November 15 marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of the PlayStation 4. From the system’s first announcement, Sony promised a whole new world of social gaming to explore. They fought an uphill battle with the PS3, but through determination (and several massive price cuts) they eventually caught up to the Xbox 360. By comparison, the PS4 exploded out of the starting gate, selling over 13 million consoles in the space of a year. This was helped in part by promotional boosts from Destiny and Watch Dogs, but Sony’s marketing department has done an exemplary job on all fronts. They’re currently dominating the home console market, and it doesn’t look like they’ll lose momentum any time soon.
Sales aside, let’s take a look at what Sony has done right in the last year. Sony’s pro-developer attitude netted them early accolades in comparison to Microsoft, who drew intense negativity for their absurd indie policies, draconian DRM (which has been dropped), mandatory Kinect (which is being phased out), and higher price point. The PS4 hits a sweet spot in terms of price and accessibility, and its beefy processor can hit that crucial 1080p/60 FPS target where the Xbox One cannot. Of course, not every game on the console is able to reach that level, but even those that sacrifice resolution or frame rate still look comparatively gorgeous. The PS4’s more developer-friendly indie policies have earned them exclusive gems like Resogun, and it’s become the go-to console for multi-platform indie hits like Outlast and Mercenary Kings. PlayStation’s lineup of indie games grows with every passing month, and looking at PS Plus, it’s clear that they’re pushing this strength.
But even with all this in mind, the PlayStation 4 is not currently worth buying.
Despite strong support from AAA third-parties and indies, the PS4 is seriously lacking when it comes to first-party games. With most of Sony’s biggest titles met with long delays, Infamous: Second Son is the only game this year that’s even worth talking about (the standalone DLC First Light also deserves mention). DriveClub is a buggy mess that still struggles today, while LittleBigPlanet 3 feels like little more than a rehash of Media Molecule’s first two games (though a rehash of LittleBigPlanet is still a pretty good time). This first-party drought looks especially rough next to the PS3’s first year, which saw two huge new franchises from Naughty Dog and Insomniac.
Sony was able to capitalize on huge third-party releases like Watch Dogs, Destiny, and Assassin’s Creed Unity, but none of those games really live up to their pre-release hype. Remasters like The Last of Us: Remastered and the PS4 version of Grand Theft Auto V are great, but they don’t add much value for owners of last-gen consoles. There were some third party sleeper hits like Wolfenstein: The New Order, Alien Isolation and a great console version of Diablo III to offset those disappointments, but none of them offer anything special to PS4 owners in particular. Many of the huge games for PS4 aren’t just multi-platform, but cross-gen as well, which makes shelling out 400 bucks for a new console seem a little silly.
The PS4 had a lousy year in terms of high-profile exclusives, but it’s far from doomed. 2015 will give the system a chance to really shine. First-party juggernauts of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Order: 1886 are sure to have a lot of mainstream appeal, and hardcore players are sure to obsess over Bloodborne. Batman: Arkham Knight and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain are sure to make the new generation more appealing in general as well. And lest we forget, Project Morpheus is going to provide some interesting angles for development in the future. I can’t recommend buying a PS4 right now, but I have a strong hunch that my attitude will change this time next year. I look forward to recanting.