A decade ago, Sony had every right to have a swagger. The PlayStation 2, released in 2000, was adored by gamers, and it topped the best-selling charts around the world.
However, when they released the PlayStation 3 in 2006, sales were underwhelming, and fans were unhappy about the hefty price tag – plus, they were a year behind the release of the Xbox 360. Ever since, the battle between Sony and Microsoft has been more pronounced than ever.
Today sees the release of the PlayStation 4 in the UK, a mere seven days after the Xbox One. Sony released its next-gen console two weeks ago in North America, and topped one million sales within 24 hours – a feat which Microsoft matched (although those figures were spread out between 14 countries). But sales aside, what will the PlayStation 4 offer punters?
The good news is that Sony has listened and responded to previous concerns. Their clear focus is on the playing experience, and they’ve undercut the Xbox One by £80, pricing their console at £349. Looks wise, the PlayStation 4 has the edge - it is sleeker and less bulky than its rival. Where Microsoft wants to dominate your living room in the entertainment sphere, the PlayStation 4 is all about gaming - but you can still access BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and other apps.
Unlike with PlayStation 3, this time you will have to pay for PlayStation Plus to access online multiplayer. But there will be free downloads available every month, including the rightly-commended launch release Resogun, a simple but addictive side-scrolling shoot-em-up in the vein of arcade classic R-Type.
It’s easy to set up, and the new DualShock 4 controller feels more comfortable despite packing in new features such as the central touch pad, light sensor, and share button to upload gameplay clips. Impatient gamers will be pleased to hear that while games are being installed (which begins with insertion of the disc), you can begin playing, even if it hasn’t finished downloading.
The camera (£45) is not quite as advanced as the Kinect 2.0, which comes with the Xbox One, but it’s not as integral to gameplay either. One nifty feature Sony has introduced is the ability to switch to remote play on the PS Vita, its handheld gadget - a handy addition if someone is fed up of you hogging the living room television.
For a company that is proud to keep the focus on gaming and boasts more raw power than Microsoft, it’s slightly disappointing to see that Sony haven’t offered stronger exclusive launch titles, with the exception of sci-fi first-person-shooter Killzone: Shadow Fall, which looks great. But impatient gamers shouldn’t have to wait for long, as there is a much more impressive roster of releases coming over the next six months and beyond, courtesy of Sony’s strong support for independent games developers. For those who are undecided on whether to move on to the next gen console immediately, they may wish to consider that for the meanwhile, some of the most exciting titles such as Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag are already available on PlayStation 3. With a direct comparison on graphics however, is it worth noting that the latter certainly looks decidedly more vivid on the next gen console.
Already, the PS4 has seen more success than its predecessor, with a positive reception from fans and critics alike, translating into enviable early sales figures in North America. Only time will tell if the PlayStation 4 can surpass the PlayStation 2 as its best-selling console, but for now, Sony seem to be back in their stride.