Deep down, I think I’m part self-entitled millennial who enjoys shouting into the narcissistic void that the internet provides. This blog is good evidence of that. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that I waded in some internet comments this week in response to the coverage of the upcoming remaster Shadow of the Colossus.
Full disclosure: I played the original game, and loved what I played, but I never finished it. Laggy controls became frustrating at some point and a lack of time (I’m fairly certain I was studying when it was launched, and again at relaunch) has just never allowed me the time to give it the attention it deserves.
So, with that out of the way, my attention turns to the concept of value. In Australia, the RRP for Colossus at launch is about AU$50. That’s roughly half the RRP of a normal AAA game at launch, and about the maximum price I’m generally willing to pay for a launch game anyway (notable exception for special editions). But, of course, the narcissistic egotistical child that I am, couldn’t help express my frustration at Sony’s decision to charge anything at all for this game.
It’s bothered me for a long time that Sony have essentially taken their massive player install base for granted and continued to milk them for everything they’ve got, whereas Microsoft, perhaps only as a result of their market positioning, just keep offering up more and more for the consumer. Backwards compatibility, multiple UX improvements, Play Anywhere, Game Pass, and, now, exclusives as part of Game Pass, all combine to make a superior gaming service in every way.
Meanwhile, over at PlayStation, I still can’t even change my goddamn username.
But out of all those service offerings, I keep coming back to backwards compatibility the most. Being able to play your old games at no additional cost. Some of them remastered for the updated hardware. If Sony want to offset the PR damage that #BetterPSN should have caused, then matching what Xbox has to offer would be a good start. Of course, market share and cognitive dissonance of the consumers who own a PS4 means combine to make a difficult hurdle to overcome.
Prediction: PlayStation 4 games will be backwards compatible with PlayStation 5. My logic? It’s easier to keep people in the PS ecosystem if you can convince them their library still holds value.
This whole scenario is, perhaps, the strongest argument for being a PC gamer that I’ve seen yet. In 2016, the team behind Bioshock released a remaster (noting that the originals are available on backwards compatibility as well) that you could buy but gave PC gamers the updates for free as a download. There was a subtle undertone of rewarding good behaviour of PC gamers, and as the antithesis of being a graphics snob, I said ‘good for them’. I still didn’t need to buy a whole new game, let alone another console, just to play a game I already had in my library, so other than some shiny new graphics, if I needed a Bioshock fix, I could get it. I’d paid for a game at that level of quality, so fine – I was happy to settle for that. The point is: I still had access to the game I paid for.
One of the counter-arguments presented to me on the beloved internet forums was that I could play any games I own on the original console they were released on. While I think the economic argument is probably the strongest case against hoarding consoles, mine is much more pragmatic: mine were stolen and insurance cashed them out rather than replace them. It’s part of the reason why I am so pro-digital these days, but if I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t engage on this point because being robbed (twice) is an awful feeling and rather than try and point out that people trade-in or sell their consoles to be able to afford the next iteration, I just let that slide.
After all, surely someone else would come to my defence and make the same point, right? Right? Turns out, no, I had unwittingly waded into a PS4 fanboi pit, and upvotes and downvotes were cast based on your unwavering loyalty to Sony and their (re)masterpiece. Moderates and fence-sitters were unwelcome … for the fanbois, if you weren’t with them, you were against them. The social melting pot of the internet strikes again!
At the end of the day, we’re all correct of course. I can play games on their original console of launch, and I should expect more life from the content I already own. Do I take issue with this particular title and Sony’s decision to milk the nostalgia for more money? No. After all, business is business. And judging by the internet response, people will continue to be sheep and lap up whatever they can when it comes to PlayStation (That being said, I still consider The Last Guardian a cautionary tale in marketing nostalgia), though this comes back to the issue of cognitive dissonance and the need to convince oneself that they are on the ‘winning’ side.
“See, that’s all you’re thinking about, is winning. You’re confirming your sense of self- worth through outward reward instead of through inner appreciation.”
– Barbara Hall, Northern Exposure, Gran Prix, 1994
It’s good business, bad customer service. While I’m a long way yet from a proper PlayStation boycott … I’m going to keep voting with my wallet.