We've already begun breaking in 2018, kicking the tires, doing a drift or two, and flooring it to see how good or bad things can get. Nadia wrote about what she wants to see from Nintendo over the course of the next 12 months. Now it's time for me to do the same for Sony.
I've talked a great deal about Nintendo's success with the Switch over the past few months, but Sony has been continuing to kick ass in the background. In mid-December, the PlayStation 4 crossed 70 million consoles sold worldwide, which puts the system just behind the PlayStation 2's sales pace four years out. What should all those PS4 owners be looking forward to in 2018?
Some Actual Release Dates
Sony Computer Entertainment has announced some great PlayStation 4 exclusives over the past year and some change: Marvel's Spider-Man, Days Gone, God of War, The Last of Us Part 2, Ghosts of Tsushima, Death Stranding, Detroit: Become Human, and Kingdom Hearts III. The big problem? None of those games has a firm release date. Yeah, that may seem a bit shocking, especially for games like Spider-Man and Days Gone that were announced at E3 2016.
Nearly every game listed above has a blanket "2018" release window. We've heard hints of firmer release windows, like the first quarter of 2018 for God of War or the first half of 2018 for Spider-Man and Detroit: Become Human, but those are rough, unofficial dates. On the official PlayStation website, every game is listed as "2018" or "TBC". Kingdom Hearts III, Death Stranding, and Ghosts of Tsushima may been even farther out with a release window of 2019.
I'm excited for many of these games Sony, but at some point, you're going to need to actually give them release dates. A system doesn't sell on promises alone.
Part of being the market leader is a sense of arrogance. When they're winning, companies don't feel the need to provide the services and features they should for consumers. This has happened to Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo in the past, but currently, Sony is the one that's holding out on features consumers want. In this case, cross-platform play.
If you own a game on PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita, you can't play with friends who own that game on an Xbox One, PC, or Nintendo Switch. Microsoft is behind this generation, so it's become very open to the idea of cross-platform play. Even Nintendo is allowing games like Minecraft to link up to their counterparts on Xbox One, Windows 10, Android, and iOS.
This isn't a developer problem. The developers of Rocket League and Gwent: The Witcher Card Game have both said they can make cross-platform play work, but they require Sony's approval. Epic Games even accidentally turned on cross-platform play for Fortnite on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, before shutting it off again a few hours later.
Sony's reasons for skipping cross-platform play haven't been all that satisfying.
"We've got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft - the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it's all ages but it's also very young. We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it's something we have to think about very carefully," Sony Marketing Head Jim Ryan said in June of last year.
If Nintendo, the bastion of family-friendly play, can offer it, you can too Sony. It's 2018. Let's make it happen.
Better PlayStation VR Games
The PlayStation VR has sold over 2 million units to consumers and 12.2 million PlayStation VR games. Some consumers might've forgotten about the platform, but Sony did not. The end of 2017 saw the release of games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim VR, Doom VFR, and Gran Turismo Sport, but there's more coming.
Developers are still working out which games work in virtual reality. It's very much new territory and outside of some gems like Resident Evil 7 VR, Farpoint, and Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV, the first year of PlayStation VR felt a little half-baked.
2018 is the year Sony and its partners can really deliver on the promise of VR. Early in the year, Sony has releases like The Inpatient, which is a prequel to the excellent Until Dawn, and Moss, which has you shepherding an adventurous mouse on his journey. Obduction, from the creators of Myst, will be getting an update on PlayStation 4 to make it PSVR active. Ace Combat 7 and Dreams will have PSVR support, and the platform will see exclusive games like Ubisoft's Transference.
Beyond that, we're in wait-and-see mode. It'll all come down to what Sony shows off for PlayStation VR at E3 2018.
A Hint About the Future of PlayStation
The big question for Sony in 2018 is "What's next for PlayStation?" The PlayStation 4 will enter its fifth year on the market, meaning players, publishers, and studios have begun wondering where the platform goes next. A Sony console generation tends to max out at 6 or 7 years. The PlayStation launched in 1994, the PlayStation 2 in 2000, and the PlayStation 3 in 2006. The PlayStation 4 released in 2013, representing the longest time between PlayStation consoles. That would put a PlayStation 4 successor in 2019 or 2020 at the latest. We'd likely hear hints about that planned system this year.
The trouble is, Sony threw things off with the release of a mid-cycle upgrade. The PlayStation 4 Pro offers a different future for the PlayStation platform. Instead of an all-new system that dispenses with the past completely, the next PlayStation system could continue what the Pro started and offer an incremental upgrade. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter thinks that the PlayStation 5 will be an upgrade to the Pro, like the Pro was to the original PlayStation 4.
"Will it play games that were made for the PlayStation 4 Pro? That's the question. I think it will. So I think they will build a console that will backwards compatible with the PS4 Pro," Pachter told GamingBolt in an interview. "My expectation that is that it's not coming out in 2018. That is a 2019 0r 2020 but probably 2019. Sony is probably timing it better because they are going to bring out a 4K capable device when the 4K TV market reaches 50% in the USA and 35% in the rest of the world. I think Sony has probably got the next console cycle nailed down already. I think, they already know what they got to do."
Macquarie analyst Damian Thong, who predicted the PlayStation 4 Slim and Pro models, has suggested to the Wall Street Journal that the next PlayStation could come as early as the end of this year.
I honestly don't know what I want from the PlayStation 5. I generally look forward to a clean visual break from platform to platform. I also have a PC, the PlayStation 4 Pro, and Xbox One X though, and one of the joys of those platforms is being able to revisit older games with an additional visual sheen. There's more hype in a clean break, but as a consumer, I admit a rolling platform feels better. There's also something to be said about topping out on the power of home consoles. We're already rendering some games in native 4K on Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro. Where can you really go with the next platform that will wow players? Folks are just now getting 4K televisions en masse, so moving onto 8K isn't a draw for a mass market product. You're essentially aiming for a box that can do what the Pro and X can do now, but slightly better. At that point, do you really want to call it the PlayStation 5?
Sony's already made its decision I'm sure, it's just a matter of the company giving us a signpost. It feels like 2018 is the time for Sony to point towards the horizon and say "Here's where PlayStation is going."
PlayStation Vita Games?
I'm just messing with you. Vita no longer means "life" now that the Switch is around.