Forums - Sony Discussion - A Key Ingredient of Sony's Successes

Don't have much else to do this evening, so thought I'd post some thoughts about Sony. I'm just passing the days anymore. Passing them by the power..of GRAYSKULL!!

Anyway, so I think a lot of us are looking forward to Sony's first set of PlayStation 5 game announcements slated for the coming week. My frame of mind going into this will be centered substantially on how effectively Sony is appealing to developers, both third and first party because that's been a key ingredient of their successes so far. PlayStation systems usually outsell the competition at the end of the day (or generation, as it were) and the essential reason is that PlayStation systems tend to wind up with the most current-gen games. That is something achieved by, frankly, sucking up to developers. That, even more frankly, is what Sony does best.

Let's be honest, Sony isn't the most brilliant and creative institution. If you want creative hardware, Nintendo is the place you go to. If you want the most sophisticated hardware, Microsoft is the place you go to. That stuff certainly has its merits, but if you want to win a console war, your best chance is probably to make sure your platform has the most games. Making highly unique or super-advanced hardware isn't realistically the way to do that. No, the way to do that is to minimize the period of adaptation that developers have to go through early on. Sony has made that a clear messaging emphasis so far. We'll see in the week ahead if developers agree that the PS5 is easier to adjust to making games for than the Series X. That's something I'm looking for.

Related to this, Sony is also generally pretty nice to developers in ways that go beyond the nature of their hardware. I mean that in a philosophical sense. They don't rule over their first-party developers in an overbearing way. They let them make the games they want to make, which is why you've seen so many artistic masterpieces from their various studios this last decade. There really is meaning to that because it's not always what gamers themselves want if we're intellectually honest about it. Here's what I mean:

Consider Sonic Mania. That's a Sonic the Hedgehog game that was made by fans rather than by Sega themselves or any formal developers related to them. I feel that that game exemplifies the conservative biases of gamers as an overall group, as it really just offers cosmetic changes to the classic Sonic formula (I mean half the zones are literally just altered versions of pre-existing ones from the early '90s), whereas Sega themselves had been making bigger changes from game to game. I think you could map it out like this:

DEVELOPERS are the artists of this medium. They're the most creative-minded and interested in doing new things (including with existing franchises). They want freedom.

PUBLISHERS are money-centered institutions that want that magical balance between the new and the old so that both developers and gamers are happy. They exist to censor the artistic expression of developers until they're confident that that balance has been struck. In exchange, they supply developers with the resources they need.

GAMERS are the consumers and and are the most conservative and closed-minded, especially when it comes to familiar franchises. Broadly speaking, they only really want games as a whole, and their favorite franchises in particular, to change in cosmetic ways over time because they want the magic of that particular thing that made them fans in the first place to keep living on.

That's been my observation over the decades anyway.

Personally, my general preference is for developers to run wild, which I think is what makes me a bit of an unconventional gamer. I too though carve out exceptions to that rule. I'm closed-minded about Metroid, Castlevania, and the aforementioned Sonic because I don't trust their publishers with those franchises anymore. I think fans should be allowed to make all future installments of those franchises. There's a difference between making something that's from the heart and doing new things just to be doing new things and the Metroid and Sonic franchises have fallen into the latter category in general of late. More largely though, I favor letting developers run wild.

The commercial risk to changing is that you could alienate more of your existing fans than the number of new fans you bring on board. I get that. That's what publishers are there for, to minimize your commercial risk. But personally, I like real art and real art involves taking those risks, not just playing it safe all the time like consumers want you to. Art defies the logic of markets and the laws of supply and demand. What art is to me as it pertains to gaming is something that the creators want to play themselves. Something that's from the heart, not just something that's created because it's theoretically in-demand. It's something that harkens back to the old days when gaming companies were smaller and didn't have the resources for market research and testing comparable to today, back when most games being released were original IPs, not sequels or remakes, and new genres were being conceived routinely. That's what I love about the indie world. It has a lot of those characteristics. I mean most stuff on Steam and such is original IPs, not sequels or remakes like in the AAA market. In the AAA market, new properties are the exception, not the rule, In the world of independent development, it's the other way around. Sequels are rare, and clearly earned.

Anyway, the point I'll eventually get around to in this stream-of-consciousness post is that, you know, if you want a fairly one-sided emphasis on fan service, Sony's first-party releases may not be your natural first choice. And I mean fan service has its merits and can be really fun! Nintendo's stuff tends to be dripping with it especially and I enjoy Nintendo games aplenty for example! But there's just more depth of feeling that I get out of say Naughty Dog's titles for example. Art, real art, tends to be more controversial than simple fan service, you won't be surprised, and you see that reflected in the mixed receptions for some stuff like Death Stranding and apparently The Last of Us Part II. But I think it often yields dividends in the level of connection one can experience. I'm for gaming as an art form, not just as a form of meaningless entertainment and I'm glad that Sony allows that to happen so often in the AAA market with their studios.

Bottom line: being nice to developers, as a hardware maker/publisher, gets you both financial rewards and a passionate first-party lineup. That's what I'm looking to see vis-a-vis the PlayStation 5 lineups we'll be seeing starting this coming week ahead. When Sony "wins", it's because that's what they've been doing.

Last edited by Jaicee - on 31 May 2020

Around the Network

Not sure I can agree on nintendo being the most creative and ms being the most sophisticated hardware.

Dreamcast was massively creative and sophisticated, easy ahead of its time in so many ways as was the Mega CD.

Before there was a Kinect or Wii, Sony had the Eye toy and also were one of the first to bring discs to the console space, later followed by DVD and again with BR.

Each of them have been creative in many ways in their own rights and sophisticated. If I were to make a comparison I would say Nintendo is more like Apple, overpriced hardware and accessories, but a strong core base of supporters along with a strong brand. Just because its overpriced doesn't make it a bad console. Like anyone with an iPhone will tell you, they're are things that they do really well and that you cannot get anywhere else. Games like Mario, animal crossing, Mario kart, smash bros, zelda, star fox and other experiences can only be found here.

MS is the cheating BF /GF. Flashy with a lot of money. Can afford to brute force its way to anything. Sometimes it will give you a good time, sometimes it won't, but it always moves on quickly to the next model regardless how good the current model is. E. G. Original xbox didn't do well, support for games died up after first couple of years. 360 did incredibly well but support for games died after three years. Xbox one did fairly well, but support for games died within the first three years.

Like a cheating partner, it is front loaded to entice you and then leaves you in the dust.

Sony is the Asian kid growing up in the west which no matter what cannot get good enough grades to appease his parents. In the modern day in the west it has issues with confidence, goes back and forward as the years of being berated has knocked its confidence. Unlike MS that can confidently push a message, true or not, sony can't. Whether it is PSNow, the first streaming and download service, the first mass market casual product with the eye toy, wonderbook, VR, PS+ for the whole last gen that gave free games for its online subscription whilst it kept mp free.

I think Sony is similar to Sega. They didn't rely on the Mario's and zelda, they tried to be creative and offer variety and kept pushing ips and in the end the people chose familiar faces. It's only looking back people realise how much Sega offered and how creative they were. If sony ever goes out, it will be a similar story.



Whoever said life to be like a box of chocolates clearly didn't know what he was talking about. 

Life is more like a game of bumper cars. At every turn there is a possibility you will get screwed.

I thought you were gonna talk about marketing and hype levels, or 1st party games with focus on story telling focus.
That said these days, your right, a big part of the success is probably from listening to developers, makeing developement as easy as possible, and just giveing their studios freedom and time to make great games.



• westernizing their 1st and 2nd party games
• developing movie-like franchises
• paying Japanese 3rd parties for timed or full exclusives



It's simple, their ties to third-party devs and publishers are the strongest among any platform holder in the industry. And on top of that their first party studios make games with mainstream appeal (a lot of 5m+ sellers)



 

Around the Network

The OP is right about Sony.  One big key to Sony's success has always, in fact, been to kiss the ass of third party companies.  The other key is to sell hardware at a loss at launch.  Microsoft came later and also copied Sony's strategy which means the big third party companies really feel entitled at this point, since 2/3 of console makers are making them feel special.  This also means Sony's strategy is not as effective now, because Microsoft is always going to get a portion of the gamers that want to play these third party games.  However, Sega's and Nintendo's strategy has always been quite different from Sony's. 

In fact, Nintendo's strategy has always been to crush the competition with high quality software, mostly first party software.  Then the third party companies have no where else viable to bring their software.  "What?  You want to put your software on that pathetic console?  Good luck with that."  It is obvious that this strategy worked fairly well during the 8- and 16-bit eras, but they've always done this in the handheld market too.  The 3DS thoroughly crushed the Vita.  The main difference between the PSP and Vita was that Nintendo negotiated hard to get Monster Hunter.  Without this series, Sony had to leave the handheld market.  Now any third party devv that wants to put their game on a handheld has to come to the Switch.

It might seem like Sony's strategy is better or maybe Nintendo and Sony have equally viable strategies.  However, Nintendo has the better strategy in the long run.  Nintendo can survive and be profitable even when it is at the bottom.  Sony can't.  Nintendo does not sell hardware at a loss and they made a small profit during the Gamecube and Wii U years.  On the other hand the Vita was too crushing of a blow for Sony.  They had to leave the handheld market.  Even the PS3 years were pretty bad for them, and they actually weren't too far behind the Wii in total market share.  If Sony ever had a Vita-like turnout in the home market, then they would have to leave gaming entirely.  Nintendo has already had a couple of Vita-like results in the home space and they are still around.

So, in the end, Sony caters to developers because they have to.  If they don't then Nintendo will force them out of the marketplace.  Could you imagine a generation where Nintendo got CoD and GTA as exclusives on top of all of their first party games?  They would be unbeatable.  Sony will never let that happen, because they need these franchises just to survive.  But they are also vulnerable, because Microsoft can get these franchises too.  Generation 7 shows that Sony actually has to be very careful in how they approach things now.  Because they have the first party lion, Nintendo, on one side, and they have the third party thief, Microsoft, on the other.  They have to make sure they distinguish themselves from both companies.  They were actually lucky in Generation 8, because both the Wii U and XB1 flubbed their launch.  We'll have to wait and see if they are careful enough with the PS5.  If not, then they might end up with another PS3 situation or worse.



Jaicee said:

Let's be honest, Sony isn't the most brilliant and creative institution. If you want creative hardware, Nintendo is the place you go to. If you want the most sophisticated hardware, Microsoft is the place you go to. That stuff certainly has its merits, but if you want to win a console war, your best chance is probably to make sure your platform has the most games. Making highly unique or super-advanced hardware isn't realistically the way to do that. No, the way to do that is to minimize the period of adaptation that developers have to go through early on. Sony has made that a clear messaging emphasis so far. We'll see in the week ahead if developers agree that the PS5 is easier to adjust to making games for than the Series X. That's something I'm looking for.

-snip-

I'm guessing you steered clear of 'power' because it didn't fit seeing as the PS4 was the more powerful base console.

It may not be more powerful, but sophisticated in relation to hardware implies complexity. The PS5 is the more alien hardware (customised) of the two. That includes the controller hardware as well.

As well as very strong third party relations, you have to include extremely effective marketing, pricing (excluding the PS3 obviously) and the continued investment and development of their own exclusive titles. 



A thing of beauty, strength, and grace lies behind that whiskered face.

Huge marketing campaign for each Play Station, securting the best third party exclusives in all ps consoles.
Examples FF7. PS4 is the statement of Sonys power.



The_Liquid_Laser said:

It might seem like Sony's strategy is better or maybe Nintendo and Sony have equally viable strategies.  However, Nintendo has the better strategy in the long run.  Nintendo can survive and be profitable even when it is at the bottom.  Sony can't.  Nintendo does not sell hardware at a loss and they made a small profit during the Gamecube and Wii U years.  On the other hand the Vita was too crushing of a blow for Sony.  They had to leave the handheld market.  Even the PS3 years were pretty bad for them, and they actually weren't too far behind the Wii in total market share.  If Sony ever had a Vita-like turnout in the home market, then they would have to leave gaming entirely.  Nintendo has already had a couple of Vita-like results in the home space and they are still around.

So, in the end, Sony caters to developers because they have to.  If they don't then Nintendo will force them out of the marketplaceCould you imagine a generation where Nintendo got CoD and GTA as exclusives on top of all of their first party games?  They would be unbeatable.  Sony will never let that happen, because they need these franchises just to survive.  But they are also vulnerable, because Microsoft can get these franchises too.  Generation 7 shows that Sony actually has to be very careful in how they approach things now.  Because they have the first party lion, Nintendo, on one side, and they have the third party thief, Microsoft, on the other.  They have to make sure they distinguish themselves from both companies.  They were actually lucky in Generation 8, because both the Wii U and XB1 flubbed their launch.  We'll have to wait and see if they are careful enough with the PS5.  If not, then they might end up with another PS3 situation or worse.

That's actually by no means a certainty. They went into the red with the PS3 with the razor blade model, but they didn't have the massive network income they do now. Even if you cut their market share in half they would still have significant revenue streams that didn't exist for them in the past. Digital income has changed how PlayStation makes profit. They're financially stronger now than they have been in the entire history of the company.

The Vita is insignificant in terms of overall loss to PlayStation.

The PS3 years were unquestionably the worst years for PlayStation.

For that scenario to take place I'd imagine that there's an alternative service to home consoles that's cheaper, more accessible amd more popular and as they become obsolete Nintendo would also not be immune to that impact either. It would be an evolve or die situation. 

History shows they can both co-exist and be highly successful in the same space. Sony are undoubtedly more concerned with MS.



A thing of beauty, strength, and grace lies behind that whiskered face.

PS3 was indeed a hardship for Sony, but a win for the gamers.