Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trying to Understand the PlayStation 4's Sensational Success

Announced just yesterday, Sony confirmed that as of March 2 the PlayStation 4 sold over 6 million units worldwide. That's no number to scoff at, and it's extremely astounding considering there really isn't a killer app for the system yet. Just imagine the sales when something truly worthy of purchasing a PlayStation 4 comes out. We're looking at you, InFamous: Second Son and Destiny. However, how is the PlayStation 4 selling so remarkably well when there's so little amazing content to currently purchase? That's what I try to make myself understand with this piece.

A reason I see the PlayStation 4 doing so well has more to do with its marketing presence than anything else. For months now, I've seen a deluge of Greatness Awaits commercials, all touting the PlayStation 4 in them. Sony has pummeled the airwaves, at least in the U.S., with ads, something that would be impossible for a smaller console manufacturer to do.

But is the PlayStation 4 selling well because gamers just wanted something shiny and new to put in their gaming rooms? The seventh generation of consoles went on for a much longer duration than ordinary generations. There's no doubt that for many gamers the seventh generation (PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii) outwore its welcome. Perhaps that's another reason for why many immediately purchased the PlayStation 4, despite the dearth of software. I understand the temptation of getting new, more powerful technology, especially for gadget lovers, but what is the point of purchasing a $400 piece of tech that has a couple of worthwhile games, many of which are simply up-ports?

There's also the idea that when one invests in any type of game hardware at launch or early, they are investing their money in the promise of future support. Now, there's no doubt that Sony will release sensational strong support for the system. There's franchises like God of War, Uncharted, Ratchet & Clank, LittleBigPlanet, Sly Cooper and more that are already established as power players in the PlayStation family. That's not even counting Sony's desire to push more new franchises such as the upcoming The Order 1886. However, looking at the current lineup now, there's only really Killzone: Shadow Fall that stands out release-wise, and even then, it wasn't an amazing darling for critics.

My question is why purchase any system for the promise of support when all the major titles on the system are ports from last generation games or cross gen games readily available on the seventh generation of game consoles? Why not just wait until more interesting games are available? There's no real system seller released right now for the PS4, sort of defeating the long-standing idea that software sells hardware. No, I surmise that a big marketing presence creating a large hype machine sells hardware.

Compared to the launch of the PlayStation 3, Sony has been making all of the right moves with the PlayStation 4. While many members of the gaming media coddled Microsoft despite its proposed DRM policy for the Xbox One, many gamers saw through Microsoft and changed over to the PlayStation brand. A cheaper price tag-- a $100 difference-- no shoehorned in peripheral like the Kinect, the promise of Sony's first-party studios delivering killer content, and powerful hardware that oftentimes outperforms what can be found on the Xbox One. Sony has been touting the PlayStation 4 as the system for gamers, directly interacting with them, listening to their opinions and taking them heart, and not going the route that Microsoft wanted to take gaming.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I'm absolutely in love with the PlayStation 4, and I love how its selling well, despite many analysts in the industry that have been calling for the death of the dedicated home console. It's just bewildering to me how a system with little in the way of exciting games on the market right now can sell on simply brand power and massive marketing alone. I mean, this is an interactive industry, so shouldn't it be all about the games and not hype?

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