A letter to a PS4, from an Xbox player.
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Do you remember when we first met? You'd been out for a month or 2, I'd guess. You were dropped off with me as a surprise gift from my little brother. Through an interesting turn of events, he'd ended up being given 3 of you for various promotional reasons and being the generous soul he is, decided he'd share them out. He kept one for himself. He gave one to me. The other one, he gave to his asshole best mate - and the less said about my thoughts on him, probably the better. You sat in my games room, boxed and unopened, for the better part of a month.
I was an Xbox player, you see. I'd had Playstations before, but to be honest your older cousins had never really interested me all that much. I'd had a PSX, but then I had a Gamecube, and then an original Xbox. I'd eventually bought a PS3 right at the tail end of that generation - mostly to play The Last of Us and the Uncharted games, but by that point Microsoft's Xbox 360 had won my heart. It had Halo and it was where my friends were - and when my mates announced their plans to stay with Microsoft into the Xbox One era, I was right by their side.
When I finally got around to taking you out of the box, I'll be honest - my first impressions weren't great. Setting you up, getting the controller synced and then getting you connected to the wi-fi all seemed much more difficult than it was with my Xbox. One of my favourite things about firing up my PS3 was the sound of an orchestra tuning up - and you don't play that sound. I installed Killzone: Shadowfall (the game that came in the box with you), and played the first level. Compared to the shooters I was playing on my Xbox (I think it was Titanfall by then!), it felt seriously underwhelming. Add to that the fact that I was fighting against the controller and all in all... yeah. I wasn't impressed.
While we're talking, and being honest with each other... I have to ask you about this whole "symmetrical controller" shit. Any idea why the people who make you insist on sticking with it? That left thumbstick position makes my hand ache. Seriously. It's extremely uncomfortable. If you look at pads for EVERY other console, they've all got offset sticks. If you could get a moment with your product designers and explain to them that, well, if you can get sticks with offset pads to work with you but no-one else produces symmetrical pads to work on everyone else's machines, that the problem's with YOU? That would be great - ta.
Anyway, time passes. You're basically a paperweight in my games room. Destiny launches - and with my friends on Xbox it's a no-brainer for me which platform I buy it on. The fact that so much content for it is exclusive to you... kinda makes me resent you. Just a bit, at first. And then a lot. A little game called Abzu launches on you, and I pick it up and love it - but find myself wishing it was on Xbox. You get all the exclusive Call of Duty content, and I don't really care because I'm not a fan of Call of Duty - but where Xbox had stuff exclusive for a month of two back in the PS3/360 days, you seem to keep stuff to yourself for much longer. That kinda bothers me, you know. It feels a bit like you're not only dominating a generation in sales, but now you're rubbing my nose in it. Every single videogame advert on TV seems to be bookended by a PS4 logo.
Honesty time. I think I got to the point where I left you switched off as a bit of a "fuck you" to Sony as a whole - keeping you mainly so I could engage with fanboys online and then drop the "I own both consoles" bomb. As if, somehow, that lends weight to my opinions that theirs don't carry. All in all, it got a bit pathetic, I think. And in the meantime, games that I should love are dropping for you. The Order: 1886. Horizon Zero Dawn. Until Dawn. God of War. Uncharted 4. Single player, narrative games. Good ones. Ones that, back in the 360 era, I would have lapped up on day one - but in this generation I ignored simply because they demanded that I switch you on and become... a Playstation player. Part of me just really didn't want to do that. I was becoming the worst kind of soldier in the console wars - the kind that would write off entire games and series just because they weren't on my platform of choice. Uncharted 4 was the first game to really challenge me on that. I ended up picking it up to keep my wife quiet, and then just devouring it - in spite of that godawful controller. It was amazing on every level, and I remember finishing it and turning to Lachesis. Pointing to the TV, I said "games like that are why Sony are handing Microsoft their ass this gen." That game made me, if not a Playstation fan, at least a lot less of a Playstation critic.
And now we're here - at the arse end of the generation. The PS5 and Xbox Series S/X are mere weeks away, and I'm sat working my way through the highlights of the generation on the console that I didn't make my home. You're plugged in underneath my lounge TV as I plow through Horizon Zero Dawn. God of War is sat there ready to go. Spiderman is going to be bought in the next couple of days - and I've found myself having more fun with you than I ever thought possible. There are still things about you that drive me absolutely nuts. Updates that apparently do absolutely nothing would be high up on that list, as would be the need to plug in a USB stick to transfer images and clips from you to a laptop - as if you've never heard of the the cloud. Your dashboard is still crap - finding anything that's not on that main horizontal drag is far harder than it should be. And boy, do you get pissy if I unplug you without switching you off properly first though.
As I've gotten to know you better though, in these long weeks of lockdown, I've found I can forgive a lot of these little foibles - because you really are home to some great games. So many of your games seem to revel in the natural world, as well. You're all lush jungles and trees and mountains... and in a world where stepping outside carries more risk than it ever has, you've offered me some unexpected relief that I'm grateful for. I'm glad I've taken some time to get to know you better, and I'm sorry that it took me so long. The biggest hurdle for us to overcome in our relationship was for me to challenge my own biases and start playing. Well, that and buy a third party joypad with offset sticks. I can't help but wonder though: How many more players there are like me, on both sides of the Xbox and Playstation divide, who could benefit in a big way from challenging their own points of view? I'd imagine that there are many.
I wasn't going to buy a PS5. My pre-order for an Xbox Series X is locked and loaded, and my Gamepass subscription is paid up for the next couple of years. I'm going to say something now though that I couldn't imagine myself saying a couple of short months ago - and that's that a PS5 will be finding its way into my setup. I'm going to be putting time aside to play on it; to become the kind of open-minded platform-agnostic videogame player that I've always imagined myself to be but, if I'm honest, haven't managed for most of the last couple of years. I have you to thank for that.
For now though, I have more games to finish. To the players!
All the best, your new buddy