Even if Sony’s big PlayStation 5 deep dive was exactly what the platform holder said it would be, it was not what rabid fans wanted to see. The manufacturer has been blue-balling gamers for months now, keeping the most intimate details of its next-gen device underwraps. It’s now pulled back the curtain, but in the most anticlimactic fashion – and perhaps more excruciatingly, with numbers much lower than the immediate competition.
Obviously, the organisation’s upcoming console is not the disaster that social media will no doubt paint it to be, but with coronavirus crippling the globe, news of an impending PS5 unveiling sent shockwaves through the industry this week. This wasn’t a kneejerk reaction to Microsoft’s news – Sony works on its own timeline these days – but instead a Game Developers Conference presentation, curiously repurposed into video format.
It was, ultimately, an hour of PowerPoint from an industry veteran – but lead architect Mark Cerny operates on such a different level to the rest of us that many of his observations proved impenetrable to the vast majority of us. There’s no question that the PS5 is powerful, but its specifications are lower than those of the Xbox Series X, and while it does have significant advantages in some crucial areas – like loading speeds and 3D audio – there were no demonstrations to illustrate them.
This was, very much, a presentation intended for game developers – but putting it in front of a thirsty consumer base seems like a bad idea. Sony could have easily uploaded the full monologue for fans to watch, but it needed to be accompanied by some tangible demonstrations: what does 3D audio sound like and how does it make a difference? Just how quickly can we expect games to load? With very little substance, all we’re left with are numbers – and they’re lower than the ones written in green.
Coronavirus has very obviously thrown the Japanese giant for a loop; Cerny, stationed behind a VAIO laptop in front of an audience of silhouettes, will be the focus of many an upcoming meme. But that’s not an excuse for the organisation seeming out of touch with its audiences expectations: even if it communicated clearly what today’s presentation would be, you can’t leave over half-a-million fans watching on YouTube feeling like they’ve wasted their time.
This was a bad first impression, and the company’s going to have to pivot fast. It’s losing the teraflops battle, its backwards compatibility solution is inferior, and its communication is at rock bottom. Deadly disease or not, the manufacturer finds itself under pressure for the first time in a while. Perhaps the proof will ultimately be in the pudding, and exclusive titles like Demon’s Souls Remake and Silent Hills will change the narrative overnight – but this was a bad coming out party for PS5.
Did Sony drop a clanger with this game developer-focused update on the PS5? Is it at risk of losing the attention of fans by playing its cards so close to its chest? Whelm yourself in the comments section below.