After Microsoft’s drip-feeding of reveals over the last few months, gamers have been eagerly anticipating Sony’s next move. Questions began to bubble away about potential hardware issues behind-the-scenes. Some gamers grew impatient. But on Thursday, Playstation fans were rewarded. Sony’s Playstation 5 reveal event – clocking in at just over an hour – whizzed through 26 games; from new IPs by industry giants like Square Enix’s Project Athia, sequels to established franchises like Resident Evil 8, and some outright weird oddities like Stray and Bugsnax that I can’t wait to see more of.
Throughout, Sony focused on the games. There was minimal chat from developers, and even actual in-game footage. Breathless stuff. More importantly, some of that footage highlighted the power of the next-gen – with their SSDs and big bumps in processing power. Ratchet and Clank, in particular, showcased the near-instant loading times, jumping between worlds with a new portal mechanic that looks set to take centre-stage in the new game. Strikingly, there was also great variety to the titles on offer. There were platformers, ARPGs, horror games, adventures, driving… Nearly every major genre was covered.
This highly-polished show closed with the reveal of the Playstation 5 console. The design has split opinions, with memes abound over the new machine. Some see it as the futuristic, architectural machine of their dreams, others are seeing it as no different than a cheap ISP modem. I feel like console design nearly always causes a bit of initial shock before everyone adjusts to it. Personally, I hated the Series X’s fridge-like design when it was revealed, but now it barely registers with me as different.
Leading the pack
You can’t help but draw a contrast between this, and last month’s Xbox 20/20 event. As covered last month, Xbox’s event was much-hyped for gameplay reveals, and fell flat when little actual play was shown. By contrast, Sony offered very few hints as to what to expect. In the end, Sony offered variety and quality, something that Microsoft’s event lacked. Both companies are operating very different marketing strategies and it’s been fascinating to see the impact they’re having. Against a backdrop where physical conferences have been cancelled (most notably E3 – which Sony was due to skip anyway), how games’ companies do marketing now could have real long-term impact. After all – if Sony’s hour-long stream creates as much hype as an E3 keynote, why would they do E3?
The companies equally seem to be on different paths as content providers, too. Microsoft appear to be doubling-down on getting more people onto their services and ecosystem such as Game Pass. Being able to build your library today, and upgrade when you’re ready seems to be their strategy. Sony, on the other hand, continues to tread the more “traditional” path of releasing high-quality games to make you upgrade. They’re still pushing hard on PS4 too, with the massively-anticipated The Last Of Us 2 and Ghosts of Tsushima still to come.
All of this sets up an exciting few months ahead as we approach the next generation of consoles (Covid-willing). Will Team Xbox be able to shoot back in July and regain some lost momentum with some killer games? Will Playstation offer these upcoming titles on PS4 as well, or leave players behind? And the all-important question – how much will these new consoles cost?