A reader explains why he thinks Microsoft cannot currently challenge Sony in terms of first party games, and how Astro’s Playroom proves it.
Ever since Microsoft started buying up developers as if money was just a joke to them, I’ve noticed a lot of PlayStation owners starting to get very defensive. They know Sony can’t match Microsoft when it comes to money and that the only reason Game Pass exists is because Microsoft can bleed cash on it for years and not even feel a chill. Sony makes the better games, there’s no question of that, but for how long will that be true if Microsoft keeps buying up more and more developers?
Well, actually, I think it’ll probably be true for a long time. Sony has been buying up developers since the PlayStation 1 days, almost 30 years ago, and it’s only really with the PlayStation 4 that they became known for the quality and, importantly, consistency of their first party titles. It took a long time for them to get to the level they are now and I think, understandably, people are angry at the idea of Microsoft buying their way to the front of the queue. But I don’t think it’s as easy as that.
Sony not only has more and better games at the moment, but it also has much greater variety and recognisable characters. Can you name a first party Xbox game that isn’t a shooter or a racing game? They do exist but they’re not any of their more famous ones. What about famous characters? There’s Master Chief, of course, and… those dudebros from Gears Of War, called Dick and Dom? Except isn’t Dom dead now and his son and daughter are the main characters? I know that’s not quite right but it’s something like that.
And that’s it. The Forza games are great but there’s no tangible personality there. Even more so for Microsoft Flight Simulator, which doesn’t even have any gameplay. Those aren’t failings, those are just the type of games they are, but it means it’s very hard to grab onto any kind of iconic imagery with Xbox games.
Fable is not only not a particularly good series of games, in my opinion, but there are no memorable characters or monsters or anything else to remember from it. When they show the trailer there’s no one that’s going to appear onscreen and make people go ‘Ooh, such and such is back!’ The closest they could do is just have a cute dog onscreen for a bit.
I’m not saying this to have a go at Xbox but to illustrate what I mean when I say that Sony’s portfolio of games currently has a depth and variety to it that Microsoft cannot begin to compete with. Which brings me, at last, to the point of my feature: the best proof of everything I’ve just said about Sony’s line-up is Astro’s Playroom.
It comes free with PlayStation 5, so everyone gets to play it, and while it’s only a few hours long it is a perfect celebration of everything PlayStation. Sony has tried this sort of thing before, with games like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, but trying to copy Nintendo’s Smash Bros. didn’t work because Sony’s games and characters are very different to Nintendo’s.
In Astro’s Playroom every Sony game, from WipEout to Vib Ribbon to The Last Of Us, gets a chance to be celebrated and it all works in the context of the game itself, as you spot little cameos in the background or suddenly realise what game one of the robots is acting out.
There’s a whole meta level to it too, in that not only are you collecting souvenirs of past PlayStation hardware but the game itself is a celebration of the new one, from demonstrating how the DualSense works to a song (which is amazing) about how great the GPU is. It’s amazing and while the likes of Demon’s Souls and Returnal are obviously much bigger and better games Astro’s Playroom is for me the best, as it fulfils its role perfectly while making you extremely optimistic about the console and Sony in general.
For me at least, finding out Microsoft has $7.5 billion to waste on the makers of Fallout 76 isn’t quite as reassuring. We all make our choices based on different criteria, which is absolutely fine, but for me Astro’s Playroom is the most encouraging thing Sony has done this generation and has convinced me to stick with them and the PlayStation 5.
By reader Blondie
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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