Every single time a console holder becomes the top dog, they also become disdainful of their fans. They lean on their past and current success, then try to maximize profits by utilizing unsustainable business practices, instead of pleasing gamers and third parties. This is why Nintendo had such a terrible reputation for decades. It’s why Sony’s expectation of PS3 dominance got BTFO by XB360 and Wii. It’s why the Wii U failed so miserably. It’s why the XBOX will possibly be Microsoft’s last console. It’s as inevitable as the tides: When a company becomes too successful, it stops playing by the rules of good sense and gets smacked down.
Once more Sony has taken the lead, and once more they’re going down the old dark path, but this time the situation is different, and there’s a real danger of there being no corrective force to put Sony back in line. However, before we continue, we need to take a step back and set the scene.
The second tragedy of King Nintendo.
The Wii U repeated and exacerbated the mistakes of the N64. [Source]
The Nintendo Wii was a genius move, a side step that avoided competition and became one of the most profitable platforms ever. At the same time, the Nintendo DS was lighting the world on fire, as the smartphone had yet to handicap handhelds. Nintendo would go on to brag about their war chests being so deep they could run a $250 million deficit for almost 40 years straight and be fine. Which is a good thing, because the Wii U was a money-consuming-black-hole of a disaster that ate up a large portion of said rainy day fund, and the 3DS failed to be half as popular as its predecessor.
Nintendo, once again the absolute king of the gaming industry in terms of sales, became arrogant. They were convinced that their games alone could support their new system, as they had done for the Wii, and that third party developers would come flocking back to their first HD console to get in on the action. The Wii U didn’t need to use a common architecture, or modernize itself like its competitors, it had the Nintendo name, Nintendo games, and would have Nintendo sales.
Unfortunately for Nintendo, it was the N64 all over again. The company’s archaic practices, and utter disregard for the development environment of the time, pushed third parties to better deals with Sony and Microsoft. At the same time, Nintendo was a generation behind in tech, and had underestimated the difficulty of HD development. This led to the long droughts that arose from their inexperience with new HD development techniques, and lack of third party support to fill the gaps. There were other factors, such as the awful marketing, but these two things are what primarily lead to the Wii U’s pathetic, gasping death, years before it was made official.
Bloody E3: The murder of the Xbox One.
Sony masterfully sells people on features that literally every previous generation of consoles had.
In the lead up to E3 2013, rumors had been circulating about a bit of collusion between Sony and Microsoft in regards to DRM practices. Both companies wanted to implement a strict DRM policy that would hurt gamers’ wallets, but they knew it would be unpopular. As the Wii U was a non-factor, the two relevant console giants would both implement the DRM feature, so fans would just have to accept it as the new standard of the industry, regardless of how they felt. As an ongoing theme of this article, this claim that seemed like a conspiracy theory was proven true after the fact.
Microsoft went on stage, announced the DRM requirements, the bundling of the Kinect with every console, and a $499.99 price tag. All of this happened while Sony was frantically changing their E3 presentation at the last second. Sony backed out of the DRM plans, cut the mandatory bundling of the PlayStation Eye, and dropped the price by $100. Sony had planned to do everything Microsoft had done, but backed out because it was so poorly received, instead using the chance to kick their like-minded opponents while they were down, and it worked.
In one night, Microsoft lost all of the goodwill it had earned from fans over the course of the XB360’s lifespan, while Sony, a company that was eager to implement the very same features, came out looking like a hero, masquerading as a company that fights for the rights of their fans. In spite of a wave of great, consumer friendly practices since then, Microsoft’s Xbox brand has never been able to recover, and the recent reveal of yet another $499.99 system isn’t going to save it.
Sony becomes king, and the mask slips.
The PS4 has sold more than twice as many units as the XB1, and the Wii U has been discontinued. As soon as the PS4’s dominance was established, Sony went down the path of becoming a tyrant. The most immediate, and least egregious, example of this is backwards compatibility.
XB1 revealed backwards compatibility to the excitement of all, even Sony fans. This is because PS4 users thought the move would lead to Sony making a counter move for them. However, Sony continued to downplay it. The King of Consoles claimed that everyone says they want the feature but nobody uses it, in spite of the fact millions of users have played hundreds of backwards compatible games on the XB1. The statement is technically true though: Most console gamers play on PS4, and they don’t use backwards compatibility…because they can’t. Sony has no intention of implementing the feature, barring a legitimate threat arising, because they can make more money without it.
Jim Ryan’s inflammatory “Why would anybody want to play this?” in reference to classic games comes with an underlying implication. Sony would rather sell players the games they already own, with upped resolution and trophies, than allow gamers to play their old games conveniently. Ryan’s comment should be read as “Why would anybody play this [when they could pay us for better looking remasters]?” If gamers really don’t want to play older games, why is Sony still pushing their awful PlayStation Now service? The only function of said service is being an overpriced form of backwards compatibility.
Sony likes the money that remasters and their terrible PlayStation Now service provides, and it would be virtually non-existent if the PS4 had backwards compatibility. Xbox implementing the feature is just hurting Microsoft’s wallet, and though it provides them some goodwill among gamers, Xbox is no longer competitive. Sony has no reason to respond in kind.
It’s smart business in the short term, so should we really hold it against Sony? Under normal circumstances, no. We have to accept that companies exist purely to make money, but there’s always a line that shouldn’t be crossed: When producers begin to actively take something of value from consumers, against their will, in an effort to monopolize their capital.
Sony wants a monopoly.
At its core, capitalism is a struggle where the consumer wants to get as much product/service as possible with as little capital as possible, while producers want to make as much capital as possible while providing as little product/service as possible. It works beautifully as long as there’s a healthy market, because producers have to compete to earn the consumer’s capital. It forces adaptation and evolution.
Unfortunately, it only works as long as there’s a healthy market.
Now that the PS4 has such a commanding lead, Sony doesn’t have to go tit-for-tat with their potential rivals. Instead of improving the value of their console, they’d rather just hold their rivals down. It’s a safer, cheaper alternative to actual competition, and it’s only possible because of that big lead of theirs. This is where Sony crosses the line that makes any company a cancer of its industry.
The recent Monster Hunter World is the perfect example. Allegedly, Sony made a backdoor agreement with Capcom before the Nintendo Switch went on sale. Capcom wanted to expand the Monster Hunter franchise to the West, because the console market in Japan was dying and handhelds weren’t going to survive another generation in the mobile dominated country. The deal was inked with the stipulation that Capcom could not make a version of the game for Nintendo’s upcoming console.
This deal came to light via leaked 4chan rumor, and should be taken with a grain of salt. For now, though, that infamous rumor holds enough water to be legit.
- It called Monster Hunter XX before it was announced.
- It called Monster Hunter 5. Monster Hunter World is now considered the next mainline entry by the developers, which would functionally make it MH5.
- Says Sony wanted Japan, paid for a contract that didn’t care about XB1 or PC releases, but forbid Nintendo Switch. Announced at E3 as a game for PS4, XB1, and PC, but no Nintendo Switch port.
- Claims the game will be open world, missions and timers are gone. E3 notes say the game is seamless, without loading screens between areas. The missions are back however.
- Claims combat is being streamlined, E3 reveals the game has been greatly streamlined.
- Other information is currently unverifiable.
There are subsequent posts, which to my knowledge are not verified as the same poster(?), that go into more detail. These details would count in horse shoes, but could just be guesses. For example, the weapons were indeed streamlined, but none were dropped. However, the claim wasn’t a guarantee of a drop, just that they weren’t planned “for now.” Keep in mind, the original leak came almost eight months before the game was revealed at E3, and well over a year will have passed between the leak and the current release window. Games can change drastically in that time frame, and nobody would want bad publicity in this situation.
There’s a chance it was a troll with some extremely dumb luck, though the chances of that are incredibly low, to a statistical zero. Also, it’s not as if 4chan hasn’t been right before, someone on the board did leak the entire plot of FFXV over six month before it released, so we know some posters there are legitimately made privy to insider information. Until the first rumor post is debunked, I’ll be accepting it as the most probable course of events.
Unfortunately for Capcom, the Nintendo Switch is now on pace to be Japan’s best selling console since the Wii, and will likely surpass the PS2 in their home country once the supply issue is remedied, while the PS4 is a flop in Japan. Now that the deal is already inked, Capcom has to hope an altered, some would say watered down, Monster Hunter World catches on in the West, because it’s going to massively under perform in it’s strongest market, Japan.
Capcom 2007 vs. Capcom 2017. Maybe Capcom should burn? [Source]
That vindictive voice that every scorned gamer feels, chirps in the back of my mind: Capcom deserves to fail. They’ve terribly squandered the goodwill they build up in the fifth and sixth generations of consoles. They have unused IPs that they could have given some TLC, but instead they were busy running their flagship franchises into the dirt. (Umbralla Corps anyone?) Their habit of cash grabs and incomplete games has now resulted in Street Fighter failing. Striking this kind of deal with Sony just ices my desire to see them continue on. At least then someone could acquire the rights to the IPs they haven’t been using.
Does that sound salty? Do I sound like a disgruntled Nintendo fanboy? That’s not the case at all. I love Nintendo, but I’ve been a much larger Sony fan overall. No joke, I almost had a tattoo of the original PS logo on my chest. I’ve owned all of their consoles, and their Judas machine is sitting on the same entertainment center as my Nintendo Switch, loaded with more games than most of you reading this will ever own. I’m not mad as a Nintendo fan, I’m mad as a fan of gaming.
This should disgust everyone. It isn’t Sony trying to improve the value of their product by money-hatting an exclusive, something that’s already a frowned upon, anti-consumer practice, it’s Sony spending money to sabotage console competition so they don’t have to make better deals for consumers like you and me.
Here’s a scary thought: Now that we know Sony has done this once, how many times have they done it total? Japanese game developers that wanted to make console games were limited to the PS4 in terms of viable platforms. Aside from a handful of companies/franchises, Sony could strong arm them into not releasing games on Nintendo Switch. Do you want to release your game on Sony’s worldwide install base of 60 million, or take a chance on the unknown quantity that is the Nintendo Switch? Before Nintendo’s hybrid took off, and considering their past history of dick moves, it would seem like a no brainer to go with Sony.
Now look at all the mid-tier Japanese games that could easily run on the Nintendo Switch, and would inarguably benefit from the wider audience that comes with supporting another console, but inexplicably don’t. We know it’s super easy to port games to the Nintendo Switch, especially if the game runs on Unreal Engine 4, so why are these games not coming to the platform? Dragon Ball FighterZ, Tekken 7, Code Vein, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, Valkyria Revolution, Ace Combat 7, the list goes on and on. None of those games are particularly demanding, save for Tekken 7, and even it could easily be scaled down if they dialed back the garish effects.
The easiest answer is that they’re waiting for more proof the system is a valid platform, unlike the Wii U. Games not on Unreal Engine 4 would take more time to port over too, up to a year. These companies could also have a better working relationship with Sony than the “reformed” Nintendo, even if the Nintendo Switch is going to dwarf the PS4 in their home markets. I really want this to be the case. I want to be the crazy conspiracy theorist that’s looking way too into this, like that weird, angry shirtless guy from the memes. Sadly, Sony’s crappy actions have given legitimacy to such questions and outrage.
Cross-network play is coming, and Sony can’t stand it.
Sony’s biggest advantage isn’t its power advantage over competing consoles, power has never been an important factor in video game sales. In fact, for the last few console generations, the strongest console has under performed, so the PS4 is an anomaly in that it’s the most powerful base system and the most successful. The actual biggest advantage the PS4 has? Momentum in the age of social gaming.
People are more likely to buy a console if their friends have it, because they want to be able to play with their friends. Even the die hard Xbox fans in my circle of friends went to PS4, because the rest of their friends went with the PS4. Social gaming has made early momentum more important than ever, which is why Sony now finds itself practicing online isolationism.
Xbox and PC having cross-network play is no surprise, given Microsoft’s slight attachment to the PC market, but even Nintendo is getting in on cross-network play now. There are already two games that have confirmed cross-network play between XB1, PC, and Nintendo Switch, and all parties involved will push for it on any and all shared games in the future. It’s Sony that’s refusing to play with others, and it’s purely out of desperation to keep this massive advantage: Think of how many millions of sales Sony would have lost if Xbox fans could play with their PS4 owning friends on their Xbox, instead of feeling obligated to get a PS4.
A week ago, if I had told you that Nintendo was embracing cross-network play and Sony was refusing online features because they want to protect the children, you would have laughed at me and said I had confused Sony for Nintendo. Yet here we are during E3 2017, and Sony is stubbornly refusing cross-network play in an attempt to force more consumers into choosing PS4.
As cross-network play expands into several more games, it will reach a point that it begins to impact Sony’s bottom line. At that point, they’ll cave and allow it. They’ll even try to spin it as a positive, instead of the truth: Sony could have implemented this feature at any time, but held back in an attempt to make as much money as possible. It won’t matter though, Sony will eventually lose one of the most powerful tools at their disposal and the playing field will even a bit more.
Nintendo Switch is console gaming’s best hope.
Xbox has been as consumer friendly as possible since that horrible gaff in 2013, and recently played the last card in its hand. I’d love for it to become competitive again, but I can’t see it happening. Microsoft is already laying the groundwork for the prioritization of the PC as their primary platform going forward, as seen by Xbox games coming to Windows 10. Traditional consoles are dying off, and the race to be the strongest, including the asinine PC-lite iterations that undermine the entire purpose of console gaming, is ultimately leading gamers to the PC.
With Xbox seemingly down for the count, the Nintendo Switch is the last opponent that can pressure Sony and force them to become more consumer friendly. Sony knows it too, which is why the company paid to keep Monster Hunter off of the Nintendo Switch, but not the XB1. Sony was so close to having a monopoly, and now Nintendo has tapped into the same magic that brought them the success of the Wii and DS. Except this time it has the additional threat of competing with Sony for third party sales.
Despite what gamers on various forums may think, the average gamer will put serious thought into purchasing a toned-down Nintendo Switch version of any multiplatform game, over a beefed up visual experience on the PS4. That’s how powerful the sheer convenience of the Nintendo Switch is. and Sony knows the importance of convenience. After all, the PlayStation Now service is an attempt to capitalize on the convenience they refuse to provide with backwards compatibility.
The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have to sell more than the PS4 total, it just has to sell at a similar rate to Sony’s platform going forward. As long as it becomes a legitimate competitor, Sony will be forced to participate in competition and be pulled out of its current state. Sony will lose the potential monopoly it’s after.
Nintendo has a lot going in their favor.
Eventually, Nintendo will totally unify all of the company’s developmental assets on one platform, leading to the Nintendo Switch receiving an unprecedented level of first party support.
The only reason the 3DS is still receiving so much support is because the Nintendo Switch is currently sitting at ~5 million units sold, and is facing a shortage of parts needed to manufacture more units. There’s no point in releasing a new Pokemon game on a console that doesn’t have an install base large enough to support it. Core Pokemon entries have all sold 7-30 million each, meaning if Nintendo were to drop a Nintendo Switch exclusive Pokemon title right now, it would have missed out on 2-25 million potential sales.
And no, releasing a Nintendo Switch exclusive Pokemon game would not have helped Nintendo sell more consoles: The damn thing is already selling out, it would have just lead to the most disappointing sales in the franchise’s history.
Another factor in the Nintendo Switch’s favor, is the ease of porting games to the console. Everything about the Nintendo Switch was designed around making it simple for developers to put their games on it, from the ARM processor, to the Vulkan API, and their work with Nvidia and Epic Games to create great development tools. It has worked too: Developers that have worked with the hybrid have universally praised Nintendo for making it easy to work with, especially in comparison to the arcane Wii U. If the game runs on Unreal Engine 4, the premiere middleware game engine, developers can get portions of their games functioning on the system in mere hours (though optimization and such obviously takes more time).
Developers also benefit from the portability of the Nintendo Switch, an exclusive bonus feature inherent to every game that graces the system. That portability is a game changer, it allows busy gamers to find more time to game by stringing together 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there. That doesn’t sound like much, but over the course of a week, that can add up to several hours being reclaimed for gaming. What developer wouldn’t want their games to be with their customers wherever they go?
Then, there’s Microsoft’s aforementioned push to make cross-network play a standard of the gaming industry. It’s an attempt to destroy Sony’s grasp on social gaming, and it’s already started to turn gamers’ opinions of Sony and has led to movements calling for the company to cave. Since the Switch is currently the platform with the smallest user-base, it’s the platform that benefits most from this push. As Psyonix pointed out, there are no downsides from the players, it leads to faster matchmaking and better matchups, thanks to the larger pool of players, and gamers wouldn’t have to choose between the Nintendo Switch’s convenience or playing with their friends on PS4.
Also, Nintendo will dominate the Japanese gaming market, as it’s the only portable option going forward. Sony is trying to offer Japanese developers a window to the West, but at the cost of Japanese sales. Nintendo is now offering an equally legitimate path to the West, while improving Japanese console game sales. It’s only a matter of time until every Japanese third party release comes to Nintendo Switch.
Those reasons are why the Nintendo Switch is the best hope for challenging the PS4.
Sony fans should want their rivals to succeed.
Some of you reading this will be die hard Sony fans, and think that Sony having a monopoly on console gaming won’t be so bad, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Competition will improve Sony’s consoles. If the Nintendo Switch were to fail, and Xbox does bow out in favor of PC, then Sony could leverage any shoddy business practice they want.
Sony wants that terrible DRM Xbox was going to have. Sony wants the PlayStation Eye as a mandatory bundle for their system. Sony wants their system to sell for $499.99. We know this as an absolute fact. The only reason they don’t have it yet, is because they had competition. If that competition doesn’t revive soon, they’ll have all of that with the PlayStation 5.
Besides not getting screwed, competition would also bring tangible benefits to Sony’s customers. For starters, subscription prices would drop, instead of increasing like they have been. Sony would have to provide cross-network play, or their console would lose out on social gaming thanks to the combined install bases of their competitors surpassing their own. Finally, backwards compatibility and a “classics store” would likely become an actual feature again.
As it is right now, Sony is holding the industry back in favor of profits. Consumers are losing out on features they want, because Sony has no reason to provide them. Gamers need someone to administer Sony a pride obliterating bitch slap, ASAP.