The lights are on
Despite releasing some big name exclusives, 2011 was a rough
year for Sony. The company's lackluster security led to one of the worst
hacking scandals in recent history, and its solution to motion-controlled gaming
fell flat in light of nearly nonexistent support. But these disappointments
pale in my mind to the company's failure to capitalize on three little words.
Play, Create, Share. It's a tag line Sony coined alongside
the first LittleBigPlanet, one that wasn't just supposed to be a flashy slogan,
but a new way to play video games. It was meant to be a feather in Sony's cap –
one the company could certainly use.
The LittleBigPlanet series provides virtually unlimited replayability
Sony doesn't have a lot to differentiate itself from the
competition nowadays. The allure of free online gaming lost some of its luster
when the company's network went down for almost a month and countless users had
their personal information stolen. Move, while probably the most accurate form
of motion-based gaming on the market, hasn't had any compelling releases to
justify the peripheral's existence. Sony has pushed 3D gaming hard in recent
months, but you don't need a Sony television or a PS3 to play your games in the
For many gamers, the decision of what console to buy largely
comes down to system exclusives. Sony has plenty of great exclusive franchises
– arguably more than Nintendo, unquestionably more than Microsoft. However,
gamers who don't own a PS3 can have similar experiences as most of Sony's
biggest franchises from multi-platform games and Nintendo and Microsoft titles.
Except for the handful of games that fall under the Play,
Create, Share umbrella. Nintendo's cutesy and entertaining platformers have
nothing on LBP 2's 3+ million user-made levels, and being able to create your
own race tracks in ModNation Racers is something every kart racer should have.
Same goes for the under hyped mission creator in Infamous 2, which is exactly
what open-world games need to remain entertaining long after the single-player
campaign is over.
ModNation Racers shames other kart racers with its ability to make and share tracks
Sony released two great games this year featuring the Play,
Create, Share style of gameplay: the aforementioned LittleBigPlanet 2 and
Infamous 2. What's on the horizon for this new subgenre? Nothing but
tumbleweeds. The PlayStation Vita will be getting retreads of LBP and ModNation
Racers, but Sony hasn't announced anything new for PS3, didn't really advertize
the mission creation feature in Infamous 2, and has done nothing in the
downloadable space to capitalize on its new form of gaming. Instead, Sony tried
to lazily apply the motto to Uncharted 3, based on its multiplayer character
customization and Facebook integration. Sorry, Sony: that's not Play, Create,
Share. It's Play, Customize, Bug Your Friends.
Sony's failure to capitalize on user content-focused titles
is even more disappointing given how wide open the field is. The Wii's
barebones approach to online gaming makes it virtually impossible to cultivate
the kind of community LittleBigPlanet has, and Microsoft has firmly established
its intent to charge gamers for every piece of downloadable content it can. Not
only does this indifference give Sony an advantage with consumers, it could
attract developers interested in creating user content-oriented games. One only
has to look at PC gaming to see how many developers support modding, and the
types of communities those tools create, to see what console makers are
Infamous 2's mission creator proves user content isn't just for cartoony titles or PC games
The Play, Create, Share concept isn't right for every game,
and as such, I don't want to see Sony shoehorn it into the wrong experiences.
However, the company should be actively encouraging developers to incorporate
user-created content into their games, creating new Play, Create, Share titles
with its first-party studios, and scanning the industry for up-and-coming
developers who are working on likeminded projects for potential partnerships.
Xbox 360 owners will soon be getting an exclusive version of the wildly popular
Minecraft – what's Sony's next move?
If Sony has an answer, it's not sharing it publicly yet. I
enjoy many of the PS3-exclusive franchises, and think Sony does many things
better than the competition (like the PS3's UI, for one), but I hope the
company does more with its Play, Create, Share brand this year than it did in
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.