The Dusty Controller; Waiting For Games.

As Sony hit 5.2 million PS4 sales, I’m still waiting for that killer game…

Most will be horrified by this, but my Dualshock 4 this morning had to be dusted off – literally!

No, it hasn’t seen much use. I sort of enjoyed Don’t Starve for a while, but I’ve also had Outlast on Steam. I enjoyed comparing Assassin’s Creed 4 console-wise, but kind of moved on now. And Tomb Raider doesn’t interest me – been there, felt queasy enough thank you ever so much, why do I want to go through the same painful experience again with better graphics? So the controller sat in the drawer, sad and lonely and cold, whilst I continued on playing with my PlayStation 3, my Wii U, my PC and my 3DS.

There’s a lot of self-congratulatory back-slapping going on with the news that even before it releases in Japan, the PlayStation 4 has sold 5.2 million units – although whether this is just to retail, or straight-through consumer sales, isn’t clear (although it is clear that finding PS4’s is increasingly hard). It’s obvious the PlayStation 4 is becoming a bit of a phenomenon; with its “#4thegamers” tag and sleek looks, it’s a stylish little thing. There’s no questioning it’s power either; plenty enough to handle what developers want to throw at it. Or that the DualShock 4 is probably the best jump in controller design for some years now; the right feel, the right materials, the right weight and the right texturing. It feels right.

The thing is, even though I am one of those people who bought a PlayStation 4 on launch day, I’m struggling to find reasons to want to play the thing.

The PS-Plus titles interested me for a bit; I like the cut of Contrast‘s jib, but as a platformer it’s twitchy as anything and when you’ve been playing Super Mario 3D World, you can’t really help but feel disappointed by what it offers. Resogun is a fantastic, but simple, demonstration of voxel-based gameplay, but it only lasts so long. Don’t Starve is really good fun, but also later on, really tedious. And Outlast, well, finished it on PC. Some time ago. Though for some, the same could be applied to Don’t Starve and Contrast. These two had been on the PC before the PlayStation 4, after all. It’s a nice selection; but if I wanted indie content, the place to go for that right now – shock of all horrors I know – is the Wii U; Nintendo has something indie developers want, and that is gravitas. Where third parties may be struggling with Nintendo, the indie scene is getting more and more attached to what the Gamepad offers, and the help and indeed, leg-up that Nintendo provides them. With plenty on the Wii U already and 150+ more to come this year, I certainly won’t be looking very hard at the PlayStation 4 for indie exclusives. That’s being covered already.

Retail releases have been dry; this is always the problem for a new console, and unless you have a really killer hook of a game, launch line-ups often look like a pretty desolate wasteland. Funnily enough, the Wii U had Zombi-U; a game which kept me entertained for a whole year, so there’s a thought for launch titles, eh? How often can you say that about a game? Sony have a list of titles, but they often don’t have fixed release dates; Q1, Q2, TBC and so forth. The promise of games isn’t the same as having them. Surely that’s a lesson Sony should have learned by this point, no?

This might seem like I’m having a downer on the PlayStation 4; but it’s good to have some context. Those sales are incredible – but what are we doing with those consoles?

Mine sits there, patiently waiting for me to glorify it with… something. And I’m not sure what that is, or will be, quite yet. Will it be Metal Gear Solid 5? It’s not a series that interests me that much, but who knows, I might sit down and try to enjoy a Hideo Kojima plot without wondering if it’s possible to inflict massive head trauma with the controller. InFamous: Second Son is one of those games which looks great, but doesn’t seem to have moved on much. Then you have Child of Light – releasing on the Wii U, so that might be where I get it, and Oddworld: New and Tasty – but again, Wii U release (along with a Stranger’s Wrath HD release at some date).

That’s NOT to say there aren’t games I want to see on the PlayStation 4. The Order: 1886 is sort of like the spiritual reincarnation of the long-forgotten and much-missed Nightmare Creatures. A sort of movie-inspired monster-hunt, I’m actually very much looking forward to it in spite of its shortcomings (no 60FPS for you here, 1080/60 nuts!). I want to see Murdered: Soul Suspect – because I’m all for big releases that take real chances with the subject material, and a ghost trying to solve their own mysterious murder sounds like the perfect modern blend of Heavy Rain and Omikron: The Nomad Soul (oh damn! The modern convention states that whenever we mention Omikron there has to be a comma, and then we say, “David Bowie was in that, you know!”).

But the line-up is dry at the moment. The Wii U, I must admit, I’m still playing Pikmin 3 and Wind Waker HD (alongside a new save file of Super Mario 3D World). I’ve had my PlayStation 3 on this week most of all, in preparation for the forthcoming Dark Souls 2, I’m eager to earn my second The Dark Soul; with my old 360 now well and truly dead, I’d rather like to get it on my PS3 as well. That said, it’s never ever a chore to play through Dark Souls – it’s just great to have a reason. Well, as if I needed a ‘reason’… my PC has seen me playing everything from Starbound (Love it) to Octodad: Dadliest Catch (which may be short, but it is hilarious!). Heck, my 3DS has had Pokémon running on it; ripping my fuzzy fuzzballs from old banks of Black and White to new homes in Pokémon Y. Plus I’m also going for a no-death Link’s Awakening run; because it’s something to do.

I am fine with having my PlayStation 4 on hold for the moment; but I think before people gloat about the sales, the question I always like to ask is, “What are you playing right now?” Chances are, for most of us the PlayStation 4 isn’t getting nearly the kind of usage that it perhaps should be; Sony are keen to try and push the PlayStation Now service to fill in a gap, but let’s be honest, it IS a gap; and it’s as barren as the Wii U’s lineup as been as well. And that’s not being unkind – that’s pointing out the obvious, but painful, truth of it. A couple of very key retail releases; and downloadable stuff that so far, Nintendo is likely to get more extras from as it seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate these digital releases.

And I’m sure Sony will get a ton more sales from Japan, when it releases. But I feel some people are in the honeymoon period; the same honeymoon period this time last year most of us enjoyed with the Wii U, before we got more critical of the ever-increasingly dry games line-up. At the end of the day, “#4thegamers” is a snappy sound bite but it has to have a delivery; and in terms of games, Sony is looking increasingly empty compared to the XBox One (which is attracting exclusives!), and the Wii U (which seems to be becoming everything the Ouya wanted to be!). Unless Sony can really start pushing things, that hashtag is going to become the millstone around its neck, in the same way “It Only Does Everything” became the running gag when the PlayStation 3 was unable to do ANYTHING, thanks to hackers.

I just can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment though.

I look at that DualShock 4, and I remember how much money must have been spent redesigning the controller to be so brilliantly lovely. I think of all the potential games it will play in the coming years; I wonder if Sony intends to raid its back catalogue of awesome content to give people like me even more reason to want to love it. I look at the share button; wondering why I’d share anything right now. The touch-pad; a sort of funny big extra button. I wonder when I’ll get that feeling that I WANT to give it more playtime. Because I don’t buy a games console on the grounds of, “It’s really pretty”. I also know as an habitual early adopter these things often take time. Buying at launch is often a painful experience compared to those who wait a year or two; those coming in later will not understand why I’m sitting here now, complaining about a lack of interest in the games. It just won’t occur to them there might have been a time when a dry-spell existed; heck, with the UK covered in flood water lately, you wouldn’t think not two years ago we were complaining of a drought!

But I feel sorry for it most of all. Because I get the feeling someone really loved making this controller; making this console, even. And here I am, looking at it, watching the controller gather dust, and feeling pangs of guilt and pity over it. I’m sure in the end, all will be right and I will look back at this myself and wonder why I felt this, or why I even felt terrible for feeling it. It’s just, everything else is getting used. I can’t keep ignoring that PlayStation 4 on the side. I paid good money for it, after all. And I just don’t want to use it. I don’t feel any draw to games right now to use it.

Still, I can’t help but feel like I’m also being too hard on it. We go through this every generation with at least one console, if not all of them, and I shouldn’t have had a part of me believe that the PlayStation 4 was going to be any different. At least I have one; and could afford it. This shouldn’t become one of those ‘First World Problems’. It’s there and it works (right now, anyway!) and Sony has been bloody good to me over the years. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt in a lot of ways, from replacing my very out-of-warranty PS3 free of charge to funding stuff like The Last of Us.

And even if I don’t use the PlayStation 4 in the coming weeks, I at least owe it to the machine to take the controller out of the drawer and keep it shiny. I should be happy to own a PlayStation 4.

Everyone else is, after all.

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