It's the end of term, and that means that its report card time. It's been two years since the PlayStation 4 launched, and the heady days of Jack Tretton's big E3 2013 beatdown are now a distant memory. But while Sony can attribute a chunk of its new-gen system's success to those pre-release pounces, has the manufacturer kept its foot on the gas in 2015? Following on from our successful article last year, we've decided to grade the platform's performance in a selection of categories. The question is: has it been up to scratch?



You'd have to be pretty damn demanding to criticise the PS4's sales performance in 2015. The system started the year with a bonkers 18.5 million units under its belt, but it went into Black Friday only a few weeks ago with an install base of 30.2 million units to its name. That number's likely to climb to the 35 million mark before we even consider warbling Auld Lang Syne, and while it's fast falling behind the Nintendo Wii's outrageous numbers, it's still tracking ahead of the PlayStation 2.

Sales, of course, are perhaps the least interesting statistic for consumers, but Sony's starting to make that gigantic install base pay. Titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom are coming first to the console, with the PS4's worldwide appeal making it a great fit for all types of games. The manufacturer's also dominating the conversation in the indie space, and while Microsoft has started to bite back in that department, it's still getting the lion's share of the best games.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that the success is global. Uptake has been slow in Japan, but the system's still surpassed the two million units milestone in its native nation with very few domestic heavy hitters to its name. Meanwhile, barring a few shock defeats, it continues to outpace Microsoft in its home territory, while it flaunts market share of up to 90 per cent in some continental European nations. The numbers could always be better, of course – but not by much.

Grade: A-



Last year we suggested that 2014 had been an unspectacular year for PS4 exclusives, and that narrative remains true 12 months later. Once again Sony started the year stronger than it finished, with Bloodborne both becoming and remaining the highest rated first-party release of the generation thus far. But the delay to Uncharted 4: A Thief's End meant that the Japanese giant didn't really have a holiday hit, while Microsoft flaunted the "greatest lineup in Xbox history".

But the Redmond firm's titles ultimately struggled to sell in a holiday season dominated by third-party games, so perhaps there's redemption in the Japanese giant's decision to hand the holidays over to third-parties. It partnered with Star Wars Battlefront and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, breaking November sales records in the NPD as a consequence. It also delivered smaller games like Until Dawn and Tearaway Unfolded towards the tail end of the summer – the former of which becoming something of a sleeper hit.

But the third-party games did carry the console at times, and it was a stronger year in that department. The likes of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Fallout 4 are real Game of the Year contenders, while smaller games such as Rocket League and Life Is Strange have proven the most pleasant of surprises. This year also saw the introduction of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Destiny: The Taken King, and Batman: Arkham Knight. There's more to come from first-party, then, but the PS4 certainly didn't have a shortage of good games to play.

Grade: B


Hardware and Firmware Updates

Grading the PS4 as a piece of hardware feels a little irrelevant this year, because the system's position in this highly competitive industry is already well established. Sony's box has continued to run third-party releases better than its peers, and while the differences aren't always obvious, they're rarely not there. The controller has revealed itself to be badly built, as the Push Square team has collectively worked its way through several DualShock 4s at this point, but newer models do seem to be better constructed than their launch counterparts.

It's the firmware side of things that's perhaps been most disappointing, then, with the manufacturer failing to address many of the common criticisms aimed at its console. Firmware update v2.50 successfully incorporated Suspend/Resume at the start of the year, while Communities and rudimentary DLNA options have been added since then – but it's not enough. Folders, PlayStation Network name changes, and even custom wallpapers remain demanded features, and rightly so.

Fortunately, the format holder appears to understand just how important these are, with a recent survey appearing to identify everything that owners have been asking for. But with Microsoft updating its system more meaningfully and rapidly, Sony needs to start implementing some of these oft-requested additions into its box, lest it get left behind. The system's still sturdy and lightning fast, it just needs that extra layer of functionality to finish things off.

Grade: D+


PlayStation Network and PlayStation Plus

The PSN was an unmitigated disaster last year, going offline seemingly every other week. While the online service certainly hasn't been perfect in 2015, though, it has improved. Outages have been few and far between, and when Sony's servers have collapsed, it's been pretty fast at getting them back up. The true test will be this Christmas, as attackers threaten to once again make things collapse. It'll be interesting to see whether it copes with these threats and the number of new consoles coming online, but we'll have to wait another week before we can truly judge that.

But while we wait to see if the PSN can pass the holiday exam, the debate regarding PlayStation Plus has raged on. Our recent research showed that Sony gave away over $1,000 worth of free software to paying members in 2015, but the types of titles selected have disappointed most members. Things certainly started strong with inFAMOUS: First Light and The Swapper, but "big" games have been generally few and far between.

But it's not been all bad: Rocket League proved a breakout success when it was made available in July, while the likes of Grow Home and Super Time Force Ultra all received rave reviews on this site. Our opinion is that Sony's rapidly reaching the point where it needs to rethink its strategy with PlayStation Plus – potentially ditching the PlayStation 3 and Vita giveaways in favour of strengthening the new-gen offering.

Grade: C-


Press Conferences

Sony held the greatest press conference in E3 history this year – an impressive feat to say the least. With a trifecta of The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Shenmue III, it was always going to get a good grade in this category. But while those three games may well have been the highlights, it's important to remember that its media briefings have been decent without them; Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and Horizon: Zero Dawn both looked great in Los Angeles, for example.

And while we know that there's been some disappointment pointed at the likes of Paris Games Week, Tokyo Game Show, and PlayStation Experience, a look back at some of the announcements puts into perspective just how much the manufacturer's managed to squeeze into the past six months: Detroit: Become Human, Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 6, Bloodborne: The Old Hunters, Gran Turismo Sport, and so, so many more.

The one thing that we'd say is that there's been some bad pacing at times. A dodgy PlayStation VR segment at PlayStation Experience threatened to unsettle the feel-good show, while Paris Games Week had some particularly awkward on-stage moments with SCEE president Jim Ryan. But when you look back at some of the reveals that the Japanese giant's made, it's clear that it's had a good year when it comes to media briefings – especially when its competitors have had significantly less content to show.

Grade: A


Marketing and Attitude

Cries of complacent Sony will never go away, and the company's certainly invited them on occasion over the course of 2015. While it was always unreasonable for people to expect the PS4 to play 15 year old PlayStation 2 discs, the platform holder's finished this year looking like a villain for re-selling old games while Microsoft implements free backward compatibility into its machine. In truth, the circumstances are different, but it needs to be careful if it wants to keep playing the #4ThePlayers card.

Generally, though, the platform holder's attitude has been good: it's made a commitment to gamers that it will continue to improve, and it's shown that it's listening to feedback by changing its stance on several matters that threatened to draw a backlash – the decision not to release Gravity Rush Remastered at retail being one. SCEA president Shawn Layden's ill-fitting Crash Bandicoot shirt at PlayStation Experience could be considered a negative, but we'll put that down to a bad decision.

And so that leaves us with the marketing, which has been impressive all year long. Once again Sony picked the right brands to partner with, offering attractive bundles and attaching its system to some of the biggest names. Batman: Arkham Knight and Star Wars Battlefront were two gigantic gets, but it's the addition of Call of Duty to its stable that it'll see as the killer blow. Dropping its console's price down to $299.99 on Black Friday also paid dividends, but it proved that it's not willing to rest on its laurels by repeating the offer over the course of the hectic Christmas shopping period.

Grade: B+



The game library's still short in the first-party department, but the PS4 has the highest rated exclusive of the generation – and a much more varied software selection than its rivals. Sony showed commitment to the future across four packed yet occasionally poorly paced pressers, and its sales have continued to grow as a consequence. Despite some disappointing firmware updates, the system finds itself in a stronger position than last year – but it still feels like the best is yet to come.

How would you grade the PS4's second full year on the market? Are you happy with the system, or has it disappointed you? What do you think that Sony's doing well, and in which areas could it improve? Pull out your red pen and give us your honest assessment in the comments section below.

How would you grade the PS4's 2015? (95 votes)

  1. A+9%
  2. A14%
  3. A-19%
  4. B+27%
  5. B13%
  6. B-8%
  7. C+2%
  8. C4%
  9. C-2%
  10. D+  0%
  11. D  0%
  12. D-  0%
  13. F1%

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