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Microsoft’s latest Xbox One backtrack may have stripped the console of its original identity, but it puts the platform at price parity with the PlayStation 4 – and will once again heat up the console war. While Sony’s black behemoth has burst into the lead over the past six or so months since release, it’s done so at a much cheaper asking fee. However, following its competitor’s decision to unbundle the controversial Kinect camera, the Japanese giant will now be forced to compete on a much flatter playing field. What, then, does the organisation need to do to maintain its next-gen lead?

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Keep calm and carry on

You should never fix what isn’t broken, and Sony executives will need to take that statement to heart over the coming months. While kneejerk forum posters like to analyse the industry on a blow-to-blow basis, there’s really no need for the PlayStation maker to react to yesterday’s announcement yet. At the time of writing, the PS4 has sold seven million units, and continues to be a challenge to track down in some parts of Europe. Whether or not Microsoft’s move affects that momentum will be impossible to tell until a couple of months after the new model hits the market, so it’s far too early to do anything drastic.

However, that doesn’t mean that the manufacturer shouldn’t be prepared. Group president Andrew House hinted last year that – irrespective of the organisation’s wider financial failings – its latest console has been engineered with competitive pricing in mind. As such, it needs to be flexible should its latest format suddenly start to fall behind. We suspect that a $50 price drop would be all that it would take to swing things back in its favour, but seeing as the Xbox maker has essentially mimicked its strategy at this point, it need not lose confidence in the path that it’s currently plotting – or even consider changing tack.

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Open up a little more at E3 next month

Some were quick to criticise Sony’s secrecy last year when it used E3 as a stage to counter Microsoft’s divisive digital-rights management policies rather than announce many actual first-party games. However, that stockpiled ammunition was stashed for a reason – and it’s starting to look rather useful right now. While we still don’t expect it to reveal its full hand next month – the firm will want to spread software announcements out between GamesCom and the Tokyo Game Show, too – we suspect that it’s going to have a much bigger game presence than recent press conferences, with the likes of The Order: 1886 and Uncharted PS4 all likely to be in attendance.

It’s the exclusives that we don’t know about that are going to generate the most excitement, though, and there are likely to be a veritable wealth of studios waiting in the wings to unveil their wares. Guerrilla Games, Sony Bend, Media Molecule, Quantic Dream, and Sony Santa Monica are all working on unannounced projects at the moment, while the likes of Polyphony Digital and London Studio are unlikely to be twiddling their thumbs. And then there’s the recent resurgence of Japan Studio, which is certain to culminate in at least a couple of console titles over the coming years, including the heavily rumoured Project Beast and – dare we say it – The Last Guardian, too.

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Don’t let PlayStation Plus dip

While we feel that expectations for PlayStation Plus have become borderline unrealistic at this point, it’s important that Sony continues to deliver extraordinary value with its premium subscription service. While it’s impressive that the firm has managed to offer regular next-gen giveaways so close to launch, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the likes of Stick It to the Man – irrespective of quality – are not going to cut it as we venture forwards. As such, we think that it’s time for the manufacturer to start thinking about adding retail titles to the Instant Game Collection in order to complement its current indie offerings.

It’s far too early for best sellers such as inFAMOUS: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall, but we daresay that Knack or perhaps even Thief would make appreciated giveaways. The platform holder could continue to offer one indie game a month and rotate the retail release each quarter, making this more viable from a financial perspective, while still offering the larger scale games that consumers so clearly crave. Now that Microsoft has decided to offer a similar service with ‘Games with Gold’, both packages are going to be compared more directly, and so the Japanese giant needs to ensure that it maintains an advantage with the initiative that it so cunningly concocted.

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Fast track more firmware updates

Constructive criticism is massively important in all walks of life, but Apple pioneer Steve Jobs was right when he said that consumers don’t always know what they want. The constant complaints pointed at the PlayStation 3’s firmware updates may have convinced Sony to release fewer improvements for the PS4. However, as was evidenced by the fervent demand for the format’s most recent software upgrade, more frequent patches may actually be preferred. Considering that the update process for the next-gen console is much more manageable than its predecessor, we don’t think that this will cause too much whining.

And there’s a lot that the firm still needs to fix. Features such as the ‘What’s New’ application could use an overhaul, while there’s currently no way to organise content or customise the look of the user interface. Elsewhere, fundamental features such as 3D Blu-ray playback and MP3 support are missing, while the lack of direct YouTube compatibility remains a glaring oversight in the format’s otherwise excellent gameplay sharing suite. These are all functions that are no doubt jotted down on an engineer’s whiteboard somewhere, but they need to come to fruition as soon as possible.

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Align with the most interesting third-party games

First-party franchises may be the true system sellers, but with so few exclusives in this day and age, partnering with third-party publishers over the industry’s biggest brands is incredibly important, too. Sony’s done a great job in this area over the past six months or so, aligning with titles such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch Dogs, and – perhaps most importantly – Bungie’s upcoming first-person shooter Destiny. However, with Microsoft also likely to pull out its cheque book in this area, it needs to remain as competitive as possible by continuing to secure co-marketing partnerships with the most interesting multiformat games.

Speculation suggests that it will be collaborating with Warner Bros on Batman: Arkham Knight, while it’s likely that its longstanding alliance with Ubisoft will continue with this year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity. Of course, it’s not just the blockbusters that it needs to keep fighting for, but also the smaller games. With both Nintendo and Microsoft slowly improving their self-publishing policies, Sony will need to ensure that it remains the home for innovative indie games. It’s unlikely that it will be ceding this area anytime soon, but continuing to establish strong relationships with smaller studios will undoubtedly benefit its system’s software library in the long run.

How do you think that Sony can hold on to its next-gen lead? Does the manufacturer need to do anything drastic, or do you think that it should simply offer more of the same? Do any of the above suggestions resonate with you in particular, and, if so, which ones? Plot your plan of action in the comments section below.