Last week, at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, the world learnt a bit more about the forthcoming launch of the highly anticipated Sony Playstation 4, with an expected launch date in the UK to coincide just before Christmas. Debuting at a much cheaper entry point compared to when the Playstation 3 was launched in November 2006, and Microsoft's new Xbox One console, it's launch was generally well received.
Forward one week, and Sony are yet again making headlines, this time for all the wrong reasons. We have almost become accustomed to these stories as we learned that their had been a problem with a recent Playstation update that led many of their 70million customers to lose functionality and cause problems. This revelation of a Sony update going wrong is not new.
As a Playstaion 2 owner and aficionado , I remember looking at the PS3 when it was launched back in November 2006, followed by a European and UK launch in Spring 2007 and I struggled on 2 counts. One the price of the console, and two the price of the games. At first I put off this purchase as there were not really many games that seemed to appeal , and those that did really required an additional investment on a hdmi screen to appreciate the enriched media experience that the playstation 3 offered. This was alot of money to spend on something purely for entertainment purposes. Probably I could buy a nice second hand car or put down a deposit on a flat for a similar outlay!
Infact, it was not until the launch of games such as Rock Star Games GTA IV and Media Molecule's Little Big Planet in 2008, that the Playstation 3 world really began to become interesting as we began to see the potential of this new games platform. After completing GTA IV and seeing the huge list of credits and obviously effort that had gone into making a title like this, perhaps it was worth spending £40+ on playing a title like this after all. That said, a quick look around many of the exchange shops where I live and lonline on ebay, does demonstrate that most titles lose their value quite quickly after a game is released. It is not uncommon for a title to lose at least half its value a matter of days or weeks after it is first released and traded in.
Furthermore, there is the option to download and purchase a game. Yes this is a great way to access content, especially if you live in some remote area where there is little or no access to game shops, but what happens to the game once you have finished with it. Can you sell this on or even circulate this around with your friends as you might with an actual purchased game. When you consider the prices for these titles are not cheap, it does seem rather wasteful that after you finish playing with this game or title it is simply deleted or lost in your filesystem somewhere. It just feeld that this is a policy that has not been properly thought out.
Another consideration was just how easy or difficult it was for developers to develop for the Playstation, Looking at the playstation, to date their are far fewer titles available than for its predecessor the Playstation 2. In fact their are some interesting figures comparing the PS2 - PS3. A couple worth mentioning here is that not only has the PS3 failed to ship as many units as the PS2, but there are less that half as many titles available for this platform for which they have sold a third as many.
There is talk that Sony has taken steps to attract some of the small games developers to the PS4, However, I suspect that Sony can still learn alot from Apple's approach to attracting developers, that has seen it transform its fortunes to a niche computer platform, to one that is awash with with small development startups and as well as established players like Adobe and Microsoft.
As you scratch beneath the surface there are plenty of other problems that affect the PS3. I for one have reverted back to my PS2 at home, simply because I do not want to pay the exoribitant fees of the game titles, plus my PS3 is extremely noisy with the fan at full throttle, and it is now experiencing problems with starting up and gives me a garbled screen (probably caused by a defective GPU unit) which makes doing anything on my playstation 3 more or less impossible. A quick serach on google reveals a plethora of angry users who are sometimes on their second third on forth console as they have had so many problems with each edition of the PS3 console. As I was mainly playing PS2 games on my PS3, and reading about th countless problems others were having with their PS3, I simply decided to go out and buy a slimline PS2 instead that I am very happy with.
Also, I have found that many new games, place too much emphasis on nice graphics and fully immersive rich media experience, and often overlook the main reason people play games, i..e fun, relaxation and good gameplay. Surely a game should be judged not on how many gigabytes the download is, but on how engaging the actual game is.
Also of note, in recent years we have seen the closure of a number of gaming companies and developers who helped to make the Playstation a great success, but who did not seem to be able to weather the storm of the PS3 problems. This is a great loss for Sony in the medium to long term.
I believe the success of the Playstaion 4 cannot reliably build on the success of the PS3 as the PS3 could from the PS2. The success of the Playstation 4 needs to be built from scratch. So the real question is, have Sony learnt from the many problems that surrounded the PS3? Time will tell, but I have my doubts.