Learn from history or be doomed to repeat it
The 8th generation of consoles has been a strange one, to say the least. While some of the greatest success stories that will be referenced for years to come have arisen from the past 7 years, we have also seen some of the most colossal screw-ups that have led several fearmongering people to speculate that we may be heading to another crash. Needless to say, the 8th gen has been nothing but extremes on both sides and with the next-gen coming around the corner the future of gaming has never been more uncertain. So today we’ll be going over the mistakes that have been made by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo and hope to god that they learn from them.
Taking potshots at Nintendo:
While Nintendo has been on the up since releasing the Switch that doesn’t mean that Nintendo has spent this generation doing everything right. First off Nintendo needs to focus on their hardware a little more, most notably the Joy-Con controllers. Ever since the release of the Switch, these tiny controllers have been plagued with the most irritating of issues…stick drift. If you’re not familiar with stick drift, basically it’s when the controller’s analogue sticks start to move the character or the camera with no input from the player. Annoyingly stick drift can be caused by multiple issues with the controllers so there isn’t an easy way to fix it. While this issue can be circumvented by buying a pro controller I personally find it a bit insulting that in order to use a console you’d need to pay extra just to control the games that your also paying for.
This issue is still going on today with the Switch Lite still not fixing the stick drift and the controllers are FIXED to the console so if they break, that’s $199.99 /£199.99 that you have just thrown into a fire. That is unless you’re willing to fork out some extra cash to get Nintendo to fix it only for the same issue to happen. While it may seem like I’m unfairly picking on Nintendo I assure you there’s a reason, stick drift happens to all controllers over time but the issue is so commonplace with the Joy-Cons that the term Joy-Con drift has been coined specifically for this issue and it occurs on the Switch controllers much more frequently than on other controllers. In my own experience, it took almost 5 years before my PlayStation 4 controller started to experience drift. I had been using it almost every day for several hours but I only had my Switch for 3 months and only used it sparingly before my controllers started to get the drift. The second set I bought lasted a full year before I started to get the drift again so it’s an issue that Nintendo needs to pay attention to not only in the future but right now.
The next point I’m going to bring up is specific to Nintendo as well because Sony and Microsoft seemed to have grasped this concept quite well. Basically, Nintendo doesn’t understand how online play works. While a lot of people, including myself, can go the entire lifespan of the Switch without engaging with online play, you can’t ignore that it’s becoming more prevalent as Nintendo grows as a company. Despite the fact that Sony and definitely Microsoft have made leaps and bounds with online connectivity it seems that Nintendo is making the most basic of mistakes that makes the online part of their consoles pretty much unapproachable. The friending system is needlessly complicated using friend codes instead of recognizable online tags, the connection is passable at the best of times and absolute garbage at the worst. Right now Nintendo should not be charging for their online services as they are so far behind everything else out there right now.
On the software front, Nintendo has everything nailed with their games, having some of the best out there, even from franchises that should have gone through major fatigue by now. It’s clear that Nintendo will stick around but they need to address these issues in the future to ensure that their console and online strategy match the quality of their games.
Sony being stuck in tradition
It might seem that Sony is an unstoppable juggernaut of the industry right now and in a lot of ways they are but that doesn’t mean they aren’t immune to making mistakes that are really holding them back. First up I have to mention Sony’s attitude towards cross-platform play, Xbox started off on the back foot this generation but they’ve managed to gain some brownie points in the eyes of the gaming community because of how they’ve embraced cross-play between the Switch and the PC. Cross-play is a feature that gamers have wanted for a while now and with consoles and games getting more expensive the idea of owning multiple consoles is getting harder for the average consumer. Additionally, the reason’s why Sony isn’t engaging in cross-play comes across as little more than excuses, I’m going to say that this is pure speculation on my part but I doubt that Sony would be taking this stance if this gaming generation hadn’t been a massive success for Sony. I will point out that they have softened on this stance with select games getting the cross-play treatment but they’re still holding out as much as they give in.
This next point may seem kinda moot because of recent announcements about the PS5 but I’m going to bring it up anyway because Sony has a lot of catching up to do in this area, of course, I’m talking about backward compatibility. Both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One released without backward compatibility support which was a massive kick in the wallet to anyone who invested a lot in their previous console. To Xbox’s credit, they later rolled out its backward compatibility program for the Xbox 360 library, enabling 462 games to be playable on the Xbox One and future iterations of the Xbox brand. While backward compatibility is good for the consumer it’s also a smart move business-wise, as it’s harder for consumers to jump from one console to the other with a library of games that they can already go back to. This is why so many people this gen found it easier to make the switch to the PlayStation 4. All we know of the PS5’s backward compatibility so far is that it will include 100 of the top PlayStation 4 games at launch. Still, I’m sure people would also like to see this span further back into the previous generations as well, but only time will tell if we’ll get that, my brain says no but my heart can only hope.
Trying to salvage a disaster over at Microsoft
On the flip side of the PlayStation 4’s success this generation we have Microsoft with the Xbox One. Thanks to some poor decisions, the console experienced a disastrous launch which has landed the console a reputation that it hasn’t quite recovered from yet. While Microsoft has made some strides, there is a lot to suggest that Microsoft needs to fix in order to make the Series X a success. They still haven’t learned that the naming of their console/s is just garbage and the concern of exclusive titles only widens the gap as time passes with the PS4 library churning out more and more hits. At the same time, they’re making the system a bit more enticing with offers such as the Game Pass and the aforementioned backward compatibility. Additionally, Microsoft is finally putting in the resources and effort with a number of gaming studios and have put an increased emphasis on games once again but despite that, there are still some issues that they need to address to stand a chance of regaining their previous player base. However, for now, I’ll stick with what I see as the top two things that they need to address right out of the gate.
Most importantly is quality exclusive titles. I want you to think of the best Xbox One exclusives from this generation and list them in your head without looking them up and you’ll most likely struggle to list more than 5. Some of the most recognizable titles such as Halo 5 and Gears 5 amounted to little more than pale imitations of previous games in the series whereas Sony’s God of War 4 and Uncharted 4 elevated their series to new heights. Some of the best titles to grace the Xbox One came from smaller studios such as Cuphead and Ori and the Blind forest which are both great games but a console needs the massive big-budget titles to draw in the audience. There’s a reason why Halo was called THE system seller of its time and right now the Xbox One has failed to offer the most important thing a console can; a title that encourages the average person to buy their console.
Another lesson that Microsoft needs to learn is to know their target audience. One of the biggest reasons why the Xbox one launch fell flat on its face was because the announcement of the Xbox One made it feel like games were the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, there was an emphasis on TV, Media, and home entertainment. I’m not saying this approach hasn’t worked in the past but when Nintendo marketed the N64 as a home entertainment system it was during a time when video game consoles weren’t something people wanted because of the market crash back in the 1980s, you’ve probably heard of it. This market strategy was a failure because, big shock, people tuned in to E3 to see the new games console not the new home entertainment system. To their credit, Microsoft has realigned their focus and have made games their focus once again by buying a bunch of studios to ensure that the next generation will have more titles but, we have yet to see the fruits of this labour and they don’t really have the best track record with purchased studios. Poor Rare. Microsoft is once again focusing on the hardware of the new system which is good at making headlines but, at the same time, if you don’t have the games, the average person couldn’t care less about how many teraflops your console can output. It’s all about the games, Microsoft. It always has been. I want you to put yourself into the shoes of the average consumer for a moment and think about what they want in a console, as mentioned earlier the forefront of the Xbox Series X’s marketing strategy is the hardware and game’s journalists such as myself and more technically minded fans will “ooh” and “ahhh” at the number of teraflops on display but, the average person wants a console that plays the latest games and greatest games and that’s pretty much it. The Xbox Series X has the latest but they’ve yet to show us the greatest.
There are several things all three companies need to learn in order to make the next generation better than the current one and I have only put forward a few select points that I feel they need to focus on. There are plenty of other things all three companies need to think about to become better in my opinion. If you have any issues you want your favourite console manufacturer to look at, then you need to make sure you let them know. There will always be people who will blindly love a company no matter how much they screw up but that doesn’t mean you have to. Contact them via Twitter, Reddit, even email them. You’d be surprised who’s listening to feedback these days.