by Erik Kain
Sony’s rather boring new-gen video game console, the PlayStation 4, has sold through over 10 million units to consumers.
This makes it the leader in the new-gen console race, which may come as a surprise to readers. After all, the competition has much more exciting and innovative video game consoles than the PS4.
Even Sony is surprised by how fast their boring new console is selling.
Microsoft’s Xbox One (originally) launched with the exciting and innovative Kinect sensor, all for just $499. (Now Microsoft offers a much less interesting Xbox One without the Kinect for $399, the same price as Sony’s rather boring PS4.)
The Kinect allows users to navigate the Xbox One UI with voice commands that you may or may not remember. This is a super useful feature for parents whose children refuse to stop watching Netflix or won’t turn off a video game when asked repeatedly. A simple “Xbox Off” from across the room takes care of that problem.
Trust me, you won’t forget that voice command. (Though your kids may learn “Xbox On” pretty quickly.)
Games like Ryse: Son of Rome let you order troops around via voice commands, and there was this one fighting game that everyone hated that allowed you to sort of fumble around the room using gestures—instead of button combos—to pull off moves. Nobody remembers what that game was called.
Meanwhile, Nintendo launched its own exciting, innovative product known—unfortunately—as the Wii U (instead of the much better-named Super Wii.) Consumers to this day believe the fancy touchscreen gamepad that forms the cornerstone of the Wii U is simply an add-on peripheral for the better known and more successful Wii—last-gen’s best-selling home console.
The Wii U gamepad allows for all sorts of interesting gameplay innovations, including second-screen gaming, asymmetric gameplay, and watching Netflix on the smaller screen so dad can watch football. It’s also extremely useful for kids, many of whom no longer have the capacity to use buttons properly thanks to the rapid rise of touchscreens in modern society.
Last but not least, the expensive gamepad ensured that the Wii U was underpowered compared to the competition, making it very effective at scaring off third party developers.
(While this article is largely tongue-in-cheek—bet you didn’t notice!—the gamepad actually is pretty neat at times, with the handful of games that make use of it such as The Wonderful 101 and some of Nintendo’s party games.)
Which brings us to Sony’s rather dull, rather plain, rather unexceptional PS4 which comes with no touchscreen gamepad—you’d need a PS Vita for that—and no Kinect—though you could buy the PS Move and do a lot of what the Kinect can do—and has really only one thing going for it:
And a reasonable price-tag.
Okay, so the PS4 has just two things going for it: Horse power and a reasonable price-tag.
And the upcoming Project Morpheus virtual reality headset peripheral. But that’s not here yet, so we can’t really talk about it.
(I’d add really neat-looking upcoming exclusive video games to the list also, but that doesn’t really set the PS4 apart from the Xbox One or Wii U, both of which have their own neat-looking exclusives coming up also. Sure, none of them look quite as amazing as Bloodborne, but that’s neither here nor there.)
In any case, the PS4 is in many, many ways just a more powerful PS3. Really, it’s just a more powerful, internet-connected PS2. Not a lot has changed, or not a lot that’s visible to consumers anyways, beyond upgrading the graphics capabilities and tinkering around with the controller.
All of which can serve as a reminder for what gamers—or video game consumers—really want out of a console: boringness.
Let me rephrase that. Gamers want a machine that isn’t center stage and doesn’t try too hard to innovate with inputs, but instead serves as a solid system to play the actually exciting stuff on: Video games.
Sony not only priced the PS4 correctly—$100 less than the less powerful Xbox One and $100 more than the even less powerful Wii U—they also branded it well as a “games-first” system. When you sit down to play the PS4 you are sitting down to play the most powerful, least innovative of the three consoles, and it shows in the games which consistently boast higher frame rates and/or resolution than Xbox One.
Instead of having the plate outshine the meal, Sony simply ensured that the plate wouldn’t interfere with the meal.
As much as I admire both Microsoft and Nintendo for their willingness to … think outside the box (as it were) Sony’s move was the most intuitive. The core gaming community that Sony is catering to with the PS4 doesn’t care much about motion controls, and they play games on their phones already and don’t need a touchscreen gamepad for their couch-gaming.
Sometimes boring is the most business-savvy road to travel. Sometimes it’s a word that shouldn’t carry such negative connotation. If games are the most important thing to gamers, making things like the Kinect or the Wii U gamepad mandatory is a big mistake.
The PS4′s continued trouncing of both these systems is proof enough of that.