Even if there’s some latent Western-raised observational bias I may have toward the situation, Sony’s push lately has been incredibly Western-facing, particularly trying to capture the North American market, especially in the United States. They seem to want to be the Xbox so badly that they could be packing up shop entirely in Japan, as far as the games division. Whatever strategy was pulled with the PS4 worked so well that the sheer confidence going into the PS5, especially given how it’s the physically largest console allegedly on the market, just really comes off as a compensation mechanic, just to show to anyone within 5 miles of an owner’s house that they own one.
Meanwhile, Nintendo has pulled another Wii with the Switch, taking a novel concept and running with it while sticking with the typical Nintendo stuff, and Microsoft is pushing so hard to keep their core that they’re building iteratively with their new Xbox and trying to pick up the widest market possible. This is to the point of being inclusive to even at least the oldest Xbone systems, while still keeping support for the 360 itself currently, as a partial implementation of the 360 is present in the Xbone and up as well. The last time a home system could support three generations of games was the PS3, and as far as physical copies even that was a bit limited-time. While the pool of backwards compatible Xbox games is still pretty small, it’s still compatible across effectively four generations now. By this point the PS4 somehow stopped being able to read CDs and PS2 games were sometimes rebuilt for the system, but couldn’t be utilized with an original disc either. The PS5 supports most of PS4, but that’s as far as that goes.
The ways that the other two innovate is indicative of striving to dominate the next round, but it seems that Sony wants to make no effort to push back, rather staying in the lane they paved with blockbuster exclusives. While good games can come from that, if they don’t change up any strategy, and even go to the point of hyper-focusing on what broke them out in a region, that’s ample space for competition to take over. I was wondering if the Sexbox would be the last Xbox before, but I feel like I’m starting to get it, and that the one more likely to hit a wall would be the PS5 on the current paths.
Xbox has Game Pass. If this idea of a games rental service, gradually being integrated with streaming tech as well to account for the idea of trying out a game before committing to a 50 GB or more download, has somehow convinced me, someone who still utilizes physical media and dislikes paying for extra subscriptions for things like multiplayer features, that there’s some value in it, it’s really gotta be doing something right. Playing games from it doesn’t exclude just buying the game later as well, either, if there’s a game on there that is good enough to warrant it and play outside of it if the subscription lapses. As much as I’d rather see more free demos happen, it still manages to be interesting as it is, if someone can enjoy the worth of games a month pays for and up then that seems to be an economical idea. It’s very strange. Even the PS5 has the idea of something like it now, included with the usual PlayStation Plus thing, but it only applies to the PS5, even though it’s only PS4 games, and the available library seems to be much smaller. Nintendo kinda even toys with it as far as NES and SNES games.
I’ll once again state that my taste in games varies, and the games originally on PlayStation systems that drew me to the systems naturally include a mix. I was initially raised on Nintendo and knew little of Sega. I knew of the systems and some games, I’m not even sure if I was aware of the Saturn at that point, but I eventually heard of the Digimon World game being brought to PlayStation, so that made me want one. I was very much into Digimon at that point. I still enjoy it a fair bit. Alongside that, I’d also started hearing about Monster Rancher, also on PlayStation, a novel concept involving using a bunch of CDs to hunt for specific monsters. Being the late 90s and early 2000s, there was certainly no shortage.
Next I got a GameCube. Again, Nintendo-focused. I typically have been as far as consoles, the first I tend to get in a generation is the Nintendo one. I’d gotten the Wii U and Switch before the PS4 and Xbone even recently. However, some games were only on PS2 and Xbox. I ended up going with the PS2 for some number of reasons, but what really caught me were games like Katamari. Of course odd games like Animal Crossing and Chibi-Robo were on GameCube, but finding out about the scope of just very strange ideas doing what they do and not adhering to what a typical game is must have hit something in me.
Games like Destroy All Humans and Katamari effectively sold me on the PS2, I think. So naturally, new entries in those series come up, and I’ll want to get the system those are on. It turns out that was the Xbox 360. So I got one of those after I got a Wii. Somehow, this Western-developed system had not only the crowd wanting the latest first-person shooter experience, but a handful of odd titles alongside it. Additional games like Earth Defense Force and Deadly Premonition, such strange budget titles, were showing up there. The PS3 may just have been more expensive to develop for. Those games got such a following with the exposure that they continued on, at least a bit. There are definitely more EDF games now, and I got another on the PS4 later on, and somehow a sequel happened for Deadly Premonition following an updated re-release. The 360 worked out.
So what sold me on a PS4 before the Xbone? The PS4 seems to be when the “Westernization” started to kick in a lot more on PlayStation. Games like Uncharted and Last of Us seemed to push that forward as a strategy for what was getting the PS3 to catch up to the 360. It was Digimon again. There was a particular Digimon game I wanted to check out on the PS4, but also being able to play some other multi-platform things was a bonus. No, it wasn’t the game that got ported to Switch, I got that later for Switch. I had it in mind to check out further Call of Duty games for the campaigns, as well as a game with a campaign people never stop talking about called Titanfall 2. Also available on Xbone, but it really was a number of exclusives that sold me. The PS4 had more that stood out. The Xbone had Rare Replay. Plus there was PSVR, my first VR hookup while I wasn’t sure I’d be able to afford getting a PC VR setup. Eventually I did get an Xbone and Rare Replay, but then I got wrapped up in an extended Game Pass trial and I’ve noticed a variety of games that still exist and are coming out, even in the midst of PC launcher wars and raytracing obsessions and so many AAA games looking like each other.
It’s really not whether a game is Western or Eastern or indie, though, I’ve seen indie games look a lot like other indie games at times as well. It’s really the ability to stand out for some odd concept, as far as what I’m looking at. I feel I’m not the only one feeling that as well. Terms like “Ubisoft game” meaning “a game that looks, feels, and plays just like most of what Ubisoft comes out with” are telling. I’m sure a Call of Duty game is still going to come out by the end of this year, and it will look and feel and play as such. I don’t even know if I’m interested in the campaign of it.
My reasoning for looking at Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare were from the idea of trying some really odd angles from the story as well as some aspect of mechanics. Black Ops 3 felt like a bit of an extension on Advanced Warfare’s idea of augmentation for the battlefield mixed with the blurring of reality and mind from the first Black Ops. Infinite Warfare felt like Mass Effect Lite, the fact that they even had the idea to add side missions in the middle of the campaign was interesting in a series known for its linearity, plus adding spaceship combat that felt a bit reminding of that time I played Ace Combat Assault Horizon, which itself was called something like “Call of Duty with planes”. Sure, there are better stories in games and movies, but as far as big explosive action movie stories, which the campaigns pretty much become, they did fine.
Following these games were ones that grounded the series back to either past or Modern Warfare. They essentially rebooted the series by having a WWII game, named WWII, with a setting like the roots of the original “Medal of Honor killer”, and then rebooting Modern Warfare itself and setting a Black Ops game back in the pre-future times after that. In addition to all this, they brought out their battle royale meme and have advertised it so heavily that the installs for the last two games and likely the upcoming next one have their icons overshadowed by whatever season is current on it.
Within a series that’s considered generic, to be able to piece out some experimental aspects is something. Designers and developers may want to try something wild, but under a big publisher it’s a risk, and big publishers want to sell. They might allow the occasional experiment, but only if it can be recouped easily, even if it means terminating that whole studio if it crashes. Yet they’re somehow likely open to “experimenting” with unfriendly features like forced-online singleplayer and shoving loot boxes and special skins into anywhere it hardly even fits.
Maybe it’s just some feelings toward the industry in general, but there are reasons behind it. In the older times of games, they seemed more experimental. Now that experimentation is largely left to the indies, so no surprise that a lot of the games I look at nowadays are some kind of indie, and it’s really just because that’s where it seems the experimentation went. And still there’s the big budget games that do experiment, maybe as a result of having a lead who’s known for it, so naturally I got interested in Death Stranding.
It’s not so much where a game comes from, or who it’s even marketed towards, but who the game ends up being for. Trying to please everyone with a game could just result in homogeneity. To appeal to everyone, it could just appeal to no one. If it’s true that Sony wants to re-release the first Last of Us possibly more times than Skyrim, just to really squeeze whatever raytraced tears are left out of it and try to force everyone to play it and give it a perfect score, then that in itself is a concern. Being so wrapped up in a single game that got so many awards from whoever gives out awards, as well as its sequel which I would think would naturally get a raytracing upgrade or re-release since that also got a bunch of awards, even with everyone who complained about the story, is really just to put so many eggs into a basket that could end up on the face.
So when it comes to the idea of Sony going fully Western, it’s really more like them trying to appeal to critics than the playerbase to sell the players on games critically acclaimed, even when people seem to not trust reviewers more than ever. It’s a risky place to be in for an effective publisher to want to avoid risk. The thing is that it could somehow work on the majority, given how things like Call of Duty and microtransactions for Call of Duty are selling. If it does work, it may not be the best industry to look into from here on. I don’t know that it would sink to the level of the music industry’s infamy, but I do want to add that my spending on recent games, as far as getting games within a year of their release or early access debut, is pretty low. There are some who only focus on one yearly series, but I’m not one of those at this point, nor am I the type to buy every new game that comes out. I have been really focused on the act of catch-up as far as games I’d missed due to focusing on other things. I really feel like I have just about all of the games and required systems for those games that I was looking for. Even if it were easy and cheap to get a raytracing console, I’d still need more to sell me on it. Still, console launches haven’t typically been smooth anyway.
If things magically turn around to really get me into new big budget and highly marketed games, and especially if this also happens in the pop music sphere, that would be quite interesting. I’ll see if it somehow happens. Of course I’m not saying that there’s no good music coming out, I just don’t tend to see much for things I like on the pop charts specifically. It just takes poking around a bit in what’s out there.