Games Inbox: PS5 in decline after the Xbox Games Showcase, Fable apathy, and Starfield jank


PS5 console
Has PlayStation tripped up? (pic: Sony)

The Monday letters page worries Diablo 4 hasn’t evolved much from Diablo 1, as one reader asks why always-online is so hated.

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Sensible theories
I’ve seen all sorts of points of view about the PlayStation and Xbox showcases and while there’s some debate about exactly how good the individual games are, I don’t think anyone can pretend the Xbox one wasn’t very good. The disagreement is over why the PlayStation one was such a disappointment and what Sony is playing at.

You don’t need any inside sources to know they must be holding a lot back but why has no sensible answer. I don’t think the trap conspiracy counts as sensible and yet I have to admit I can’t think of a single other reason, sensible or not.

What I do know is that Xbox’s positive reception has immediately done a world of good for Microsoft’s position and a I agree with the Reader’s Feature that said it was largely a result of following Sony’s own gameplan and positioning single-player games as the most important thing a publisher can release.

So the question is, why didn’t Sony follow their own gameplan? If they’re playing the long game then they’re in danger of turning up long after the results have been declared.

For the last year, I’ve worried about Sony’s attitude and I genuinely think that they are in an increasingly irreversible decline. Microsoft has so many games announced for 2024 now, but can Sony match their plan for at least one per quarter? Not according to what we know at the moment and even then half or more are likely to be live service games.

This whole situation is so strange I really don’t know what to think.

Evolving nostalgia
I know it’s called evolution but watching a video of Diablo 1 (which I played on the PS1, two-player – amazing at the time) I can’t help feel something’s been lost in future games. As I say, game sequels need to evolve, but what I’ve found with this series is that it’s lost its sense of dread. Venturing into one big monster labyrinth was terrifying, doing it a million times is not. Armed with a weapon and one spell under your belt, hoping to find or even buy a better weapon was a triumph! I remember having to save up to buy a good weapon!

Maybe I’m being nostalgic but as much as I’m enjoying 4, and obviously I understand the need of the online population, I can’t help miss the simple days of one lone warrior venturing into the dark, one sword against many, often under-powered, dreading what was behind the next door.

Losing everything
I’ve read a few times recently about the negative perception of games that require an always-online connection, most recently Diablo.

While I get it in principle, in reality, is not everyone’s console/PC always-online anyway? Particularly in developed countries where I hear all the criticism coming from. So what’s the big deal?

GC: Not everyone has a 100% reliable connection and if it cuts out for even a second significant progress can be lost. In the case of Diablo 4, potentially hundreds of hours.

It’s okay
Seeing the Fable defence this week makes me wonder if it’s the fantasy role-playing equivalent to Shenmue. Like, there’s a small but loud support for more games, whereas the rest of us couldn’t care less.

I’ve played through Fable 2 and 3 and honestly never thought about them again.

GC: We think that’s probably most people’s attitude towards Fable. But we don’t think it has anything like the zealous hardcore support of Shenmue – even if more people overall probably like it.

Talk is cheap
I wonder how much of Starfield’s initial reception will be dictated by a somewhat hyper fixation on day one bugs that is talked about at most gaming sites.

Microsoft and Bethesda’s word of late has had a good track record of straightforwardness I feel.
When they delayed Starfield an extra year and said they have more than double the engineers on bugs, along with chucking huge resources behind them currently, I feel pretty hopeful about it being very polished when it launches.

I do fear though, that any bugs that are found will go viral more than is warranted purely because it’s a huge clickbait market waiting to happen.

But even so, time will be its biggest judge of how bad they really are.

GC: Bethesda Game Studios (as opposed to the publisher at large) are infamous for their bugs and glitches, it’s not a concern that comes out of nowhere.

Rental memories
Good Reader’s Feature on the weekend about video game rentals.

It got me thinking about my own memories of this sadly bygone era. Mine started back in the early to mid-80s, where my brother and I had got an Atari (2600 model I think). Yes, I am that old! We used to go on the Sunday with my dad to the video shop and rent a couple from there on a regular basis.

After the Atari my brother moved onto Commodore 64 and me the Spectrum 128K. I used to borrow games for mine from the local library.

I went through other various game systems but don’t recall renting any more games until I got my PlayStation 1. I used to rent games for it from Oscars Video on my local high street. First one, if I recall correctly, was Resident Evil, which I loved so much that I ended up buying it. The other one which springs to mind is Clock Tower. Not because I particularly liked it, but it goes for crazy money now. Not sure why as the game is no classic.

The other memorable time during my PS1 days is purchasing games from Electronic Boutique, which are now known as GAME. You were able to keep the games for, I think, 14 days and return them for a refund, no questions asked, as long as they were in a saleable condition still. It was like having a free rental service!
Tony- -1975 (PSN ID)

Galactic expansion
I know Bethesda has expansions planned for Starfield, but what I would want above all is co-op for two to four players.

Not crazy numbers, just enough to play with friends. I’ve no idea how feasible that is, the game looks very complex. But if it’s possible, it would be a great addition.

Benefit of the doubt
While I’m sure it’s fun to speculate on the Sony presentation, and it’s always possible they have a load of secret announcements ready to go, to me this just seems like business.

They’ve doubled Xbox sales, the console is flying off the shelves. Why spend any money on expensive demos for multiple games that aren’t out for over a year?

In the previous generation they were genuinely competing to get back into first place, with that done risk taking goes out of the window and I believe we’ll see fewer experimental titles and more of what they are sure will sell.

I read an article today that pointed out while Xbox always had the ShooterBox label it is now Sony that seems to be only making two types of game: third person adventures like Naughty Dog games and first person shooters that look like Bungie productions.

I’m not necessarily complaining about that, both companies make excellent games and have formulas, that work. I just find it interesting that for all the talk of Game Pass forcing Microsoft to make safe games or ones full of microtransactions it would appear Sony’s search for ever higher profits means it’s the one following this plan first.
DarKerR (gamertag)/DarKeR_UK (PSN ID)

Inbox also-rans
So the Xbox One is officially an ex-Xbox, eh? I can’t say I’ll miss it. An underpowered console that has no significant exclusives of its own. It won’t be missed.

I got an early copy of Final Fantasy 16 in the UK. My mate works at a game shop (not a GAME shop) and got me one. It’s actually pretty good but I’m not getting GC into trouble by saying anything more.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

MORE : Games Inbox: Starfield vs. Zelda for Game of the Year, Forza Motorsport always-online, and Final Fantasy 16

MORE : Games Inbox: Final Fantasy 16 demo review, GTA 6 warning signs, and Fable defence force

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