation. The PlayStation 4’s vastly improved new DualShock gamepad — “inarguably the best controller Sony’s ever made,” we stated on the time — even had a “share” button that may let gamers leap into the streaming future with ease. Sony additionally touted on-demand demos and play-as-you-download digital video games, concepts that also sound futuristic (and by no means fairly succeeded on PS4).

Unlike with the Xbox One, there was no confusion: The PS4 was a gaming machine first, and it was one that may right the sins of the PlayStation 3, Sony’s cumbersome, tough-to-develop-for, five-hundred-and-ninety-nine-U.S.-dollars-priced console. The lofty ambitions of the complicated Cell processor that powered the PS3 can be succeeded by extra developer-friendly computing structure.

With veteran recreation developer Mark Cerny on the helm, Sony had put collectively the easy however highly effective PS4, which may play video video games higher than some other console. You may play used video games on it, no drawback — a function that, within the minds of some confused customers, was not attainable on Xbox One. And at $399, the PS4 price 100 bucks lower than the brand new Xbox.

Sony capitalized on the confusion and nervousness in regards to the Xbox One’s digital-rights-managed future at E3 2013, in what was broadly seen as a killing blow to Microsoft’s next-generation plans. The PlayStation maker had the benefit of showing its next-gen philosophy (and price) after Microsoft had its flip at E3. And the message was clear. Here’s how then-president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America Jack Tretton received over the PlayStation-enthusiast crowd:

“In addition to creating an amazing library of new titles on PlayStation 4,” Tretton stated, “we’re equally focused on what gamers want most, without imposing restrictions or devaluing their PS4 purchases. For instance, PS4 won’t impose any new restrictions on the use of PS4 game discs.”

Tretton paused for 23 seconds of applause.

“Guess that’s a good thing,” he ad-libbed.

a close-up of Jack Tretton, a middle-aged man in a light blue dress shirt and dark gray jacket, speaking at Sony’s E3 2013 PlayStation press conference

Jack Tretton, then the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, addresses the group at Sony’s E3 2013 press briefing.
Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP through Getty Images

“We believe in the model that people embrace today with PlayStation 3 and continue to demand,” he continued. “When a gamer buys a PS4 disc, they have the rights to use that copy of the game — they can trade in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend, or keep it forever.”

Another 25 seconds of applause adopted.

“In addition, PlayStation 4 disc-based games don’t need to be connected online to play.”

Twelve extra seconds of applause.

“If you enjoy playing single-player games offline, PS4 won’t require you to check in online periodically,” he concluded. “And it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours.”

Twisting the knife yet another time, however with a heat and pleasant smile, PlayStation president Andrew House ended Sony’s E3 2013 presentation with the proclamation that “true consumer ownership and consumer trust are essential to everything we do,” in a remaining dig on the seemingly already doomed Xbox One.

Perhaps the clearest a part of Sony’s message on the time was this: a 14-second “instructional” video on how to share PS4 games. That video, launched within the wake of botched DRM messaging from Microsoft and starring amiable PlayStation execs Adam Boyes and Shuhei Yoshida, has been seen greater than 17 million occasions on YouTube. Reaction from customers was clear too: Give us one thing new, however don’t change an excessive amount of.

The video games

At launch, the PlayStation 4 arrived with video games like Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack from Sony, and cross-generational video games equivalent to Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Battlefield 4. There was no large system-seller like Super Mario 64 at launch that really represented a generational leap ahead, however there was selection. And there have been freebies: Housemarque’s addictive arcade shoot-’em-up Resogun was obtainable to PlayStation Plus subscribers, and there was the free-to-play shooter Warframe.

The PS4 was additionally a welcome residence to indies, with quirky titles like Divekick and Hotline Miami. Games like Outlast, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Galak-Z, Transistor, and Don’t Starve acquired E3 2013 keynote stage time, standing shoulder to shoulder with new AAA video games like Killzone, Final Fantasy, Infamous, and Watch Dogs.

Over the subsequent seven years, Sony and its inside studios delivered new entries in venerable PlayStation franchises: Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted, Infamous, Gran Turismo, and a rebooted, dad-ified God of War. But Sony additionally gave its studios causes to stretch with new concepts: Killzone maker Guerrilla pivoted with Horizon Zero Dawn; Media Molecule spent almost all the PS4 lifespan creating Dreams, a bolder realization of its game-making online game ambitions; Evolution Studios competed towards Sony’s personal flagship racing model with the lifelike racing recreation DriveClub; and Insomniac Games, since bought by Sony, delivered the products on Marvel’s Spider-Man.

The PlayStation maker additionally struck shrewd offers to convey FromSoftware’s model of brutal motion to PS4 with Bloodborne (one other mea culpa of kinds from the PS3 period, when Sony all however ignored Demon’s Souls), in addition to a brand new console-exclusive Street Fighter from Capcom, and, borrowing from Microsoft’s playbook, timed exclusives for Destiny and Call of Duty. It was a mixture of secure bets paired with the occasional threat, and quite a lot of big-budget single-player video games.

Kratos attacks a giant in artwork from God of War

Image: Sony Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony’s mixture of blockbuster first-party exclusives and sensible — if not all the time consumer-friendly — third-party offers catapulted the PS4 forward of the Xbox One over time. The PS4 turned the default place to play on console because of must-have exclusives and video games that ran simply barely higher than on Xbox.

The PlayStation 4 traded in fewer gimmicks than earlier consoles. There was nothing fairly just like the trend-following PlayStation Move controller or the actually weird Wonderbook for PlayStation 3. Sony invested in digital actuality with the PlayStation VR headset, a easy, console customer-friendly different to costlier PC headsets. While digital actuality was typically seen as a fad, or not less than burgeoning expertise nonetheless a number of years from mass attraction, PlayStation VR felt like an actual funding for Sony.

The recreation maker continues to put money into VR, with the not too long ago launched Iron Man VR and upcoming help for video games like Minecraft and Hitman 3. There’s the promise of future compatibility with PS5, however nonetheless nothing to distract from Sony’s core video games message — simply extra help for the 5 million-plus PlayStation VR adopters.

The cloud and PlayStation Now

When Sony unveiled the PS4 in 2013, David Perry, founding father of the cloud-streaming platform Gaikai, promised the way forward for recreation streaming on Sony’s new console. It didn’t fairly prove as deliberate. Sony’s resolution, PlayStation Now, by no means matched as much as its preliminary promise to supply three generations of PlayStation console gaming streamed from the cloud.

PlayStation Now in the end discovered an viewers of greater than 2.2 million subscribers, however cloud gaming by no means gave the impression to be a significant focus for Sony this technology, whereas others — specifically, Microsoft, Google, and reportedly Amazon — constructed the inspiration for his or her future.

That could change within the subsequent technology, nevertheless. Sony and Microsoft struck a deal in 2019 to make the most of Azure cloud computing to energy PlayStation Now, which may sign renewed curiosity in cloud gaming for PS5.

The PS4’s legacy

For PlayStation 5, Sony appears to repeat the success of the PS4. The firm is delivering one other gaming-centered machine, once more architected by Cerny. The PS5 is a extra highly effective and bolder next-gen console that, based mostly on Sony’s method to unveiling the next-gen PlayStation and its severe-looking industrial design, dispenses with any sense of humility from the PS4 period.

With greater than 110 million PS4s offered, outselling the unique PlayStation and the PlayStation 3, Sony’s current-generation console will probably be a troublesome act to observe. That could also be why Sony is following an identical path for PS5, touting the machine’s developer friendliness and souped-up PC-style structure as promoting factors.

Polygon PS4 5 on a blue background

James Bareham/Polygon

PS4 Pro console on a blue background

Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

Sony has stated it “believes in generations,” that means that graduating to a brand new console ought to include advantages. The video games you play on a next-gen PlayStation shouldn’t be attainable on the earlier one. Sony has embraced backward compatibility in a means it didn’t with the PS4, though it has but to explicitly decide to the variety of PS4 video games that will probably be playable on PS5.

During the PlayStation 4 period, Sony was unafraid to shake issues up, not less than when it got here to who ran the PlayStation enterprise. The technology noticed the departures of high-level, front-facing PlayStation figures like Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton; his alternative, Shawn Layden; Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment; and Sony CEO Kaz Hirai. PlayStation’s veteran European govt Jim Ryan ascended to president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Ryan, together with his trademark no-nonsense fashion of chatting with the press, says the transition from PS4 to PS5 will occur “at a scale and pace that we’ve never delivered on before.” That was earlier than the worldwide coronavirus pandemic each slowed and fueled the online game business, resulting in delayed video games and a lift in PS5 manufacturing to fulfill demand. It’s one other signal of Sony’s confidence going into the subsequent technology, and a far much less humbled PlayStation group constructing on a method that succeeded in 2013.

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