2016 was a crazy year for the world but, with all the mayhem in the real world gamer’s were lucky enough to get many amazing games. So just how was 2016 for the gamers?
With all the promises, broke and fulfilled, by the gaming industry the best way to look back is to examine just what were the success and shortcomings of each major console in the gaming industry itself. Over the next few days, I will take a look into the past year of the gaming industry console by console and determine just what 2016 meant for each of them.
On day two we are tackling Sony and the PlayStation franchise.
Successes: Uncharted 4, PlayStation VR, Ratchet and Clank, PSX, Future Plans
Shortcomings: PS4 Pro, 1st Party Delays, Present Plans
2016 was a bit of an oddity for the PlayStation brand. While it was neither great nor terrible, PlayStation seemed to be stuck in taking one step forward but two steps back all year-long. We are going to focus on PlayStation rather than Sony as we did with Xbox and Microsoft because, in the case of these consoles, the two are mostly mutually exclusive unlike Nintendo. With that clarified, let’s start at the beginning.
It’s January 2016, you are PlayStation. You are number 1. Even in Xbox’s wildest dreams they still come in second place to you. Everyone still remembers what you did to Xbox at E3 2013 and from console sales to third party partnerships nobody can touch you.
Fast forward to June, E3 2016. PlayStation is riding high off of the release and success of both Uncharted 4 and Ratchet and Clank, Xbox’s E3 press conference reveals get leaked, and there is no way the Xbox One S will sell with the Scorpio coming the next year. Playstation has the PSVR, the have the PS4 Pro, it’s going to be a great E3, and it is. PSVR gets plenty of enticing content, your E3 show is trailer reel after trailer reel of God of War, Insomniac’s Spiderman, Dayz Gone, the return of Crash Bandicoot, Death Stranding, a live orchestra showing your strength and bravado, and more, no mention of the PS4 Pro but PlayStation saves that for later. What an E3, fans and media outlets alike declare PlayStation the winner of E3.
Remember this point, because after June is where PlayStation takes a turn, one for the better and one for the worse.
Nearly all those games PlayStation showed on its E3 presentation get delayed out of 2016 or never had hope of being a 2016 game. The next big console exclusive for PS4? No Man’s Sky in August. The game PlayStation poured so much of its marketing behind and showed off at two separate E3’s and it bombs. Days after its release players feel lied to, Sean Murray and Hello Games disappear from the forefront, and PlayStation is left with a failed console exclusive.
Normally this is a disappointment but a company can rebound with another exclusive title or third-party titles. PlayStation has all the third-party titles in the world but its next big console exclusive The Last Guardian, doesn’t drop until December, and to middling reviews.
PlayStation holds a meeting in New York for the reveal of the PS4 Pro and the meeting feels slow and awkward. The PS4 Pro is a layer caked version of the original PS4, which is now replaced by the slim version, and it seems to be considerably weaker than first expected. The 4K footage from Dayz Gone and Horizon Zero Dawn look good for the audience in attendance but, look no different to the thousands watching at home on a majority of non-4K devices. The meeting doesn’t really do much for PlayStation, and the biggest oddity of all is little to no mention of the PSVR. This meeting happens September 7th, and the PSVR is out October 13th but little mention is made by PlayStation at all even after the PSVR’s release.
The PS4 Pro releases November 10th, but at this point, the Xbox has outsold the PS4 for its fourth month in a row. A few games get Pro upgrades but, all the games that would really show off the power of the Pro are delayed out of 2016. The year ends on a flat note for PlayStation after most of its first party games being delayed, the Xbox One S and its exclusives taking off, and a small step forward of the Pro when everyone expected it to surpass the Xbox One S drastically not be mostly similar in power.
You look at all the facts and PlayStation had a terrible year. But wait, those are just the negatives, let us now focus on everything PlayStation did right in 2016.
First, although the console exclusives were extremely limited a few of the ones that did come out were fantastic. Ratchet and Clank’s return to form on PlayStation was a dream come true. The game’s graphics, its gameplay, its humor, it reminded every single gamer why this series is the dominant force it is and it is back baby. Uncharted 4, the end of Nathan Drake’s saga is phenomenal. It comes out to 9/10’s from nearly every major gaming outlet in the world. It is a serious contender for game of the year, and it does a wonderful job closing up the series.
While the PS4 Pro doesn’t take off as much as it was expected to, the PSVR is sold out of stock in 2016. PlayStation fills the month of December with fantastic PSVR titles with the most affordable VR unit and although it is a niche market, it is a grand hit with its adopters.
PlayStation holds another PSX that gives its fans another reason to love the company. They are the only console to hold this type of event in 2016 and they reveal the return of fan favorite series such as Last of Us, Marvel vs. Capcom, more Crash Bandicot footage, Parappa the Rapper, you name it PSX delivers it for its fans, it even mentions and shows the PSVita, keeping its handheld alive for just a bit longer.
This takes us to the most controversial success and shortcoming of PlayStation’s year, its plans. PlayStation decided that for another year they would focus on the future rather than the present. Their E3 and PSX showcase show what is to come in 2017, 2018, and even 2020 (looking at you Kojima). But it left itself vulnerable for a lackluster 2016. Yes PlayStation can do this because it has such strong third-party support but, we saw this year that having that focus on the future gives its rivals a chance to make up ground. Xbox had a really strong year in 2016 and will look to only bolster its strength with more 1st party exclusives and Project Scorpio in 2017 but, what about PlayStation?
The question really for PlayStation isn’t about whether they had a successful 2016 because, yes they did. They are still the number 1 selling console, they grew the brand to include VR successfully, and still maintain nearly all of their dominant third party support.
The question becomes, is PlayStation looking too far ahead? Sure it is crucial to focus on the future in gaming but in 2016 that future took over for PlayStation, leaving its fans and its shelves feeling a bit empty. That’s the thing for big leads in any competition, the leader will be tempted to grow complacent, and that is when the tortoise passes the hare. As they say, rising tides raise all ships, so the renewed competition of the console wars may end up being the best thing to happen to PlayStation and its fans, only time will tell. But, if 2017 ends with another year of the majority of its exclusives being pushed to 2018 and Xbox has another strong year, it might be time for PlayStation to reevaluate its game plan.