2016 is really a year of conflict, isn’t it? You have Batman V Superman; Captain America V Iron Man; Donald Trump V every sane person of America. While these conflicts rage on, there has been a battle over the decades between two giants caught in an equilibrium of power: Sony & Microsoft, two tech powerhouses looking to outdo each other in console sales and reputation for home entertainment. With Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One both pitted against each other, both sides have attempted to win over the hearts and minds of gamers with exclusive titles for their systems. After all, console exclusive are a crucial component of a console’s USP; someone that’s interested in games will have to evaluate what games that they can exclusively play on one system: this evaluation will ultimately decide what console they buy.
While the PS4 had the advantage over the Xbox One out of the gate following the Xbox One’s awful announcement and subsequent backtracking, the pressure has been on Sony to not let this lead slip. Inclusion has always been the subtle aim for Sony when it comes to marketing the PS4; the slogan “For the players” sounds like a calling to anyone who plays games regularly enough to own a games console prior to the PS4. From here, Sony has held to its word by having exclusive games that would appeal greatly to those with a more specialist interest in games than those with a fleeting interest. Bloodborne is the prime example of this type of game; a gruelling, grim, yet brilliant action-adventure that justified the price of entry for a lot of PS4 owners, and went on to win a lot of Game of the Year awards. Perhaps the most telling accolade of the game’s quality, as well as a sign of how enamoured gamers are with Bloodborne, is the achievement of being GameTrailers.com’s final review, in which they gave it the only perfect score, a10 out of 10, in the site’s history.
In the same year, the Xbox One’s biggest exclusives were Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Halo 5 continued to excel at what the Halo series was famous for: online multiplayer. Halo had always been a strong contender for the coveted “Most Popular Online Shooter” award (it’s a metaphorical award) alongside Call of Duty and Battlefield; following the trailer for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare becoming the most disliked video on Youtube, it may soon only have to battle with Battlefield as Call of Duty bows out with an ungraceful thud. Then again, Halo will have to reinvent itself if it hopes to contend with Battlefield, as lot of people are excited about the WW1 set Battlefield 1. Perhaps Microsoft will look to dominate the online shooter field with Titanfall 2? A lot of people are very excited for the sequel to the 2014 game, which showed a lot of promise despite the lack of a single player campaign.
So it seems that Microsoft are planning to attack the online multiplayer front, and are gaining good ground on it as well. What about their single player efforts, focused more on cinematic campaigns and story-focused experience? After all, 2015 was thought to be the year of the online shooter, as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 was the best-selling game of the year; but games like The Witcher 3 – which won the most GOTY awards ever with a whopping 249 awards- and Fallout 4 – which outsold Star Wars: Battlefront, Fifa 16, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – proved that single player games still had a lot of potential value in them. In fact, Fallout 4‘s highly anticipated release completely overshadowed the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider, and sales of Lara’s latest adventure suffered as a result, despite glowing critical reviews.
Microsoft’s heaviest hitter in the fight with Sony has been Quantum Break, a sci-fi action game with the dramatic dynamic of a TV show. It received generally positive reviews, and become Microsoft’s quickest selling new IP ever, beating Sunset Overdrive and Ryse. While a lot of people were impressed with the game’s hybrid TV show/game design, it perhaps fell a little bit short of expectations of being the reason that people would buy an Xbox One.
A month since Quantum Break’s release, we have Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: arguably the most finely engineered, polished game that’s ever been released on a home console. The graphical fidelity of this game is stunning, and it’s a perfect showcase for the PS4’s capability. Much like the graphical polish that’s been given Nathan Drake and crew, the gameplay is refined and the best that it’s been since the pinnacle of the series, and arguably the PS3, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. If Quantum Break is a primetime TV drama, then Uncharted 4 is a cinematic blockbuster; selling 2.7 million copies worldwide in its first week shows how much of a huge success it’s been for Sony. It’s an early contender for the Game of the Year, and it’s the first of many for Sony’s console exclusives that appear to have a lot of pedigree on them.
Owners of PS4 can look forward to No Man’s Sky, Hellblade, Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian (finally), Hideo Kojima’s next game, and PlayStation VR this year. The single player market looks to be heavily leaning towards Sony, and Microsoft are showing signs of falling behind. Although with Call of Duty plummeting out of favour and Halo still riding strong, hope isn’t lost for Microsoft. Titanfall 2 and the next Halo game may be the game that persuades gamers to get their hands on an Xbox One if they haven’t done so already; until then, Sony can ride high with Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne, and look to be riding even higher in the future.
What do you think of Sony’s console exclusive titles? Do you think that it’s a fair fight, or do you agree that Sony are ahead? Let us know in the comments.