Other than Nintendo, there’s probably no other company in gaming as beloved as Sony. The Japanese software giant has been one of the industry’s most important innovators ever since the release of their original PlayStation console in 1994 and continues to enjoy tremendous success to this day, with the PlayStation 4 now the company’s fastest-selling console ever. Basically, Sony makes reliable hardware and puts out great games; what’s not to like?
Well, a company as big and influential as Sony doesn’t get to where it is today without making some mistakes along the way, and Sony’s history is dotted with some serious blunders. While the PlayStation division has been Sony’s driving force for quite some time now, it’s also fallen victim to some poor decision-making over the years, with the following 10 instances representing Sony’s worst PlayStation decisions.
10. Mishandling PlayStation Classics Library
Nintendo gets a lot of flak for the mishandling of their Virtual Console service but when it comes to making their back catalog available on newer systems, Sony is just as bad. Sony may not have as deep a library of classics as Nintendo does, but gamers still have a lot of nostalgia for the PS1 and PS2 era, so you’d think Sony would be bending over backwards to try and sell those old games to people. Yeah … not so much. While the company made a concerted effort to establish PlayStation Classics as an important fixture of the PS Store on the PlayStation 3, they have largely given up on re-releasing old games on the PlayStation 4, which still has no way to play digital PS1 games nearly four years into its lifespan.
Hilariously, the Vita still has support for PS1 games but it’s randomly selective, as certain games — like the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series — simply aren’t available to download for no discernible reason. As for the PS2, Sony introduced PS2 remasters for download on the PS4 with updated HD visuals and trophy support; a great idea in theory but one whose potential will likely never be realized if Sony continues to release games at trickle. To be fair, Sony has made it clear that their focus is on new experiences, not backwards compatibility and older titles, but to ignore their legacy games almost entirely just seems absurd.
9. Sixaxix Controls
When the PlayStation 3 launched in 2006, it was marred by a host of issues. While pricing is the one that most often gets cited, another PS3 problem that tends to get overlooked is Sony’s bizarre decision to not only put motion-sensing technology in the console’s official controller, but to remove force feedback as well. To be fair, Sony was in the midst of a lawsuit at the time involving patent infringement claims by Immersion, the company that created the haptic feedback technology in the Sony’s DualShock controllers, prompting Sony to drop “rumble” from the Sixaxis altogether. The problem was that Sony then started making claims that nobody wanted force feedback in controllers anyway and that their Sixaxis technology was the future.
However, no one really cared about the controller’s tilt functionality — probably because very few games actually made good use of it — and after settling with Immersion in March 2007, Sony wound up replacing the Sixaxis with the DualShock 3 in 2008. Even though the DualShock 3 still had Sixaxis functionality, Sony had pretty much stopped trying to sell people on it by that point and everyone just sort of forgot about it.
8. PlayStation Home
The PlayStation 3 was Sony’s first console to have a proper online service that went well beyond just playing games with other people and part of their online initiative was to push the system as a social networking device. Enter PlayStation Home, a virtual hangout app where users made avatars and interacted with other people from around the world. Basically, it was like a PlayStation-branded version of Second Life.
While PlayStation Home was a cool idea in theory, it never really caught on with PS3 users because it wasn’t really clear what they were even supposed to do with it and many opted to just keep hanging out with their online buddies through traditional multiplayer games instead. Surprisingly, PlayStation Home lasted for nearly seven years — kept afloat through the introduction of expensive cosmetic microtransactions — before the plug was finally pulled in 2017.
7. The PSPGo
Looking back now, the PSP Go is a system that was ahead of its time, as the system’s main selling point was something that consumers simply weren’t ready for back in 2009. With this particular PSP model, Sony boldly decided to ditch UMD (Universal Media Disk) physical media altogether, as the Go could only download games digitally through the PlayStation Store. Unfortunately, the PSP Go was released at a time when digital distribution was still catching on and the prospect of not being able to use any physical media was simply something that the vast majority of consumers had no interest in.
The Go also had a few other significant problems going against it, such as a battery that couldn’t be swapped out without voiding the system warranty, a proprietary USB cable connector, and region locking that restricted each handheld to a single PSN account. The Go was quickly abandoned and Sony would throw physical media back into the mix for the system’s successor, the PlayStation Vita.
6. PlayStation Move
Released in 2006, Nintendo hit it big with the Wii and its innovative motion controller, to the point where Sony and Microsoft found themselves playing catch-up after the Wii started to outsell the PS3 and Xbox 360 by a significant margin. While Microsoft went the hands-free route with its Kinect camera peripheral, Sony’s solution was to try and beat Nintendo at their own game by releasing motion controllers that were more accurate than the Wii’s. Released in 2010, the PlayStation Move controller was a tough sell from the get-go, as the Move also required the purchase of the PlayStation Eye camera in order to track the Move wand’s glowing orb.
While the Move admittedly worked really well, software support quickly dried up, leaving customers with very little reason to use the controllers when the majority of PS3 games could still be played with a regular DualShock. Recently, the Move got a chance at a second life thanks to its integration with PlayStation VR but as anyone who’s used the headset can attest, the Move controllers are a bit outdated and are arguably hindering Sony’s VR initiative more than they’re enhancing it.
5. The PlayStation Phone
When you think about it, a PlayStation Phone makes a lot of sense. Dedicated handheld consoles have been slowly dying out thanks in large part to the rise of smartphones, so making a handheld gaming system that’s also a smartphone makes a lot of sense. Sony attempted to do this in 2011 with the Xperia Play, which was basically a Sony Ericsson with slide-out physical controls. Unfortunately, a number of poor decisions ultimately doomed the device. For whatever reason, Sony downplayed the whole “handheld console that’s also a smartphone” thing by not calling it the PlayStation Phone, but that’s only the beginning of the device’s problems.
The big killer was that the Xperia Play couldn’t access the PlayStation Store. Instead, it ran on Android and used its own dedicated version of the Google Play store, which meant that it not only lacked the ability to play a bunch of PlayStation games, but also many games that were available on other Android devices. This identity crisis prompted consumers to either stick with one of Nintendo or Sony’s already available dedicated gaming handhelds or opt for a different phone. The Xperia brand would live on, but Sony ultimately abandoned the PlayStation-like models, which is a shame because this is arguably still a concept that could work if done properly.
4. Proprietary Storage
Sony looooves its proprietary technology, a fact that has come back to bite the computer giant a few times with its PlayStation brand, particularly its handheld consoles. For instance, the PSP used a proprietary media format called UMD to house games and movies. While the format had its advantages, such as increased storage space over cartridges, they were also prone to long loading times. The other big problem with UMD was that even though a variety of movies were released on the format, they cost as much as DVDs in some cases and consumers were much more likely to purchase a movie they could actually watch on more than one device rather than a handheld with a small screen.
Sony wisely switched to flash-based cards for the Vita (though by this point most people just purchased games digitally through the PlayStation Store), but the Vita was plagued by a different proprietary problem: memory cards. In a bid to curb piracy, Sony opted for its own line of specially-designed memory cards that only worked with the Vita, which might not have been so bad if they hadn’t been prohibitively-expensive. The largest card at launch was 32 GB, which was priced at an absurd $100. Bear in mind that at this time, you could pick up a regular 32 GB SD card — which was compatible with a huge variety of devices — for a fraction of that price. Although memory pricing is only one of many reasons for the Vita’s failure, it’s not the first (or likely last) time opting for proprietary tech has hurt a Sony product.
3. Network Vulnerabilities Leading To PSN Outage
The PlayStation Network has come a long way since its earliest incarnation on the PS3, but it’s still not great and continues to be plagued by frustratingly archaic issues (have you ever wondered why you can’t change your PSN name? According to Sony, it has something to do with the way the PSN was originally built, which is just absurd). Thankfully, PSN is at least much more secure than it used to be because Sony is not in a hurry to have another network breach like the infamous one that happened in 2011.
For a whopping 23 days, the PSN was offline after hackers were able to compromise personal data from around 77 millions accounts. The situation was bad enough, and Sony only made things worse by staying largely silent for the entire first week before notifying users that their personal information may have been compromised. Unsurprisingly, a class action lawsuit was soon filed. Sony tried to smooth things over by offering free games to users affected by the outage but the whole situation undoubtedly tarnished Sony’s reputation and cost the company a staggering $171 million when all was said and done.
2. Abandoning The Vita
Sony has a habit of quickly abandoning products when they don’t perform to expectations — one hopes that the PlayStation VR doesn’t end up suffering this fate — but the way they left the Vita to die is truly exasperating. Sony’s follow-up to the quite successful PSP was released in early 2012 amid a ton of hype for its graphical power and solid lineup of launch games, which included first-party standouts like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048. Unfortunately, the Vita never quite caught on with consumers for a number of reasons, chief among them competition from smartphones and pricing issues (like the aforementioned memory card debacle).
Whether Sony could have done anything to right the ship is a matter of debate but abandoning it altogether certainly didn’t help engender confidence in the platform. The Vita is still a fantastic handheld with some quality third party and indie games, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a dead platform and much of the blame can be aimed squarely at Sony.
1. PlayStation 3 Launch
Without a doubt Sony’s biggest blunder with its PlayStation brand was the embarrassing launch of the PlayStation 3, which has become something of an unofficial guide in the industry for how NOT to release a new game console. Where to even begin? The PS3’s problems began well before its November 2006 launch, with Sony delivering an astoundingly bad presentation at that year’s E3 months prior that reeked of arrogance. Sony’s decision to launch the console at $599 was probably unavoidable considering they would have lost way too much money if they had priced it lower, but the company acted like the PS3 was a console consumers had to earn, with one Sony exec making claims that people would need two jobs to get one. It also didn’t help that the console’s launch lineup was nothing to write home about and with two cheaper consoles in the form of the Xbox 360 and Wii already out on the market, the PS3’s seemed destined for an early death.
To Sony’s credit, they managed to turn things around over time, lowering the system’s cost with multiple hardware revisions, putting out a ton of must-have software, and just generally getting away from the arrogant attitude that turned away so many consumers at the beginning. In fact, it’s hard to think of another console that reinvented itself as successfully as the PlayStation 3 but those early years were some of Sony’s roughest, to put it mildly.