With the next generation of consoles surely imminent within the next 1-2 years, the big three console manufacturers in Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony could be forgiven for becoming a little complacent with their current-generation efforts. However, that's far from the case with Sony, who have managed to stay relevant through a variety of new additions to the PlayStation experience, on top of the many features they've continually built upon. Microsoft, on the other hand, seem to be placing more of an emphasis on the 'entertainment' side of things, rather than gaming (which is all well and good if that floats your boat) - here's five ways Sony can teach Microsoft a thing or two about the industry:
Provide real value for money
Pin it down to my Italian heritage, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's eyes light up whenever the word "free" is mentioned. With PlayStation Plus, Sony gives its subscribers incentive to pay for their service - cool stuff such as early access to betas and discounts on full game purchases, and the Granddaddy of 'em all, free games. I'm not talking about the usual free stuff we're subjected to on consoles, either. Right now, the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection consists of classics such as Borderlands
and Red Dead Redemption
, as well as Sony exclusives like inFAMOUS 2
and LittleBigPlanet 2
, at no extra cost. At a cost of roughly $6 a month here in Australia, PS+ certainly gives its subscribers value for money.
The Xbox Live Marketplace, on the other hand, currently offers titles such as Aegis Wing and Doritos Crash Course for free on the Xbox Live Arcade; incomparable to Sony's offerings. Whilst XBL provides features PSN/PS+ doesn't, such as cross-game chat, I know I'd rather prefer Sony's blockbuster selection of free downloadable titles and constant discounts on games and DLC, amongst many other goodies. It wouldn't kill MS to have more frequent and enticing sales and specials, rather than the mediocre savings on tired DLC that are constantly thrown at us.
Offer full game trials
PS+ has been boasting free full game trials since its inception, something Microsoft is yet to implement with its Xbox Live service. With an overpriced marketplace (I'll admit, Microsoft's pricing scheme has improved considerably), it makes sense to allow gamers to "try before they buy" and play through an hour of a game they may be not sure about purchasing. Currently, most game demos available on XBL provide around 15 minutes of playtime (if you're lucky), making it virtually impossible to formulate an opinion on a game in such a short amount of time.
When the only means to play online is by purchasing a subscription, MS should undoubtedly be offering free, full game trials to players, especially those who are money-conscious and don't want to fork out for a game they might not enjoy. Simultaneously, it also encourages gamers to try out games they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to.
Develop a wide range of new and exciting IPs
The current generation may be on its home stretch but Sony are showing no signs of slowing. We're seeing new, big-name intellectual properties set to release exclusively on the PS3 in 2013, such as Beyond: Two Souls
, The Last Guardian
and The Last of Us
, with several more set to come. At E3 this year, Microsoft showed four new IPs set to release within the year, being LocoCycle
(already released), Ascend: New Gods
With Wreckateer's release meeting mediocre reviews, one can only be wary of the aforementioned three new IPs. Microsoft are banking on the success of long-running franchises Halo 4 in November, and Gears of War: Judgment in March, something the company cannot afford to do in the face of such stiff competition.
You can argue that the Halo and Gears of War franchises possess user bases larger than any current PS3 series, but Sony's upcoming range of new IPs has gamers just as excited to experience new and innovative adventures.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm as excited as the next guy for Halo and Gears, but another Xbox 360-exclusive AAA game alongside the two would've been the icing on what is already shaping up to be a great year ahead in gaming.
More classics in HD
343 spoon-fed our nostalgic taste buds with Halo: Anniversary
, reminding us all just how damn good the original Halo
was, with a remastering worthy of the modern era's visual standards. But give us moar!
Sony has recently released several HD collections of flagship franchises such as Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and God of War, with a Killzone trilogy also on the way. Whilst Microsoft doesn't possess the same quality of first-party exclusives, a Halo 2 remastering and a Star Wars: KotOR collection are two possibilities that spring to mind.
Scrap MS points and use real money
It's been heavily rumoured since the beginning of the year, and whilst nothing has been confirmed by Microsoft, I think I speak on behalf of many who'd like to see the Microsoft Points system abandoned. It really is an ingenious way of stealing your money - with most DLC packs and arcade titles priced between 800-1600 points (and points purchases only available in increments of 500), you'll often find yourself with points leftover. That's all well and good if you plan on using them, but not so great for those who never put their extra points to use - essentially paying Microsoft for nothing.
Ditch the points and implement a real-world monetary system, where people know what they're paying for. The whole points system is extremely confusing, and despite my countless arcade game and DLC purchases, I still don't even know what 800 or 1200 points is worth in real money.
By Jake Galouzis