The Highs and Lows of 2013 for Sony and the PlayStation 4

With 2013 now in the rear view mirror and 2014 directly in front of us, we thought it only sensible to look back at some of Sony’s biggest hits and misses.  For all intents and purposes, 2013 was a stellar year for Sony and their gaming operation.  Most obviously, we saw the release of the marvelous and somewhat magnanimous PS4, replete with a number of highly exciting titles to delve into.  However, everything wasn’t exactly smooth sailing either, but has that ever really been the case?  As with any other year in the video game industry, there were setbacks, disappointments and missed opportunities – perhaps the biggest pains being the delay of key titles and launch-related issues.

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Most of 2013 was nothing short of a godsend for Sony however, where millions of consoles were sold in a relatively short space of time, effectively demonstrating their staying power and ability to bring a quality product to market.  Despite the incredible demand for their new flagship console, Sony also made sure that they would be able to fulfill all holiday orders as well, meaning that there wasn’t much to rant and rave about in terms of negative experiences at launch (and on through Christmas).

A number of bundles were created, each one containing one of the desired launch day games, but problems ensured that some wouldn’t be entirely satisfied.   Specifically speaking, the decision to delay the release of the much-anticipated game “Watch Dogs” probably upset more than a few gamers, especially those who were expecting to be exploring an intricate 3D world and hacking into other people’s business over the holidays. Nevertheless, there were plenty of other comparable choices – be it Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4 or Killzone: Shadow Fall.

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Then of course there’s the issue of hardware malfunctions and other launch issues which roused the ire of a number of gamers who took the time to preorder their PS4’s.  Specifically, some fired up their consoles only to be met with the now infamous “blue light of death”, implying some type of malfunction.  Others encountered problems relating to the availability of certain services available through the PSN, or perhaps support for specific devices like Bluetooth headsets.  As always however, Sony has been hard at work in coming up with solutions for all of these problems, having already effectively dealt with most of them at this point.  Only around 1% of launch-day PS4’s were found to be faulty, of course, and Sony immediately took steps to replace the corrupted consoles, free-of-charge to the disappointed consumers of course.

The increased scope and functionality of the PSN has also been a major issue in the gaming world as well.  With critical new services like “Twitch” and others coming online, gamers are now able to create and broadcast their own programs right from their consoles, just like PC gamers have been doing via video (on Youtube) for ages.  Of course the big difference here is that we’re not talking about static content which rests on a database somewhere; instead, it’s an entirely new type of service which allows people to stream in real-time, allowing others to tune into their broadcast and even offer up comments to them as well.   Needless to say, this alone is revolutionary and will likely transform the way people think about and consume games in the near and far-flung future.   The various problems that were reported with the PSN-fueled Twitch service seem like old news at this point, with a slew of people now online and building up their own networks.

2013 also saw Sony and the PlayStation 4 expanding their general approach to game and content creation expanding to allow increased access and participation from independent sources.  Perhaps picking up on the public’s inherent love of indie gaming and modding, Sony decided to actually offer up a number of developer kits to many low budget production studios absolutely free of charge.  While many in the industry might be inclined to say that this was a rather fruitless endeavor, the end result has seen a dramatic increase in the number of titles slated to hit the PSN.   You really have to hand it to them – they know how to satiate their fanbase as well as throw a nod to those who might actually be able to significantly contribute to the PS Empire in the long-run (which is incredibly smart and prudent, to say the least).

Additionally, Sony has been bucking traditional trends with the PS4 when it comes to offering up free games to its users.  Now, PSN subscribers are able to access a dizzying number of high-quality games (many of which support multiplayer functionality) with even more on the way.  Moreover, they’re not relegated to one specific genre – there are shooters as well as retro-themed titles and more on the way.  Without a doubt, they’ve won over some new fans that might have jumped ship when it became apparent that Microsoft’s Xbox One was taking the exact opposite approach in essentially limiting the digital rights of gamers.

XBox oneSpeaking of which, perhaps one of the biggest newsworthy items of 2013 was the debacle at E3, where MS and the XB-1 were more or less humiliated.  Seizing the opportunity to capitalize on the rather inhibiting DRM policies instituted by the Xbox ONE, Sony decided to go the other direction and eliminate a lot of the planned restrictions in favor of more appealing initiatives and offerings.  For instance, the decision to not completely eliminate the ability to play used games probably netted the company millions of additional followers who were all but ready to jump ship on Microsoft and their rather Draconian initiatives (which apparently include granting the NSA backdoor access to users’ consoles).

With that, it’s time to say goodbye to 2013 and look forward to 2014 and all the exciting new titles and developments which are headed our way.  Here’s to another year of exhilarating and innovative PlayStation gaming!

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