The great era is about to meet its end. On Friday, The PlayStation 4 will be available for the slobbering masses and with such a pending release, it gives “writers” like myself the cheesecake opportunity to cash in on the opportunity and write a fluff piece about the life and times of its predecessor. Don’t think I won’t be exploiting this chance next week for the Xbox One either.
What will we remember most about the PS3 and Sony? I think the word “redemption” comes to mind. Looking at this past E3, with independent developers sharing the same walking space as Square Enix and Naughty Dog, you would be amazed that this is the same company who once presented the $599 system to the world and told everyone to get a second job if they could not afford it.
Sony has some momentum, but gaining it was a hell of a trip.
2006-2007: Sony hits the ground tumbling
Ken Kutaragi, shown above, is a badass. His work with Nintendo helped the foundation of what became the original PlayStation, and no home console has ever enjoyed the consistent, runaway success that the PS2 introduced a lot of people to both DVD movies and gaming. Naturally, expectations for the PS3 would be high, and they needed something that would take the legs out from Microsoft and the Xbox 360, who released one year ahead of time.
We got a $599 in-home grill and giant enemy crabs.
Even before I became a blogger in love with not just the sound of his own voice but the feeling of his own fingers on a keyboard, I looked at the launch titles for a system that cost more than its two main competitors and found nothing to suit my interest. Rather than immediately take Ratchet and Clank into the HD generation, Insomniac Games gave us Resistance: Fall of Man, a shooter that looked like it was trying its best to establish a new franchise and identity on a Sony platform. They were mostly successful, but one game is not enough to sway people for something that cost the same as four handhelds.
I was not the only one who remained skeptical. Midnight release footage began to make its way around the internet. They were…less than optimal.
The ones who did camp out for days in advance, especially in Japan, were clearly not anticipating anything along the lines of a new Final Fantasy or Resident Evil, listing them on eBay hours after purchase. Hardware-based backwards compatibility for PlayStation 2 games did not last long as Sony looked for ways to cut what was becoming too much of a loss per system. Sports titles, inferior ports and an overall lack of “this is awesome” kept me personally from even considering making the investment. In hindsight, I should have held on to my PS2 for longer.
Fortunately, companies other than Sony saw the long term potential. Huge games began to show up in Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Uncharted, along with niche appeal like Disgaea 3 and Dynasty Warriors 6. Namco even released a brand new Guncon model for Time Crisis 4, which turned out to be the only game to truly use it before Sony gave us their take on motion control with the PlayStation Move.
On June 12, 2008, I found my reason to buy a PlayStation 3.
2008-2010: Playing catch up, watching movies and going digital
With Metal Gear Solid 4‘s and Uncharted‘s unanimous critical acclaim, the PS3 had taken its first steps in regaining some of their ground lost to Nintendo and Microsoft. Previous exclusives like Bioshock, Braid, Ninja Gaiden and Condemned found their way to the Sony platform. Huge releases in Final Fantasy XIII, Devil May Cry 4, Resident Evil 5, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Grand Theft Auto IV ran just as well as their Xbox 360 counterparts.
The PS3 also became more than just a gaming device. Along with a hardware redesign in late 2009, Sony announced that Netflix streaming would be available through the use of a free Blu-Ray disc. This eliminated a massive perk that Microsoft had been able to claim as an exclusive, and unlike the Xbox 360, Netflix required no further subscription fee than their own service (to this day, a Gold Live membership is still needed for Netflix on the 360).
The games kept coming. Uncharted 2 won Game of the Year from just about anyone who hadn’t given the title to Demon’s Souls. MLB: The Show remains the top baseball game across all platforms. Heavy Rain, God of War III and Gran Turismo 5 gave something to everyone. Every single game in this paragraph can only be found on the PlayStation brand.
While we are on the subject of brands, Sony began to tap into their legacy as well as nostalgia. The original Crash Bandicoot and Spyro trilogies along with Final Fantasy VII through IX could be found on the PSN store for a few measly dollars. Furthermore, almost every classic game could be downloaded to your PSP and taken wherever you please.
Just when it looked like things couldn’t go wrong…
2011-2013: PSN Down, PlayStation Plus and The Future
Around April 20, I noticed that my automatic sign-in to the PlayStation Network was not happening as it usually did. Not thinking much of it, I kept trying over the next few days along with the rest of the world. I would not be able to go online with my PS3 for nearly a month thanks to a total and complete hack of the entire network. The severity of the outage required an entire rebuild of the PSN and cost Sony $171 million, along with a serious amount of trust among customers whose identities and possibly credit card information had been taken.
Sony needed to get people on their side again. Their Welcome Back program certainly did it for me. On May 1, every single person who owned a PSN account was able to download two free games for the PS3 and PSP separately as well as take advantage of 30 free days of their still new PlayStation Plus membership. After seeing all the benefits of PS+, I signed up for a full year and have remained with it ever since.
A mass of independent developers brought a wealth of new talent to the Sony platform. For every giant production along the lines of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield, there was an equal in Journey, The Unfinished Swan and Closure. Sony has gone out of their way to cater to these people, not the least of which is Braid creator Jonathan Blow’s next game The Witness being a console exclusive to the PlayStation 4.
That, really, is where we have arrived. The business of crafting a video game from creative conception to marketing a release has changed more dramatically during this generation of consoles than ever before. Thanks to outlets like Steam, GOG and the PSN store, there does not need to be an in-between when it comes to getting what you want from a company you wish to support. Like, pay, get.
I could say a lot more about the games on the PS3 this year, but I will save that for the NSFW Game of the Year feature. Needless to say, any awards I plan on giving will wind up on Sony’s platform. Join me right here next week as we put Microsoft and the Xbox 360 under the magnifying glass.