“For The Players”: It’s Almost True…

At the end of every PS4 ad, I see that slogan. It’s the only slogan from a console maker I call bull at as well.

 

The PS4 got its early success from appearing “Friendly” compared to the upfront jackassery of the Xbox One reveal. Those anti-consumer practices of the launch were turned around and only really forgotten recently, under waves of good moves that are for the players of games.

Sony used this slogan early on, to show how they weren’t (But also kind of *were*) doing the things Microsoft were doing and talking about openly. At this time, the slogan made perfect sense. Position yourself as pro-consumer, all is good, and it worked. At the time, “For The Players” was very much the case.

 

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Now readers may jump to the defence of the PS4 with “It’s just marketing” but also remember that marketing places an expectation. This is how you sell your product, this is what the buyer expects. The buyer will expect a pro-consumer experience except…nowadays, and always in reality (Though it wasn’t as prevalent back in 2014), this isn’t the case.

Before someone says “Well what about the other slogans for other systems?”, let’s look shall we?

Xbox One X: “The World’s Most Powerful Console”. This is objectively, for right now, true.

Nintendo 3DS: “There’s No Play Like It”. This is also objectively true, as right now there is no other dual screen stereoscopic 3D system.

Nintendo Switch: “Anytime, Anywhere, with Anyone”. Objectively true. You can play the console anytime, anywhere you want, with anyone you want.
Yet every time I see “For The Players”, man, it’s easy to fault it. It’s so simple to just look at what PlayStation is doing and seeing without even having to look twice, how they are right now the most anti-consumer of the three console makers.

So let’s start with backwards compatibility shall we?

 

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So Sony with the PS2, allowed you to play every single PS1 game you owned. Straight away, no strings attached. With the PS3 they had to drop PS2 support entirely not long after launch for cost reasons which I admit is fair play. With PS4, good luck emulating the PS3.

Jump ahead to today, and we have the minimal trickle of PS2 Classics on the PS4. The rate at which these come out is frankly absurd with months between releases. Imagine the Wii U first party release schedule, but for older games. Yeah, it’s bad.

But it doesn’t stop with how fast they come. Even on PS3 some PS2 and PS1 Classics had emulation issues, or vanished from the digital store with no notice and re-appeared two years later (Crash 2 did this in the EU for no reason). The reason they once gave on the official PlayStation Blog was:

The journey from PSone disc to PSone emulation can be a long one – here’s the short version.

We make sure we’ve got a good copy of the original disk (or discs if there are localised versions), then the game is cleared for publish by our legal department.

Why are some games available on the US Store but not available on the EU Stores?

The million dollar question…

This usually comes down to either publishing rights or bugs that occur within the emulated PAL version that did not occur within the NTSC emulated version. There are several PAL titles that don’t play well with the emulator because of a PAL-only copy protection system that was used in several key releases, and sometimes other bugs occur at random.

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Which is bulls***. Explain to me good sirs at Sony, why we here in the UK got the US versions of the Spyro Trilogy, two years after other regions mind you, with permanent slowdown, music playback errors, and frame rate issues? If you get the EU version of the game, why isn’t that the one we got and why is the emulation sub-par for those games?

 

In addition though, on PS4 in addition to the molasses pace at which old games show up, emulations issues are abound. I spent the past night with the PS4 edition of Jak X, emulated in 1080p on the PS4 with Trophy support (Hooray…) and it had frame pacing issues, frame rate issues, and combined with the games already rather loose control….this was a problem. Not unplayable, but certainly below what we expect.

But it doesn’t stop there, oh no. Remember on Wii U you could transfer your Wii stuff to the new console, and any Virtual Console games you brought were given a hefty discount on the Wii U Virtual Console if available? Sure this was clunky, but the system did have a way of making that purchase easier on you (Shame it isn’t also on 3DS mind…). Then we have Xbox One. Pop your disc in, and hey, a BC game is now there downloaded and ready to go free of charge. Or they see you have a 360 game downloaded to your account, and add it to your Xbox One queue immediately, as a free game, because you already owned the original release on your account, or in disk form.

 

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PS4 doesn’t have this. Sure, it makes sense not to, BUT IT COULD HAVE THIS! So hear me out on this one.

When I downloaded the 4 Jak and Daxter games to my PS4, I realised, wait, I already downloaded the remasters on PS3. This is the same account. Am I not getting a discount here? Nope. To further compound things I check my trophy list, I have two separate lists now, one for the PS3 releases, one for the PS4 backwards compatibility releases! I can see this on my PS4! There is no reason this couldn’t be discounted by checking my account, or popping the disc in, as yes the PS4 can read DVDs.

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But to compound this issue even further, because it goes even deeper than that, let’s hold up the PS Vita for a moment. Who remembers cross-buy? Anyone? The notion that you get a PS3/PS4 and Vita copy of a game in a single digital purchase? This is something they have already done, between systems, why hasn’t it been done here?

Again, “For The Players”. Where we see they could do it, and have done it in the past, and clearly have the capability to do it, they won’t. Still your friend yet?

 

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Moving on let’s talk about cross-platform play. Oh boy. So the official stance from developers is that yes, they want cross platform play. Microsoft and Nintendo, will let developers do cross platform play, with no hesitation. Middleware developers like Epic Games have shown that they too want it. Sony doesn’t.

The reason why is simple. If your friend has a PS4 and you want to play a game with him so buy a PS4. It keeps them in the PS4 ecosystem, holding it to ransom basically. From a business standpoint that is sound logic especially as the dominant console. Until you meet someone like me. All of my friends are on Xbox and PC. Am I going to have them go buy a PS4 to play with me, one each, or am I going to get the game and take my multiplayer gaming elsewhere?

The answer is the latter, obviously. It’s an effective strategy until they consider people who want to play with their friends who already have another system. It won’t be logical to both go and buy a PS4, when only one of them needs to go buy an Xbox or Switch or PC. You can argue this won’t be the case for many people, but it also won’t be an insignificant number of people where this is in fact the case.

Again, this is a stupid anti-consumer move. Why would you limit this to force people into (Or away from as the case seems to be) a PS4 purchase when by all accounts the PS4 has enough merit to be a purchase of its own accord just by glancing over at its library? Funnily enough all these cross-play enabled platforms are doing just fine without gating away your friends, because their libraries are compelling. The PS4 most definitely has enough power behind it to not require this dumb move, anyone will tell you that, and given the freedom of choice, many people would pick PS4 anyway, if it interested them. Now they will be turned away, especially if their friends are on other systems.

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But what really gets me is how Sony “Responded” to this at E3 2017. I say “Responded” because well…they gave several answers and didn’t stick with any of them…

Unfortunately it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.

We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base

Everybody has to take their own decisions. We’ll do that. Like I say, we have no philosophical stance against cross-play at all.

That said, to my knowledge, there is no live conversation ongoing at the moment.

Source (Seriously read it all, it is pure gold!)

Props to Eurogamer for this grilling, as it shows their reasoning is…well flimsy, is probably the right word. That’s all I will say on that matter, because again, they are still “For the Players”, right? Right?

 

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Now let’s talk about indies. Hey Jim Ryan, come put your foot in it again. You were all about indie games early on, what happened?

It was just good to talk about in 2013/2014. It is less relevant now.

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Well…that’s nice. I’m actually going to quote Jim Sterling here as well, who asked some indie developers regarding Steam and the other platforms, and what they noted was “Sony isn’t interested“, and this has shown. The indie games are drying up on PS4.

But that’s what is odd. Other indie developers have noted in interviews that the people leading Sony’s indie charge a few years ago have since left.

“Our contacts at Sony are not as reliable as those at Microsoft, to be honest,”…

“I don’t know them as well, they’re less engaged with what’s going on here at IndieCade — I’ve seen the Xbox people all over here all the time. I see, definitely, a difference.”

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The general mood appears to be one of Sony almost withdrawing from indies as a pillar of their business and frankly doing so I think is damaging. These are the niche releases, the quirky creative games and no all of them can’t be good, but many are and they fill a much-needed gap in releases.

This rich, full and varied line up and promoting other developers (Like they promote their wonderful third-party partners in exchange for hot cash) will do nothing but promote game sales on your platform, which you get a cut from. Just look at sales of indie games when promoted by Nintendo, it fills in gaps, gets the games out there, and they sell well. Same for Microsoft.

Put your hat in the ring and push some more games and promote them during the period. Players will thank you, normally with money.

 

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Now let’s look at basic features. External hard drive support? Took 3 years to arrive. Couldn’t tell you why, it just did. The basic feature that is expandable external storage was missing from PS4 for 3 years!

Oh and let’s quickly discuss PSN Names. You can’t change your PSN Username, unlike on every other system and platform imaginable, but I believe I have found the reason.

So in a database there will be a value, just a random string of digits, like a friend code on a Nintendo system. This value will never change. This is your account in the database.

Attached to this value are all the variables, things you can change, like your address, real name, card details, purchase history, settings, so on so forth. All those are changeable and tied to that unchangeable value. That is how the accounts on other systems are set up. Your username, your display name, is just another variable, as it should be.

On PSN, the thing all your variables are tied to is your account name. That username you are stuck with is the string of digits you can’t change in the database. That username is what holds all your data for your account in Sony’s servers. Brilliant foresight I have to sarcastically say, and though they claim they are working on it, we know that if this is the case the PSN will have to be completely rebuilt, as it’s still stuck in 2006.

 

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To conclude, let’s talk about John Kodera. This is the man behind the PSN, PSVue, PSNow, all the services and streaming things tied to the PlayStation brand. He is now head of the branch, rather suddenly, and likely this is to leverage a service based, subscription based future for the PS4 and successor devices.

He is also very interested in micro-transactions too. Lucky us right?

With words recently from Kazuhiko Takeda (Head of Corporate Planning) at an investors meeting, I do worry about this approach lining up a little too well with their future strategy…

Our business model involves selling both the game console and the software for it, so we’re working to get more customers paying continuously for content, for example through paid subscription services.

Source

As Sony has said, their future for PlayStation is constant payment from you, the consumer. Tie that idea in with Kodera and his admitted enjoyment on micro-transactions, and his big focus on subscriptions and streaming things to you, as well as PS+, and it gets a bit…of a mess.

Oh and speaking of PS+ I didn’t even mention the service outage problems or the fact that they gleefully advertise that some DLC is on PS4 30 days before any other system! “For the Players!”.

Oh, and apparently what you see below happens on PS Now as well…

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Seriously though, sarcasm aside, I think Sony has a lot of work to do. Their slogan was true early on with PS4 but now it holds no water, and as a tagline that is meant to sell you on something, and promise an experience accurate to those words, it falls flat in every way, outside of a good library of games.

But to their consumers, to us watching from the outside, it’s daunting. A lie on every box as it were. It has some merit, but dig just a little and you see a company that is very much against the players.

It has to change, otherwise they will find themselves where Microsoft was in 2013.

 

 

And that is our Christmas article for the year! A very long one I know but I had a lot to say and a lot of words to say it with. As always share this with your friends, leave comments here or on social media, tell me I’m wrong in every way and I will see you next time. Until then, Happy Gaming!

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