When the generation changed over there was no immediate reason to believe that any sort of major changes in console hierarchy would take place outside of Nintendo’s impossible mission to win with another gimmick. Everyone expected the go-to console would wind up being the Xbox One, especially in the United States where Microsoft performs best.
Game companies thought so too. One of the major gambles comes from EA who established a duumvirate with Microsoft to keep Respawn’s first game Titanfall exclusive to Xbox One. Insomniac, previously known for its Playstation exclusive software took some bait to join with the projected console war winner and agreed to have Sunset Overdrive published by Microsoft so it would never leave their ecosystem.
Activision also plans to keep up their Call of Duty timed exclusivity DLC deal with Microsoft, but they aren’t alone. Battlefield developers DICE along with their friends at EA opted to drop their exclusive content deals with Sony in order to pursue the same deal with Microsoft. It seemed like a safe bet, but now what is a company to do when their projections of popularity turned out dead wrong?
The PS4 got an initial boost of hype when all of the developers that Sony consulted during the creation of the system said lots of nice things about it. The rest of its major popularity was accomplished when Microsoft rolled out numerous policies that lit the gaming public on fire and then released a console that was $100 more expensive Sony’s lead was solidified. Things are still up in the air here in America where Microsoft is usually king, but you can bet publishers are beginning to recalculate their future plans.
Just recently Ubisoft released some numbers that are telling and for the most part reflect what is happening all over the industry. They are selling twice as many units on PS4 as they are on Xbox One. So what kind of changes does this signify?
Folks are already talking about Titanfall 2 and how it may come to PS4. There’s a chance that whatever deal was struck for Call of Duty and Battlefield DLC will no longer be profitable when compared to an extra month of hyped sales on the PS4. If that is the case it doesn’t necessarily mean publishers like Activision will switch teams with their timed exclusivity, but it may instead help to put an end to the practice of timed exclusivity. Gamers have experienced this practice for a generation and for the most part they seem to dislike it.
The last generation was also marked by Microsoft’s willingness to pay for exclusives, something that Sony refused to do. The money was no doubt quite appealing, and Xbox 360 had all the momentum, so those deals made perfect monetary sense. That may no longer be the case with PS4 dominating. Even a large amount of up front money may not be enough to purchase a third party exclusive any more now that developers and publishers would have to forgo all PS4 sales. Publishers will probably be less likely to agree to such arrangements given the current console landscape. That is why we now know that it was quite foolish to not develop Titanfall for PS4, but that takes some Monday morning quarterbacking.
Microsoft missed out on a some sales of Xbox 360 because its major titles were available on PC. It wasn’t exactly a problem for them, but things are changing a bit. More and more people have a rig that is at least capable of playing modern games. Gamers who normally own two or more consoles during a generation will be quicker to realize that a pairing of PS4 and PC will give them everything they need without having to shell out for another expensive console.
While Xbox Live ruled the school as the best service before, now there are few functional differences between Live and PSN. This has helped make the PS4 and even PS3 the best place to get those popular free to play games and also to experience the newest MMOs at their best. Destiny is no exclusive but you can tell Activision and Bungie have realized that now is a good time to cozy up to Sony. This multiplatform cross generational game is now expected to be a major hit and console seller for PS4, something unheard of in the PS3 era. You might be able to expect more of these bromances where online experiences are concerned.
Sony fans, once they have owned the consoles and had the consumer experience, tend to be lifetime converts. The same can’t really be said for Microsoft fans. They have a bad track record with hardware reliability, customer service, and overall satisfaction. Before you try to accuse me of bias just remember that definitely caused a mass exodus from Xbox 360 to PS4, something an idea of how widespread this is. Sony’s numbers concerning customers who did not own a PS3 give us that weren’t the case then there wouldn’t be so many converts from Xbox 360 to PS4. Once the real exclusive first party stuff starts to show up like Bloodborne, Quantic Dream’s new title, Guerrilla Games new IP, Uncharted 4, The Last Guardian, The Order: 1886, LittleBigPlanet 3 there is a solid chance that Sony will make some new lifetime fans less likely to discard platform loyalty down the line.
The list of things that are going to change due to PS4 dominance does on and on. It has already changed the indie scene immensely, digital streaming games is on track to become a real viable option with PS Now, and PSN is doing much more for the future of all digital gaming than even Microsoft had hoped to with Sony’s Steam-like sales and day one preloaded pre-orders. Contracts are up in the air, exclusives are being rethought, new sales expectations will tell publishers what is happening, and the industry will slowly but surely turn back to Sony as they did in the PS1 and PS2 eras.
The bottom line is once you have a front runner like the Xbox 360 was for most of the last generation it always pays to do what’s best for whichever audience commands more sales. That simply fact could reshape the whole console gaming experience once again. Where everyone in game development was trying to appeal to the young, twitchy nature of the Xbox fanbase before, they may now start to make more slow, serious, and thoughtful games. This could even lead to the return of dead genres that were murdered by action like Survival/Horror, the turn based JRPG, and imaginative platformers.
Things will likely change quickly. In two years when the cross-gen games finally peter out and all of PS4’s specs are best accessed there could be a renaissance that nobody expected.