There’s a tl;dr at the bottom. Skip if you’re already glazing over at the following wall o’text. I feel it’s worth a read though. Can you manage it?
Time for a little perspective, as it seems too many of you have either forgotten the PS3 launch and the year that followed, or perhaps you simply weren't there.
Bluntly, it was a nightmare for the PS3. At the time, the console was known for 'having no games', and, to a degree, this was a fair charge. The PS3 was being pitched against the established Xbox 360 and the runaway success that was the Wii. It did not compare favourably.
So, before we even begin comparing the PS4's to the PS3's launch titles, be aware you are basically saying something like this: how does the PS4 launch line-up compare with what was considered to be a terrible line up at the time? I think you can all see this is not a great comparison. If the PS4's line-up is worse, what does that say? And if it’s better, we should not be surprised. After all, almost anything compared with a turd should come off smelling great. And the PS3’s first year of games was seen as a turd by most. And, if by some horror, the PS4’s line-up loses out when compared to the PS3’s line-up, what does that say for the PS4's current library?
Well, as I'm sure most of you realise, it's not that simple. As has been noted in many places, the PS3 line-up was attacked from all sides from launch, and often unfairly. For a launch line-up, it really wasn't all that bad. Its biggest problem was that it invited comparisons with more established consoles, and it was always going to lose that fight. But, it still wasn't that great, and many of the derisory comments at the time were fair and justified.
So, now laying that aside, how do I feel the PS3 and PS4 first-year line-ups compare?
Not as well as I’d hoped, sadly.
In its first year, the PS3 was backwards compatible with all (or almost all for EU PS3 owners) PS2 and PS1 games. That was a huge back-catalogue to draw from -- arguably one of the best of any console – which gave it a massive array of games the console could play. The PS4 has nothing like this. At best, it has some PS3 remasters. Which you have to pay full price for. Again. So, PS3 wins that bout easily.
As for the games themselves, well, let's take a brief look.
According to Metacritic (wait, wait, don’t stop reading yet, I won’t really be using their scores here), the Ps4 has approximately 150 games released in its first year. That’s a pretty big haul, especially as about 80 of them reviewed pretty well. So, that’s about 80 decent games to choose from, which is more than enough for most people. The only problem here is that the majority of the well-reviewed games are either PS3 remasters, small indie games, or multiplats. The PS4 exclusive titles are, in almost every case, pretty bad. The best of them is Infamous: Second Son, a game that is inferior to Infamous 2 on PS3 in all ways excepting graphics, where the PS4 easily wins because Second Son is gorgeous. So, not great. But, besides the lack of good exclusives, there are are many brilliant games on offer on PS4, and they should not be discounted in any comparison. At a minimum, The Last of Us, Diablo 3, Flower, Rayman Legends, Fez, The Binding of Isaac, Minecraft, Guacamelee, Towerfall, Fifa 14, Velocity 2X, FFXIV, Resogun, Battlefield 4, NBA 2K14, Rogue Legacy, and Tomb Raider Definitive are all very well rated games, and, while not all favourites of mine, as certainly representative of a great catalogue. All worth playing. But, none of them exclusive.
By comparison, the PS3 had around 120 games reviewed in its first year, give or take, of which about 60 fared well. So, immediately we can see the PS4 has more games, and more reviewing well, but the PS3 line-up is still pretty decent. 60 games is a lot, even if few may match your individual tastes, there will be something in there for you to play. However, when we look more deeply we see a big difference between the two consoles. By the end of its first year, the PS3 not only had very high-rated multiplats such as Rock Band, Oblivion, Call of Duty 4, Orange Box, and Unreal Tournament 3, it also had several high-rated exclusives including Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, Ninja Gaiden Sigma (hardly an exclusive, though), Uncharted, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Super Stardust HD. However, that is still only 10 games rating very well in comparison to about 17 on PS4 in the same period.
So, what does that all mean?
Well, PS4 had more games available in its first year when compared to PS3, and more of them reviewed favourably. Further, the PS4’s multiplats were, generally speaking, the best available on any console, which made the PS4 an attractive prospect.
By comparison, The PS3 had fewer games in total released when compared to PS4, and fewer high scoring titles, and, to make it worse, the multiplats were, generally speaking, not the best available on any console. However, unlike PS4, it did have several high scoring exclusives, and it also had access to the entire PS2 and PS1 library of games, so was enormously versatile as a games machine.
So, in conclusion, it’s pretty much a draw unless the PS2 and PS1 backwards compatibility is a big deal to you. If it is, the PS3 wins it by a nose. Which is just embarrassing for PS4. The PS3 was widely derided throughout its first year for its weak catalogue of games, so a draw (or a marginal loss) is very little for the PS4 to boast about.
Seriously, did any PS4 owner want all exclusive titles released for the console so far to score sub-85 on metacritic? I know I’m not too happy about that. I expected more. I received more on the PS3, after all. Nevertheless, the console still has many brilliant games available.
tl;dr: With everything taken into account, it’s pretty much a draw between PS3’s and PS4’s launch years in terms of the games available. This is not something the PS4 should be particularly proud of, as the PS3 was not seen as having a strong selection of games during its first year.