This is a blog that has been a long time coming and I want to put into words my somewhat complicated opinion of Sony as a company, but more specifically, my feelings on the Playstation brand as a whole. I do want to preface this with saying that these are my personal feelings. I can't say they are all totally grounded, and frankly, I expect there to be disagreements because: opinions. I don't hate the Playstation systems, in fact there's quite a lot that I do like about them, hence why my feelings/opinions need to be written out, so even if you don't come to the same place I do, you can maybe at least understand where I'm coming from.
I wasn't paying attention to the gaming industry when the original Playstation launched back in 1994, in fact I was 10 years old. All I knew was that it was Sega vs. Nintendo and Atari was done. When I finally did hear of the existence of the Playstation it was well after the N64 had launched, so I would say it had to be at least 1997. I'll admit I had a pre-conceived bias against Sony, simply because they weren't solely gaming company the same way Atari, Nintendo and Sega were. Of course, little did I know about Nintendo's hourly love motels (among other ventures) but that's kid logic for you. Yet, there was some element of truth behind my bias, I think I did have a point in saying that Sony made TV's and VCR's, what could they know about gaming? That was at the time when consoles were more thought of as toys rather than electronic equipment. But that is the path that Sony has led us down.
I've already written about my experience with the N64, and how I came to love that system, and later how the Playstation changed my perception of gaming, so I won't reiterate those stories here. For the record, I feel like the PS1 was an amazing system, and in my humble opinion the best system Sony has ever produced. Despite some missteps, the PS1 is the kind of system I wished Sony was producing today. The PS1 feels like a different system than its successors because it has its own unique charm. The graphics have a certain look to them that are (mostly) all their own, only the Sega Saturn approaches it. The games don't feel censored or dumbed down like Nintendo systems; nor do they seem like they are trying to copy everyone else. Something about that feels lost in subsequent systems.
Not the image of Playstation today
My gripe really starts in the year 2000 with the launch of the PS2. Like many others, I feel into the hype of the PS2. The fact that is was not only a DVD/CD player, played PS1 games, but also the promise that it would be a system that would have amazing games like its predecessor was enough for me to get on board. It was the first and only time I bought a system at launch. I paid off the entire system months in advance just so I could ensure that I would be able to get it day 1, even saving back a cool $50 so I could get a game with it only to soon realize there wasn't a single launch game that was excited about. I ended up with Unreal Tournament (not a bad choice, but Tekken Tag, and SSX were easily better games). Of course, this is in stark contrast to what the Dreamcast was doing at the time. But outside of those games there really wasn't much to really play with my brand new console. In fact, it wasn't till about a year later with Devil May Cry, MGS2 and Baulder's Gate Dark Alliance came out that I finally had something to play.
Notice something about those games? They were all third party games, sure they were exclusive upon release, and kudos to Sony for having a successful platform that would allow for those to be released, but none of those games were't Sony developed or published (except Tekken Tag in Europe). You know what Sony brought to the launch of the PS2? Brace yourselves, it was Fantavision, the rest were third party. I get that Sony doesn't exactly develop games (rather they own studios that develop games) the same way Nintendo does, but still, that's not exactly the best way to show confidence in your platform.
Could I make those same complaints against Microsoft? Sure, and at the end of the day Microsoft doesn't seem all that different from Sony. They have very similar ambitions and ways of going about winning over the "hardcore" gamers. I've made quite a few comments on how much I detest that we have two almost identical companies making almost identical boxes trying to win over almost identical audiences. I'll admit that Sony is more pro consumer than Microsoft, but at the end of the day they really aren't that different from each other.
I give Microsoft the free pass because I tend to like their exclusives more. Maybe that's bias, but I call it preference. Just being as honest as I can, I simply do not care for most of the first party games that Sony publishes. God of War is fun, arguably the best brawler on the market, but it's over in 6 hours with no replay value. Killzone and Resistance always felt generic and in no way held up to Halo or Gears of War. The David Cage games aren't even games in my book, more like interactive novels. Little Big Planet, Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper made me want to play Mario, Kirby and Donkey Kong instead. One could make an augment that they are always investing in new IP's but it's easy to see that most lack staying power. While some Sony games have an undeniable quality such as MLB The Show, Puppeteer, and Journey, I can't say they do all that much in terms of appealing to me personally.
The one big exception to that rule is Naughty Dog. Those are the games on Sony platforms that get me excited. When they release a game I pay attention. I adored Crash Bandicoot, Jax and Daxter, Uncharted and The Last of Us, and am eagerly anticipating Uncharted 4. If Sony had more studios like Naughty Dog, I might not be writing this blog.
My other major gripe is the general lack of personality or innovation from Sony. If you've been gaming for a while you know that consoles have a certain feel to them. It's not something I can put into words, but Sony systems feel like they don't have a feel. They are as a rule well designed systems, the menus are all well laid out, the controllers function well, generally reliable with well thought out features. From a hardware perspective they are at least competent without any major oversights, but they are as cold as ice. Sometimes I feel like they are designed by a machine instead of a person. No personality, no charm whatsoever. I wonder if like people prefer those systems because they have the checkmarks next to the boxes of all the features they need instead of what new ideas are brought to the table or what games are exclusively available on the platform.
Far too often I see Sony copy others so they can say they have that feature too. Sure I can bring up innovations like the analog stick and rumble with the N64 controller, or motion controls with the Wii remote, but it goes beyond that. Sony seems like they want to offer something because that it what the industry is going towards. Why is Sony making the Playstation VR? Because Oculus Rift. Why is Sony making a PS2 emulator? Because the Xbox One introduce Xbox 360 emulation. Sony touted their Playstation camera to compete with Kinect and off screen play with the Vita because of the Wii U gamepad. Of course they ALL copy each other to some degree or another, but it's amazing how often Sony is guilty of it.
Despite what you may think, this is not a fanboy rant. I can and do buy Sony systems. In fact, I've owned a PS1, PS2 and currently own a PSP and two PS3's (needed a Blu Ray player for a second TV, why not a console?). And I picked out a PS4 this year as a Christmas present, I can't play it yet but will be sure to write a blog on impressions when I have the time to do so. I do plan on getting a Vita, but it's been a hard sell for me because of my 3DS backlog.
I wanted the PS4 because despite not having a single "must play" exclusive, there are quite a few games that have piqued my interest. Rocket League, Mercenary Kings, and Drive Club, all look fun to me, and I am anticipating Street Fighter V, Uncharted 4 and (much to my surprise) the Ratchet and Clank reboot (I got to play the game myself and had a blast with it). I was given an opportunity to get a new console and I wanted to have access to all the games coming out. I don't want to give up on the brand because even though the Playstations have never been my favorite systems of the generation, they have never been bad systems by any means.
Maybe I'm being overly harsh on Sony, they did produce by far the best piece of hardware this generation. And despite a weak first party lineup (by their own admission) they have found quite a bit of success with the Playstation 4. So, I'm looking forward to December 25th, if for no other reason then maybe to see what all the buzz is all about. I'll keep you posted.