The other night, Sony came out with their big PlayStation 5 stream, games were revealed, the console itself was shown off, and still nobody is any the wiser to the price. So, what are my not-so-hot hot takes? Hit the break to find out.
Grand Theft Auto, still making a fortune
The stream opened with Grand Theft Auto V. A game that was first released in the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era. It’s a game which still sells by the bucket load (sitting second in the US charts for May), and the online component itself is all conquering, contributing to the game pulling in $6bn in revenue by 2018.
But as the opening reveal of the PlayStation 5 showcase? That’s not what I was expecting, especially not when you consider the footage was from PlayStation 4 gameplay. While Grand Theft Auto V is undoubtedly a great game, I’m not going to be rushing out to rampage around Los Santos anytime soon. But Sony have certainly pulled a masterstroke with securing exclusivity for the first three months of next-gen gaming of the free to play (with a PS+ subscription) online aspect. Tie that with the promise of $1m of in-game currency each month for those who play GTA Online on the PlayStation 4 between now and the release of the PlayStation 5 version, and it’s going to be a money making few months for Sony and Rockstar.
A lack of clarity
Between the GTA opening and confusion over whether Spider-Man Miles Morales was a new game, or DLC for the 2018 title (hint, it’s an expandalone), things weren’t consistently clear from Sony. While details of titles which are going to be cross-gen, which are PlayStation 5 exclusive, timed exclusive or dual-release with PC are starting to emerge, the whole presentation reminded me of the mumbled announcement around backwards compatibility not so long ago.
Some of this is the nature of doing presentations online without the big e3 conference, while there is also a game of poker being played between Sony and Microsoft when it comes to their new consoles. Perhaps breaking the stream down into a couple of consecutive events over the weekend would have allowed time to cover these points in the detail consumers want? Maybe, but we can only muse as to their communication strategy.
Games, so many games
A never-ending parade of games is all well and good, but looking back, the pacing could have been a lot better. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with a few more developer voice overs during the videos. Ratchet and Clank was done very well, with enough detail to really excite me and get a feeling for how it looks and will work. For others we had far too fleeting a glimpse. For something like Stray, I would have loved to have learnt more about it during the stream. For something like Project Athia though, I can fully understand the limited glimpse we received.
One of the big takeaways I had though was the diversity on offer. It wasn’t a parade of games helmed by white blokes! There were cats as the protagonists, female leads, talking strawberries! It wasn’t just the diversity of protagonists which was welcome, there was a good blend of action, racing, sports and oddball titles on offer.
Despite the variety of games, I was hoping for a statement about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the silence on such a prominent stage showed a lack of leadership from Sony.
The machine itself
We then had the big moment where the machine itself was revealed. It looks big, it looks like a router, but it’s also kind of stylish. I’ve got enough black slabs of electronics that something different is refreshing. Offering a digital only option is an extremely good decision as the world moves ever increasingly online, something Sony’s Jim Ryan is well aware of.
Will the digital only version tempt too many people though? If you have an extensive library of physical PlayStation 4 games, the version with the disk drive might be a better choice. But again, the ambiguity about things like backwards compatibility will give people pause for thought.
I was also intrigued to see the new camera shown off, albeit fleetingly. Is it primarily aimed at streamers, or will it be part of Sony’s plans for PSVR? The silence on the future of PSVR can be forgiven for now, it is after all still a niche market and not the focus of the presentation. I can’t help but feel that a tease for something like Half-Life Alyx would have been something of a mic-drop moment.
Handling big reveals like this, when people are used to the e3 conference (cringe worthy moments and all) can’t be a walk in the park. At the end of the day, Sony didn’t shoot themselves in the foot as they did with the PlayStation 3 launch buildup.
But once the initial excitement had worn off, I’m personally left wondering whether there is enough to make the new machine a day one purchase. I didn’t get one defining “YES” moment, I know my PC will handle the cross-platform titles, and Nintendo is always there with their unique ways. But still, for some strange reason the allure of Gran Turismo 7 is strong.
The price of the PlayStation 5 will be key, but Sony and Microsoft are locked in a staring contest on that front. I can’t see either company messing up too much from here until the new machines are released, so strap in for another few months of smoke and mirrors.