Editorial

PS Now’s Success Could Spell Bad News for Fans Wishful of a Backwards Compatible PlayStation 5

Last week, market research giant Superdata published analytics on Q3 earnings for each publisher, with Sony’s subscription service standing out among the competition. DualShocker’s Steven Santana initially reported on these findings stating that Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming service “constitutes 52% of all subscription-based revenue” amongst EA Access and Xbox Game Pass.

For many individuals, myself included, PlayStation Now services never came across as being more appealing than its competition, leading many to believe that Game Pass provided the better subscription experience. Microsoft’s decision to include all future first-party content on its release date, combined with PS Now’s lackluster streaming quality made this decision a no-brainer for many gamers.

Sony’s determination to improve the experience and possess a contender for best streaming service did not stop the company from slowly improving PS Now since launching in beta in 2014. With PS Now currently offering a 500+ game library, and the recent decision to begin supporting downloading certain titles instead of streaming, many are unsurprised that Sony’s subscription service has taken the crown.

While this is no doubt good news for PlayStation fans in the here and now, these findings could potentially be the writing on the wall for any hope of PlayStation 5 having backwards compatibility. Since launching in 2013, PlayStation has had no means of natively rendering PS3, PS2, and PSX games, on the PS4 without having customers re-purchase a specifically coded version on the PlayStation store. As a contrast, Microsoft’s response to fans looking for nostalgia was to implement an emulation software update within every Xbox One that would overtime allow most Xbox 360 games to be played at will.

The lack of backwards compatibility on the PS4 has not spawned an uproar for the most part of this generation, due to the prominence of physical media during the PS3’s lifecycle. Since the PS4 has launched, however, Sony’s push for digital sales has mirrored the shift within the industry.  The eighth generation of consoles has ushered in a new age of digital gaming, where the majority of gamers are now tolerant of digital purchases.

A multitude of reasons exist as to why digital purchases have become more popular than any generation prior, but that raises more problems than solutions, at least for now. Beginning in the seventh generation with PS3 and Xbox 360, digital purchases offered new and simpler ways for consumers to get their hands on the games they wanted to play. Despite departing from those consoles many years back, the servers remain active for the foreseeable future. Regardless of their current state of activity, the question of what happens to consumer purchases once servers are shut down remains.

The issue surrounding digital purchases is magnified by the increase in popularity of digital gaming and purchases this generation. Gamers are now more willing to spend their money on digital licenses rather than physical products, and Sony has yet to reveal how they will honor those who do so. Microsoft has already committed to both backward and forward compatibility, giving them the upper hand when discussing the future of their ecosystem.

Sony’s lack of backwards compatibility and the potential reluctance of its future implementation will not be the end of PlayStation. Sony Interactive Entertainment has developed a reputation this generation with the PS4, and it will need to take a much larger misstep to send fans packing. Even with such high praise within the gaming industry, however, a lack of respect for digital consumer purchases will leave a stain on Sony’s popularity and the future of the PlayStation ecosystem.

In addition to the news surrounding Sony’s successful streaming service, the company has decided to refrain from E3 2019, marking the first time that one of the first party developers is sitting on the side lines. In a statement provided by Sony, it informed fans that this decision was made with the best interests in mind, as Sony felt that with only a few titles releasing during 2019, it did not have enough content to deliver on.

Fans quickly expressed their disbelief on social media outlets, questioning why Sony believes in a lack of content to show. Titles such as The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, and Ghosts of Tsushima, are all first party exclusives that have yet to be released, yet Sony believes that they are not worth showing again. While showing those titles would make for a packed conference, it would also mark another year would pass where Sony has shown them with no release dates being confirmed. As excited as fans were for the Final Fantasy VII remake, many of them prefer to not be shown games that are multiple years away.

By abstaining from E3 2019, Sony has placed itself in a unique position of power. For many years now, discussions take place amongst developers of what significance E3 has left, with most hosting their own conferences throughout the year anyway. With its withdrawal, Sony has given itself an opportunity to host a PlayStation centric conference at some point during the year, separate from PlayStation Experience, and announce the PlayStation 5.

Sony will find success in having its own PS5 press release for two reasons. First, with E3 out of the way, Sony will not have to deal with sharing the spotlight with anyone else, allowing all media coverage to solely drive hype and free marketing for the new console. Second, a standalone conference allows Sony to replicate the success of the PS4 reveal by announcing all of the first party content that has yet to hit PS4 as launch-windowed titles.

Since the launch of the PS4, Sony has had stellar years with multiple successful first-party content releasing in succession. Given the number of studios that Sony has employed, factored with the average amount of time that is required to craft quality product, the first-party release windows would unsurprisingly plateau at some point during the generation. With Microsoft’s recent acquisition of studios all producing content for the distant future, Sony has an opportunity to ease off on first-party exclusives, allocating all resources to ensuring that the PS5 launch surpasses the PS4.

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