The State Of The PlayStation 4 In 2019

PlayStations don’t tend to go quietly at the end of a console generation. The PS2 got God of War II a few months after the PS3 came out. The PS3 got one of its best exclusive games, The Last Of Us, just a few months before the PS4 launched. In 2019, it may have looked like Sony was actually letting the PS4 fade away before the next PlayStation.

But, no, 2019 was just an off-year for a mighty console that seems poised to have a big 2020–despite the fact that the PS5 is scheduled be out a year from now.

A Solid Showing Of Games

Sony was always going to have a tough time topping a 2018 that was framed by PS4 exclusives God of War and Spider-Man. This year produced the inevitable comedown.

In the winter-spring release window previously occupied by excellent PS4 exclusives such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Bloodborne and God of War, 2019 got Days Gone. It was an altogether decent but familiar open-world game about shooting through zombie-like hordes in the Pacific Northwest while riding and upgrading a motorcycle.

Late in the year, PS4 owners got Death Stranding, the first non-Metal Gear game in years from a team led by Hideo Kojima. Its slow start and emphasis on carrying things over long distances disappointed some players, while many who stuck with it found the game to be an impressively unusual experience.

For what it’s worth, Death Stranding turned out not to be a PS4 exclusive: Two weeks prior to its release, Kojima Productions said that it would bring the game to PC next winter.

The PS4 also got its annual release of MLB: The Show, new car and track updates for 2017’s GT Sport on a near-monthly basis, and the early-access launch of Media Molecule’s Dreams, a game development tool that players have used to create everything from a famous boss encounter to puppet shows.

Even in its strongest years, Sony never quite puts out an exclusive game lineup as dense as rival Nintendo’s, but PlayStation always stands out as having third-party support as good as, or better than, any other console. That lineup of games in 2019 included the acclaimed Resident Evil 2 remake, Kingdom Hearts 3, Apex Legends, Sekiro, Borderlands 3, Control, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Monster Hunter World’s Iceborne expansion. All those came out for Xbox One as well.

The biggest third-party console exclusive for PS4 of late has been the continuously expanded Final Fantasy XIV, though that seems to finally be heading to Xbox as well. Sony did get some indie stand-outs such as Outer Wilds that had initially only been on Xbox, but it hasn’t gotten some of the cooler ones on Switch, such as Untitled Goose Game and Baba Is You.

All of this amounts to a decent first-party showing for PS4 and parity, more or less, with Xbox One when it comes to third-party releases. But, again, next year may tell a strikingly different story.

Closing The Gap On Services

If Sony had ground to give in the excellence of its exclusive games, it had been overdue to catch up on the services it provides PS4 players. In 2019, some lingering issues were finally rectified.

  • At last, PlayStation users were given the ability to change their online gaming handles, something Xbox has allowed for years.

  • Sony’s free Remote Play service, which lets PS4 owners access games streamed from their console on computers and iOS devices added support for non-Sony Android phones and tablets. And Sony started officially supporting PS4 controllers for Apple devices.

  • A few more games—Rocket League, PUBG and Call of Duty—got genuine cross-console play.

  • PlayStation Now, Sony’s subscription service also kept improving. The paid program, which lets players stream and sometimes download select PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, became a much better deal thanks to a subscription price drop to $US10 ($15) a month. It’s not quite a rival to Xbox’s vaunted Game Pass program, which keeps getting big-name releases and interesting indies day and date with their regular release, while Now’s most recent big PS4 game is early 2018’s God of War. Nevertheless, PS Now is now a pretty good deal. You could, say, $US10 ($15) a month and spend a given month working your way through Bloodborne, the first Red Dead Redemption and Dark Cloud 2.

Other PS4 lifestyle improvements included an increase in online party sizes from 8 people max to 16, surpassing Xbox One’s 12, and an increase in online cloud save storage from 10GB to 100GB, though Sony, like Nintendo, makes you pay for cloud saves, whereas Xbox does not.

Sony’s PlayStation Plus monthly subscription plan is still required for most online play. It still delivers “free” games each month, although that offering slimmed down considerably this year after Sony stopped doling out pairs of PS3 and Vita games. Sony’s paid TV-streaming service PlayStation Vue was also marked for an early 2020 shutdown. In a PlayStation blog post announcing the closure, Sony gaming VP John Kodera said that the company has “decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.”

A more subtle drawdown happened with Sony’s formerly aggressive grab of timed exclusives for multiplatform downloadable content. This year’s Call of Duty was the first in five years to not put its DLC on PlayStation weeks before it came to Xbox. In the years before that, the DLC would come to Xbox before PlayStation. Now, all CoD: Modern Warfare DLC comes out at the same time on all machines.

After splitting from Activision and going independent with Destiny 2, Bungie also stopped releasing some content as timed exclusives to PlayStation. As far back as the first Destiny, some weapons and multiplayer strikes had been locked to PlayStation for a period of months or years. The only big game still doing PlayStation-first content in 2019 was Red Dead Online, though the rewards there are pretty peripheral and the exclusivity window seems to be short.

Sony’s promotional efforts for all things PlayStation also changed a lot this year. The company skipped doing an E3 showcase, perhaps because much of what it showed the previous year at E3 had yet to be released and any games targeted for PS5 wouldn’t be ready to show. Sony also didn’t bother to do any sort of end-of-year showcase, which it had conducted in recent years via the Paris Games Show and December PlayStation Experience events.

In lieu of those moments for gaming hype, Sony launched a series of online showcases, similar to Nintendo’s successful Nintendo Direct videos, dubbed State of Play. The first one, in March, included a showcase of VR games. Two more followed in May and September.

Whether they were good changes or bad ones, these moves didn’t ultimately hurt the core experience of playing games on PlayStation 4. They simply brought it more in line with gaming on other devices. By this point in a generation, it makes sense that so many things would even out one way or the other.

Three Years of VR

Virtual reality is a divisive technology. Some can’t get enough of it, and some are literally sickened by it. It was a gamble for Sony to try to make a VR headset three years ago, just as it was a gamble for PlayStation users to buy it. Sony hasn’t always been great about supporting its peripherals with a good, dedicated gaming line-up long-term.

It’s therefore been great news for PSVR owners that Sony has continued to support the platform and maintain a steady flow of games. Early in the year, PSVR got one of its more hyped games, the London gangster shooter Blood & Truth. A VR mode for the sci-fi exploration game No Man’s Sky was a mid-year highlight. Falconeering adventure Falcon Age was a stand-out, as was, for sheer spectacle of scale alone, Wolfenstein: Cyber Pilot. The PSVR part of the online PlayStation Network store is regularly stocked with new additions, including add-on packs for the competitive shooter Firewall and an expansion to the mouse action-adventure Moss.

As refreshingly solid as Sony’s PSVR support has been, there are a few catches. The PSVR tech is falling behind that of rival VR headsets, which are increasingly offering wireless and/or sensor-free experiences, as well as controllers that nestle more comfortably in a player’s hands. PSVR, by contrast, requires a wired connection between headset and hardware, an external sensor, and usually bulky Move wand controllers.

The other catch is that, as ample as the offerings for PSVR have been, Sony itself remains curiously hesitant to cook up its most marketable dish. While Valve is making a bona fide new Half-Life game (not announced for PSVR, sadly) to sell the virtual reality gaming experience, Sony has had a three-year opportunity to produce a VR game tied to any of its biggest franchises. Sure, there is a VR mode for GT Sport, but PSVR never got a VR game tied to, say, God of War, or Killzone, or Ratchet & Clank, or… you name it.

PSVR is, for better or worse, not a platform for Sony’s biggest franchises but instead one for its experiments, its creative adventures, and a slew of small-scale third-party efforts. It’s a boutique experience, appealing to some players but a missed opportunity for others.

And here comes a massive 2020...

Remember: PlayStation consoles don’t go quietly. Remember: 2019 wasn’t a typical year for the PS4.

The announced line-up of first-party games for 2020 is already strong. Next year, the PS4 is slated to get The Last Of Us Part II on May 29 from Naughty Dog, as can’t-miss a studio as there is in the business. Also expected is Ghost Of Tsushima, a samurai game from the generally strong Sucker Punch.

There are likely to be at least two major third-party exclusives—at least when they launch. The first instalment of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Remake, one of the most anticipated games in ages, is only announced for PS4, as is Team Ninja’s Dark-Souls-with-samurais sequel Nioh 2.

The VR offerings will be stepping up with an exclusive Iron Man VR game, an unusual adventure called Paper Beasts, and a VR take on the excellent puzzle-box series The Room.

In addition to all this, the upcoming year is stocked with multiplatform games that’ll hit PS4, including Witcher III studio CD Project Red’s big new game Cyberpunk 2077 and id Software’s Doom: Eternal.

All this and the launch of the PS5 at year’s end? Next year will be many things for the PS4, including possibly its strongest year yet.


Comments

    It really feels like the rumour that the PS5 was originally planned to launch this year but got delayed into 2020 so that it could have RTX support added to it has a lot of weight to it.

    Sony was ready to wind down the PS4 and then *bang* RTX launches and suddenly it looks really stupid to be launching a new platform - one that has to support the next five years of gaming - without the most significant technological advancement in graphics since fully programmable shaders (which, hilariously, Sony thought was fine to launch a console without back in the mid-2000s, so...).

      I don't know where you heard this rumor but I find it unlikely to be true.

      The RTX cards only came out a little over a year ago so I think you underestimate the amount of planning, development, and production that occurs for a new console release. A massive company like Sony couldn't turn on a dime.

        It wouldn't make sense since AMD are shipping largely the same 7nm SOCs -- some variations in spec -- to both MS and Sony. If they couldn't produce enough in time for one, both companies would suffer the delay.

        It's almost a guarantee that 2019 was never practical in the first place.

        AMD would likely have been developing some form of raytracing hardware well before NVidia launched their cards, though.

        My guess is that they were planning it in a future hardware release, but then RTX launched, and Sony and Microsoft both demanded that they have an SoC with it in (remember that nobody was talking about raytracing in consoles before the RTX launch). AMD likely said something along the lines of "sure, but it'll add a year to the development time" and Sony were like "oh, okay then" and Microsoft were like "that's fine, we weren't planning to launch until 2020 anyway".

        Sony's 2018 E3 presser really felt like an end-of-generation presser. Like a "this is what we've got for the rest of the PS4's lifespan" moment, which then... well suddenly that lifespan is a lot longer than they anticipated.

        But eh, it's all just rumour and speculation at this point. I'm sure we'll find out after the fact what really happened.

    And Sony drank some of the bad kool aid and moved its headquarters to California, thereby putting Japanese devs offside with a regressive 1950s era censorship regime that hit games produced by female producers with art by female artists of female characters they designed. At least it’s created an amusing new era where you can get ‘family friendly’ versions on the PS4, and the uncut editions on PC and... Switch.

      Care to provide any examples of what you're alluding to?

        The recent Omega Labyrinth game where D3's initial advertising poked fun at the Sony censorship regiment with their 'family friendly' PS4 edition, the latest Senran Kagura game being cancelled due to it needing to comply with the now international regime and the producer of the games leaving Marvellous (although he's still working on the upcoming Jet Ski girls game).

        The specific example I mentioned is from Super Neptunia RPG, a game from a female producer (Mizuno), with a female artist (Tsunako) who is given creative control on the character designs and artwork. Typically when IFI announces a new game, it mentions the amount of censorship on the PS4 editions and states for the PC and Switch editions it has the original content.

        There has been articles on the matter in the past across various gaming sites.

    Things I like about PS4... the build quality is near flawless. I have never had a single mechanical problem in five years on both original and pro. I am still using the original controller since pro launched. I have had to replace my xbox one twice in a year.

    The software is rock solid. A few random crashes and thats it. Where as Xbox One X feels like a PC sometimes, all kinds of strange software crashes and glitches. To say nothing of the absolute fickle online connection (where as PS4 never has any of that).

    I love the controller way much more.

    The games all speak for themselves. Years of brilliant and brave original games, and what does xbox have *shrug* nothign to match the likes of God of War, Death Stranding.

    But what I love the most, there is ZERO advertising, unless I go looking for it, I never see it. When I turn the box on, there are my games, front and centre. Unlike Xbox which tries to upsell you at every turn. Tries to bombard you with absolute constant rubbish.

      Yeah the advertising on xbox blows my mind everytime I see it. It's disgusting tbh

      My PS4 Pro sounds like a jet engine frequently though. I'm thinking I'm going to have to open it up one of these days and give it a good clean up. To give it its due, it's been going strong for years.

      I don't want to sound like a fan boy but I completely agree with you. I have zero complaints to make about my ps4 and my ps3 before that. Really great machines that I've had some amazing times on. This gen alone, TLOU Remastered, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War. It's been great.

        My PS4 Pro sounds like a jet engine frequently though

        Hah so true. Sometimes it is in hilarious things, like the menus of Modern Warfare. It never sounds like that playing that game but idling on the menus its terrible.

          Yeah totally! I always know when someone is playing COD in the house. I don't even have to be in the room. Same with GOW. The menu's! Like... settle down PS4 you're going to hurt yourself.

          Can't be good for the fan tbh

        As someone who owns a US launch day PS4, I can promise you that the PS4 Pro has nothing on that unit in terms of sounding like a jet engine. :D

          Really? It's louder again?

          Ok so maybe I do have one complaint about my ps4 then.

            Yeah it got to a point where it would get picked up on my mic when I was streaming, even if I wasn't talking (I use a noise gate so the mic is completely silent if I'm not talking, which generally helps with background noise).

              This company is dead for me personally just because of the noise.
              No way tany other company that respect itself would sell a degraded quality machine as the ps4 pro.

              Sony shitz on its costumers.

      Its not build quality, its luck. Controllers in particular, I've had two dpad get's 'sticky clicky' and a PS4 Pro's HDMI port die, whilst my X1X has been flawless.

      Swings & Round abouts.

        Yeah. I've replaced 2 controllers due to drift. It's just the way it goes sometimes. My Switch has started doing it too which will be very painful. Those are damn expensive and seem to almost never be on sale. DAMNIT!!!

          I was lucky and got the HORI left D-pad for the Switch on sale during black friday at EBGames. I would have liked to have replaced both 'just in case'.

          I don't have a problem with any of my PS4 controllers, but I think my PS3 one is possessed by the way it keeps doing incredibly random things. Added some extra challenge to playing the Arkham games.

            The hori doesn't do wireless though does it???

            I need that. I'm going to contact Nintendo support but there's nothing on the website about the drift issue and as it was a xmas gift 2 yrs ago it's not under warranty anymore.

            Last edited 07/12/19 8:07 am

              Unfortunately thats the case. It has to be connected all the time. Luckily I've got a Pro controller otherwise, as I mainly got the HORI for playing on the go.

              People were saying back when the issue first started happening hat there was something on the Nintendo site, but I've never seen anything there relating to it.

                Same. Was super disappointed when I checked. I would say I was disappointed in Nintendo but it's actually exactly what I expected of them. Save face. Say sorry. Then make everything disappear and refuse to ever address it again.

    Gran Turismo feels like the big letdown of this PS generation for me.

      I'd agree with you if it wasn't for the fact it has an incredible VR mode that's well worth experiencing.

      Also, it's received a ton of free updates and improvements since launch and is a vastly better game now than it was then.

        Hmmm. I was probably so put off by the initial launch that I've never taken the time to look into what the game actually is. I will do that. Thanks for the info :)

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now