A reader suggests that the secret to Sony’s success is to do and say as little as possible, in stark contrast to Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from being a video games fan is that there’s never a secret plan. How many times have you settled down to watch an E3 conference or reveal event and assumed that this is the moment the company will suddenly unveil half a dozen amazing games or the secret exclusive that everyone was certain existed but eventually turned out to be nothing but fan invention?
Occasionally, very occasionally, you get events like the Sony E3 with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Shenmue 3, and The Last Guardian but they’re extremely rare and even then – with at least two out of the three games – the disappointment catches up with you eventually.
I am, of course, building up to a discussion about Xbox, who have been putting on a disappointing E3 event every single year of this generation but who many assumed were quietly working away behind the scenes to be much more ready for the next generation than Sony, who would’ve been distracted with the success of the PlayStation 4.
The logic was that there are so few Xbox One exclusives because Microsoft had written off any chance of success this generation and was concentrating on ensuring they had everything ready for the next one. That made sense, it seemed a good plan, and there seemed to be circumstantial evidence to support it. But now, of course, we know that’s not what was going on at all.
All this year Microsoft has acted as if someone else announced the Xbox Series X and that they were genuinely surprised to find it was coming out so soon, as they scramble to try and support it. They only bought their new developers in the last couple of the years, so they have nothing ready for it and after the disaster that was Halo: The Master Chief Collection 343 Industries has proven that they are completely unreliable when it comes to getting anything working on time.
Of course, the coronavirus has been a factor, but it’s been a factor for everyone and you haven’t seen Sony running around like a headless chicken. Instead, Sony has followed the best advice your mother can ever give you: ‘If you haven’t got anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all’.
Or, as Mark Twain put it, ‘Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt’.
Sony clearly has very little ready for the PlayStation 4 and, before the coronavirus, was probably hoping for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and/or Horizon Forbidden West to be their lead launch titles. When they realised that wasn’t going to happen they went with Spider-Man: Miles Morales which, being an eight hour long spin-off was a much more manageable project, especially if, as rumoured, it comes with a remaster of the first game.
With Microsoft it’s genuinely hard to know whether they believe their own rhetoric about how next gen exclusives are anti-consumer (given they very clearly aren’t) or if that’s just the best excuse they could come up with for the fact that they have the world’s most powerful console but no way to prove it.
Xbox Series X has become the equivalent of the old thought experiment about whether a tree falling in a forest makes any noise if nobody is around to hear it. In theory the Xbox Series X is more powerful, but if Microsoft can’t show any game – not even a demo of a game – to prove it can it really be said to be true? Potentially it’s the most powerful console but you can’t play a list of stats or, as we now find out, Halo Infinite.
How Microsoft has managed to turn up to the next gen battlefield without even a tech demo, something equivalent to the PlayStation 1 T-rex demo, is baffling to the point of being purposefully self-destructive. As if someone at Xbox corporate HQ is secretly working for the competition.
They showed off those few second of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 in December and that’s still the most impressive footage we’ve seen so far from the Xbox Series X. Which is madness considering Microsoft recently regained their crown as the richest company in the world and must have a marketing team the size of a small country.
Comparatively speaking, Sony is a much smaller company and yet they’re not only winning the next gen war they seem comfortably aloof from it, happy to let Microsoft make mistake after mistake even though they themselves have shown very little of interest either.
That is, of course, what they did this generation – how quickly we all forget that the first two years of the PlayStation 4 were utterly devoid of any interesting exclusives – so you can’t blame them for using the same game plan again this time.
The problem is Microsoft is also acting the same as they did last time, with conflicting information, sudden U-turns, and, most importantly, no exciting games to look forward to.
And so I’ll end with another little truism, one that many video games companies should know by heart but never seem to embrace: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it’.
By reader Ebirah
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