The Story so Far
During its first twelve months, PS4 has surged ahead of both its rivals to become the most successful current-generation console. A combination of good technology, an excellent UX, price, and great games has helped the machine establish itself as the system to have. A smooth launch and relatively few hicups during its first year are also factors in its success - although of late we're seeing Sony's first real challenges in the form of a buggy 2.0 firmware upgrade, and some serious problems with its social racing game, DriveClub.
I've spent a fair chunk of time playing on my PS4, but most of the games have been multi-platform, and I was only using my PS4 because that was the version I'd been sent. I really haven't spent that much time playing any exclusives. Perhaps that might change over the next 12 months, but so far, I've been a little disappointed at the breadth - or lack thereof - of exclusive software releases.
"It is a totally respectable piece of hardware," says Jeremy, "and I'm glad it's doing so well for Sony. After the past five years of shrinking sales, the games industry needs a standout victory. I think the system has a lot of unrealized potential, and the rapid adoption it's seen over the past year pretty guarantees lots of publishers will jump on board to help realize it.
"I still love the PlayStation 4," says Mike. "Up until Patch 2.0, I had no problems with the system or the Dual Shock 4." After some thought, he adds, "Sony could throw a few more exclusives its way though."
"There's a lot to love about Sony's angular little console", says Bob. "The sleek, user-friendly interface, the fact that it supports cross-platform play with some of my purchased Vita games, and that wonderful controller-I assumed the DualShock 2 was my favorite of all time, but the fourth iteration of this input device feels so good. And, in terms of exclusives, I'd probably grab a PS4 even if I wasn't working this gig: I'm already excited for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and Bloodborne, and there's even a chance that The Last Guardian could finally emerge after nearly a decade in development! (Okay, that probably won't happen.)
Kat has had a similar experience to me. "I'm not actually a huge fan of Sony's first-party lineup," she confesses, "so most of my fun has come via third-party games like Dark Souls, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and Destiny. That said, I was quite taken by the one-two punch of Child of Light and Transistor earlier this year, which really highlighted just how strong the PlayStation 4's indie lineup is these days. Indies have done a lot to mask the PlayStation 4's still-slightly underwhelming library, which might otherwise have come under more scrutiny."
But like others here, Kat feels PS4's best days are yet to come. "Like the Xbox One, I think that the PlayStation 4 is still working to reach its true potential, but in different ways. Features like PlayStation Now are still very much in their formative stages, and the technical issues wrought by the 2.0 patch have quietly been disastrous. Sony has also yet to bring their biggest first-party guns to bear on this generation, with God of War seemingly on hiatus and Uncharted still lurking on the horizon. Third-party and indie development is the PlayStation 4's strength right now. Given that this is only the first full year for the PS4, owners have been willing to be patient. If the the PS4 doesn't take the next step in the next year though, I think they'll start to get more restless."
Exclusive to Sony
Mercenary Kings (Console exclusive, but also available on PC)
PS4's exclusive lineup has been a little bit of a disappointment following the huge noise made about its indie and first-party efforts in the run-up to launch. However, its range of games is set to grow through the rest of this year and into 2015. With games like LittleBigPlanet, No Man's Sky and Everyone's Gone to the Rapture coming soon, the PS4 will boast a lineup of exclusives that will give its rivals a really good run for their money.
In terms of non-exclusives, Xbox One and PS4 share most top-of-the-line games, and that will continue for the foreseeable future.
Air Conflicts: Vietnam Ultimate Edition
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
That Trivia Game
There aren't many big-name disappointments when it comes to poor PS4 games. Apart from the disastrous Spider-Man, most are low-budget, low-profile games. The notable omission here is DriveClub, which is currently suffering ongoing technical issues. We assume those will be solved soon, however.
Looking at PS4's positives, Jeremy kicks off with this observation. "After the past five years of shrinking sales, the games industry needs a standout victory. I think the PS4 has a lot of unrealized potential, and the rapid adoption it's seen over the past year pretty guarantees lots of publishers will jump on board to help realize it."
He continues, "Between indies and PS Plus, Sony has a huge spread of content that no other system can offer. I'm still waiting on any sort of PS4-specific killer app, but in the meantime the rapid release of interesting smaller creations makes PS4 a rock-solid entertainment purchase. Even without PS3 compatibility...
"It's odd, says Mike, "because I bought or reviewed most multiplatform games on PlayStation 4 and it's my game system of choice, but I couldn't tell you which other exclusives would draw me in. PS4 is simply the more-powerful console, making it my preferred destination for multiplatform games like Shadow of Mordor, The Evil Within, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, and Watch Dogs."
Mike does like the PS4's media sharing capabilities however. "Need a few screenshots for a review? I can take them while I'm playing and pull them off the system in seconds via USB. The same can be said for video and unlike the Xbox One, clips aren't limited to five minutes long and I don't have to go to SkyDrive to get to them."
Kat jumps in with a mention of something nobody has referenced so far, and that's PlayStation Plus. She opines, "It remains a really strong program, largely because of its excellent indie support. On the other hand, technical problems have lately been dragging down the PS4, with many users reporting bricked systems and other major issues. As the Xbox 360 showed last generation, such issues can have a lasting impact on a console's reputation if they aren't quickly remedied, putting the onus on Sony to sort things out and quick!"
Generally speaking, PS4 has been largely glitch-free throughout its first twelve months. However, it hasn't been a complete stranger to controversy, especially if you look at DriveClub. To say I was disappointed in the way it was launched is an understatement. Following a long delay, the game was released with disastrous technical issues. Clearly, the game wasn't ready for primetime, and Sony should have pushed it back again. Instead they released a product that was fundamentally flawed - a social race game that constantly throws up technical issues. That really did ruin an otherwise nice run without major problems.
Another disappointment has been PS Now. I've checked out several games, and each time I've been less than impressed with the performance. I have a decent connection that runs at around 15 Mbps - three times the recommended speed for PS Now - yet I still get pixel washes, some stuttering and glitches. It doesn't happen all the time, and I understand that streaming gaming is still in its infancy, but any of the above issues can ruin a game if it happens at just the wrong time. I'd be fine with it if it was cheap to "rent" these games, but it's actually quite expensive. It just seems like it has a ways to go before it's truly ready to replace your old hardware.
The main issue for me has been the weaker-than-expected indie and first-party releases. E3 2013 seemed filled with surprises, but some of the games simply weren't that great, and others have been in development hell since then. Things are definitely picking up now, but for the bulk of this year, I've just not had much interest in what the system has to offer.
Bob has a similar point of view. "The PSN Store is surprisingly devoid of games. I mean, you can emulate original PlayStation titles on cell phones these days-how hard would it be to bring this classic library from the PlayStation 3's PSN to this new console? And this is a problem by no means exclusive to the PSN Store alone, but when I log on to a console marketplace, I'm not interested in buying or renting movies: I have Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and other services for that. Make the games front-and-center (And sort them by category, for crying out loud!) and I'll be a much happier consumer who consumes more often."
However, Bob has had bigger issues of his own of late. "The major one is tied into something that happened to my PS4 recently: After just 30 hours of gaming, it gave up and died through no fault of my own. Now, I'm not entirely sure if this issue is related to the firmware update that's been causing problems-and it might just be a fluke-but I've never had a new console die so soon. If a simple update can really wreak so much havoc on a $400 console, I'm more than a little wary about what the future will bring. Hopefully, more testing."
As an aside, I thought my PS4 had bricked recently after I installed the 2.0 firmware upgrade. It turned off automatically, and wouldn't turn back on until it had completely cooled down. That really worried me, and I'm in the process of making a rack for my PS4 so it gets as much air flow as possible. My first PS3 died from overheating problems, so I'm really paranoid about it happening again. Not confidence-inspiring, that's for sure.
Mike has also had a few issues with Patch 2.0. "It broke Rest Mode and my touch-sensitive eject button seems to be dead," he says, before bemoaning that "Xbox One allows you to suspend a game session and resume from where you left off; it's coming to PS4, but I miss the inclusion."
For Jeremy, the lack of backwards compatibility is an issue. "I get the technical reasons behind it, he said, "but oh my God I hate that I can't play older games PlayStation games on PS4. Sony and third parties alike are still churning out tons of great PS3 content - far more so than for Xbox 360 - and the fact that I have to keep two PlayStations hooked up in order to be able to play current releases is a real pain. I only have so many HDMI ports and electrical outlets, and I'm constantly juggling the two."
Like me, Jeremy feels positive about PS4's future. "Between indies and PS Plus, Sony has a huge spread of content that no other system can offer. I'm still waiting on any sort of PS4-specific killer app, but in the meantime the rapid release of interesting smaller creations makes PS4 a rock-solid entertainment purchase." "Even without PS3 compatibility..." he adds.
A similar sentiment is echoed by Mike. "It's definitely the market leader at this point and I expect the Xbox One will continue to play catch up for the rest of the generation. Sony just needs to pull in or develop more exclusives for the damn thing."
Kat's outlook is also positive. "I think PlayStation 4 owners have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the system's outlook. The technical gulf that already exists between the PS4 and Xbox One is only going to get wider; and there a lot of very interesting exclusives on the horizon, including Dark Souls' spiritual successor Bloodborne. If the history of the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 is any guide, Sony tends to finish stronger than it starts, and I fully expect that to be the case with the PlayStation 4."
PS4 is the clear leader at the moment. It has some great games up and coming, and also has PS Now in its back pocket (even though at this early stage it can be a little hit-and-miss). Both Nintendo and Microsoft are following in Sony's wake - but as we've seen before, things can change. Adjustments in retail pricing structures, and game delays and disappointments can all contribute to a shift in perceptions. Whether or not that'll happen remains to be seen. What we do know is regardless of whoever's got the upper hand in this generation's console war, the gamers will always be winners - with more choice and better games than ever before.