Games Inbox: What is the secret to the PS4’s success?

The Tuesday Inbox still can’t get over its Dreamcast nostalgia, as one reader compares Paul Hollywood to Marcus Fenix.

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No gimmicks

Crazy to think that the PlayStation 4 has been so successful this generation, considering how much Sony struggled with the PlayStation 3. Just goes to show the benefit of learning your lessons and not repeating your mistakes. I have all three consoles, so I don’t like to think of myself as a fanboy, but what pleases me most about its success is that it’s done it based almost purely on its games.

There were no gimmicks for the PlayStation 4. No flashy new graphical techniques, no new disc formats that also played movies, no weird no control or peripherals, and no non-games to try and get non-gamers playing. You had PlayStation VR as an optional extra and that was pretty much it, everything else about the PlayStation 4 is just about it’s games. Not even the Switch can say that given how important its console design is to its success.

What I’m curious about is whether they’ll use this same scheme next gen or will they start to invent new reasons for why you should get a PlayStation 5? I hope not, a games machine that knows it’s a game machine is always going to be better than some all-signing multimedia device that wants to be all things to all people.

If can be successful with the general public by ‘just’ being a games console I think that’s a big achievement and hopefully will be seen as the secret of the PlayStation’s success going forward.


Peaceful coexistence

Does anyone feel like they’ve already heard more than enough about Death Stranding? I know it’s Hideo Kojima and everything but it seems pretty obvious to me that this is going to be another of those ‘but what do you do?’ games, where the answer is not very much.

As far as a I can work out most of the time is spent being a courier and talking to people, connecting the ‘strands’ of the country back together. I haven’t seen anything so far that suggest he’s much interested in the action. Which would be fine, but a Hideo Kojima that’s not interested in action means two hour long cut scenes (not an exaggeration) and I am just not up for that anymore.

And yet a part of me is very happy to have him doing what he’s doing and having the full backing of Sony. I’ve already decided it’s not for me but at least it’s something different and just another shooter/sequel. Sony has got this whole first party thing down to a fine art and now seem to be able to make a hit out of just about anything, and that definitely counts for something.


Sega hates Europe

As a follow up to the weekend Topic somebody in yesterday’s Inbox mentioned the Dreamcast’s awful disc cases.

Very true, but it was only the EU/UK cases that were bad. The transparent parts were almost as fragile as glass, with the hinge, made of the same material, thin and flimsy at their most vulnerable point so almost guaranteed to break with normal use. The disc retaining spindles were also an abomination.

Elsewhere, i.e. U.S. and Japan Dreamcast games came in far sturdier, fairly standard single or double audio type CD jewel cases.

As far as I know nobody has ever explained this strange packaging change for UK/EU Dreamcast games. The only thing I can think of is that it was because they wanted a single case type that could accommodate games with two discs plus a, sometimes, multi-language, instruction manual.

Whatever the reason it was indeed a lousy design.
Malcolm Lawn

GC: It was probably that. The manuals could be enormous sometimes.


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Water disappointment

RE: Ryan O’D and Sonic Mania. I am in the majority who never completed it. I got to just the second zone (the water factory place), died several times, got annoyed and never went back.

I played all the Sonic games as a kid and was pretty good back then, but even then I hated this level and the drowning mechanic. It just stressed me out. So whilst it might get better, I just hate this level and don’t want to try it again.

Maybe I have got worse as I’ve got older, or lack the patience, or both, but I am disappointed it’s happened like this as I really wanted to love the game.


Better than the average

If I may offer my own tuppence worth on the Underbox: it is by and large some of the oldest and most regularly featured Inbox contributors commenting and discussing the Inbox letters/features/reviews of that day. There are definitely disagreements at times, but it is by no means representative of the worst the Internet has to offer.

The comments section under the Reader’s Feature in question is particularly tame, with the author of the feature calmly responding to the comment about his motives for playing the beta. Admittedly, I think it’s nice to thank the people that have written the features for their efforts before critiquing/asking a question (to those I’ve missed, including last weeks’, thanks for the features!) While I appreciate that seemingly curt or snidey comments can be frustrating for the authors, I certainly don’t see anything in this case that would provoke the response it did from a third party.

Apologies for the long letter, but it’s not the first Inbox letter I’ve seen denigrating the Underbox and I felt I had to stick up for it a bit – for many it’s a complimentary part of reading the Inbox, and offers an interactive means of discussion that is valuable. Plus, without it I wouldn’t have been able to work from home for $800 a day.


Moon bananas

Yes! I finally did it! I beat the Darker Side in Super Mario Odyssey! I climbed that eerily out of place skyscraper that is presumably empty and got that bunch of moon bananas!

What? How dare you accuse me of using Glydon to skip half the level! Not that it would be cheating as the game lets you and you still have to ensure that you don’t lose so much height that you plummet to your doom. What? I wouldn’t even mention it if I was feeling a little guilty? Well, I never! Uh… look! Behind you! Shigeru Miyamoto has just announced he’s going to develop a Transformers-themed Han Solo simulator!

(Runs away.)


Best of the rest

I wrote in about the Hot Topic but reading others’ memories I can’t believe I didn’t mention some of the games. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica… literally my favourite Resi! Power Stone, never been bettered really. The ligh gun, maracas, chunky fishing rod with reel from The House Of The Dead, Samba de Amigo. and Sega Bass Fishing.

And of course Space Channel 5, my first rhythm action game, although that was PROBABLY PaRappa the Rapper! Oh I loved Ulala and her pink hair, she was so far ahead of the trend, 20 years in fact! Man, that was one hell of a console!
big boy bent


Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here


Quids in

Regarding Battra’s letter bemoaning the lack of scary games coming out; I recently took advantage of the ‘2 months for £2’ Xbox Game Pass offer for new signees, specifically to play Blair Witch… and I’m absolutely loving it. Had heard all kinds of horror stories about how it runs on Xbox and you can tell it isn’t the world’s best optimised game, not by a long shot – but what it lacks in technical polish it more than makes up for in atmosphere and that, to me, is the entire raison d’etre for this type of game.

The dog’s behaviour is wholly believable (even down to periodically cocking his leg up!) and it’s fair to say I can’t remember the last time I felt such a strong connection to a digital character. And if the graphics, though still pretty decent, aren’t perhaps all they should have been, the audio is incredible. Play this as it’s meant to be played – in the dark, headphones on – and you’ll be completely immersed.

Is it scary? I have to admit, for me, it isn’t, particularly. Nor is it especially challenging, though there are the odd moments where you find yourself wandering around, wondering what the hell to do next. But, in my opinion, as far as building a world and creating an atmosphere goes – and as a film adaptation – it’s right up there with the likes of Alien Isolation.

Slightly odd timing coming out in early September rather than around Halloween, I agree – but a solid and enjoyable horror game that proves the genre is still going strong and which I’d definitely recommend. Meanwhile, my son is blazing through the Gears 5 campaign and all for two – two(!) – English pounds. Thank you, Microsoft and Game Pass.
Karl S


Inbox also-rans

Has anyone else noticed the similarity between old man Marcus Fenix in Gears Of War 4 and Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood hard staring at a baker getting it wrong? Just me then!
Johnny Alpha SD
Currently playing: Gears Of War 4, Spider-Man 2 on GameCube, and Elite Dangerous

So Borderlands 3 is already the biggest launch of the year, probably second only to Call Of Duty and FIFA. I know that was what was predicted but is it only me that thinks that’s an incredibly boring line-up? Thank god for indie gaming.


This week’s Hot Topic

The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Grando, who asks you to imagine the dream sequel you’d love to see.

It can be for a game that hasn’t had a sequel in decades or one that regularly gets them, but you’re never quite satisfied with. What are the most important features you’d like to see and what about the graphics, art style, and story?

How similar is your idea to the direction of the franchise at the moment and how likely do you think it is that they could do something similar for real?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]


The small print
New Inbox updates appear twice daily, every weekday morning and afternoon. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word 4Player viewer features at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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