The casualties of the last console war have been totaled, and the winner is clear: with over 7 million units sold, the PlayStation 4 reigns supreme. With a combination of killer games, user streaming, and a surprisingly customer-friendly premium service in PlayStation Plus, the PS4 is in the best condition among the big three going into the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. Next Monday kicks the huge three-day event off, and at 6 p.m. PST, Sony will take the stage to announce what it has in store for the coming years. Release dates, announcements on upcoming projects, hardware developments - it's all up for grabs. Really, the only thing we can be sure is that Sony won't announce a new console.
Anything Sony presents needs to make buyers feel secure in their purchases of $400 game boxes. And it seems that Sony, in this past year, has been the leader in making sure that gamers receive the maximum value for their money. Playstation Plus spans the three internet-enabled PlayStation incarnations (PS3, Vita, and PS4), providing steep discounts on downloadable games, even giving new members free games across every single platform, whether they own it or not. Also, Sony has made sure that social gaming is somewhere near the forefront of the PS4's launch, with the introduction of PlayStation Now and the introduction of a "Share" button on the system's new controller. Even with all of these advances, it has still kept the multimedia aspect of the system in mind, making sure that it has apps like HBOGO (still in the works as of March 4th, but available on PS3), Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video.
However, while Sony is riding high on the hog, this is no time for the company to lie dormant and take a victory lap while the other companies struggle to catch up. E3 is a time of volatility in the gaming world. It's the volcanic chaos that shapes what the landscape will look like from here on out, and it's a fool that kicks his feet up and says "Meh, I got this." Here are a few things that could ensure that Sony knocks it out of the park next week.
10 Just Keep Streaming, Just Keep Streaming...
The PS4 seems to be the only console that has embraced the online streaming revolution pioneered by Twitch.tv and its cohorts. The future of gaming is right now, and it's a bit creepier than we intended thanks to public sharing feeds. But if Sony can continue to support gamers who want to show themselves (and their inevitable stream of blathering curses and super-hatred) off, they'll be golden. The interface itself could use some tweaking, but it's more than anyone else has to offer right now.
9 Keep Attracting Indie Developers
Sony has attracted the most loyal independent developer following of any console on the market today. This is thanks to a transparent and simple process that Sony put in place in order to become a developer and the hardware chutzpah for game creators to do pretty much whatever they want. Keeping these policies unchanged will ensure that more indie devs fly the Sony flag versus Microsoft for the rest of 2014.
8 Do Not Touch PlayStation Plus
Gamers today live in a world full of nickel-and-diming. Microtransactions are the norm in an industry whose fear of piracy and archaic business models have trumped the need to create a satisfying end-user experience. However, Sony has made sure that when its customers pay for a premium service, they get what the hell they paid for. As it stands right now, PSPlus offers a rotating catalogue of free games and a huge discount on downloadable titles that compound with their normal sales. They also include online save game storage and exclusive access to new games before they’re released. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
7 Give Their Digital Library Legs
One of the best features the PlayStation Network has to offer is its massive library of games. However, it's only massive when compared to the online libraries of the other two consoles, and not across the 10-year library that Sony has spanned since the first PlayStation. And the best way for them to be played is not being utilized. Their portable system, the PlayStation Vita screams to be given more purpose than just something to accept a stream from its current console iteration – Sony needs to make the PS1 and PS2 libraries fully available to the Vita. Even for a reason as petty as this - while playing old-school games on huge monitors shows every flaw, smaller screens are a bit more forgiving. Sony is missing out on a golden opportunity here, and that opportunity is mobility. Would it kill Sony to actually try to compete with Nintendo on the portable market?
6 Give Us Actual Release Dates
If there's one thing that creates anger among gamers, it's knowing that the latest installment of their favorite game is in the works, and only that. Think I'm wrong? Ask those who have been waiting for The Last Guardian or the ultimate of all unfulfilled dreams, Half-Life 3. Giving us as concrete an outlook as you can is vital when premiering new games, not only because we know when we can buy it, but it's letting us know that as a company, they have their shit together enough to announce their game with the exact time interested parties can grab it. This should be a more common occurrence, but all it takes is one viewing of an E3 conference to see that it’s not.
5 Deliver A New Playable Square Enix Game
If there's one thing Sony's RPG-loving buddy Square Enix loves more than rehashing the past in order to make the present more profitable, it's beautiful pre-rendered cutscenes. Unfortunately, Square has denied that there will even be talk about the most anticipated SE games that we know are in the pipeline, Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III. But with the success of their newest title, Bravely Default, now is the perfect time for Square to go back on their word and keep the hype up for themselves. A playable demo of one of those games that gamers want so badly would do wonders for the company's image and guarantee a boost in PS4 sales.
4 Beat Metal Gear Solid V out of Konami
Earlier this year, Konami released a title called Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes. The internet collectively loved it and then rage quit, citing that the game was brilliant, but far too short. Konami explained on release that the game was intended as what amounts to a demo of a new game engine designed to overhaul the Metal Gear experience. The game's creator, Hideo Kojima, has become almost as big as the game he's created. That is why, to appease the giant awakened and enraged by this tiny and amazing demo, I believe that it's necessary to lock Kojima's team in a room and not let them out until the new title is ready. That's sure to get a quality product, right?
3 Completely Reboot the God of War Series
Sony's Santa Monica Studio worked on the last God of War installment, the only problem was that due to its epic scale, there wasn't much room left in the timeline for them to work around. So they made a prequel. And while it was satisfactory in its own right, the GOW series continues to be a big moneymaker for PlayStation. The only problem is that the various studios responsible for its development never really saw it as such. Much like its main character, the game's creators wanted to beat the hell out of whatever it could rather than tell a cohesive story. As such, after only three games, Kratos has slaughtered the entire pantheon of Greek gods including Zeus and Kronos, father of the gods, without any satisfying resolution. If they want the series to continue and make some semblance of sense, some retconning is necessary.
2 Don't Embarrass Itself
Something that's really easy to do at E3 is embarrass oneself. I referenced Microsoft's most recent bungle, but Sony and Nintendo have both had their moments as well. And right now, Sony is working on a virtual reality headset they call Project Morpheus. It seems to be a direct competitor to the currently-unreleased Oculus Rift, which was just bought by Facebook for all the money in the world. They've had bad peripherals just as recently as last generation with the PlayStation Move, a badly-conceived Wii controller, and if they can hit the nail on the head here, it's bound to be a great mover of systems, especially if they can get some good games that work with it.
1 Continue to be the Gamer's Game System
There are some, shall we call them, preconceived notions about the three heads of game companies right now. Nintendo makes games for kids and the kids inside us all, but ultimately, gamers can't respect a company that can't grow up and basically gives us the equivalent of a drunken magician at a kid's party every time it wants to showcase a new generation of consoles: same tricks, new execution. In Nintendo's defense, though, they never ruined my seventh birthday and they present games with significantly less vomit and much better Italian accents.
Microsoft gets exclusives on games that feature killing everything, and really, really want you to believe that theirs is a console you can replace your cable provider with. Also, they have a way of experimentation with new peripherals that basically amounts to them ramming a Kinect down your throat for these past two generations. Really subtle stuff. Speaking of subtle, Microsoft also has a great history of consumer-sensitive CEOs.
Last generation, Kaz and the boys had the highest-priced console around, and they had a slightly snobbish air about them when the PS3 was announced, like most companies that put their price point too high feign to get you to believe their hype. This time around, the PS4 is a full $100 less than the Xbox One, and somehow offers better horsepower than Microsoft. It remains the most gamer-friendly platform, with the biggest library of downloadable titles and a promise of backward compatibility in PlayStation Now. The strongest action Sony can take right now is to keep on keepin' on. After all, if it ain't broken, don't fix it.