Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been out for almost three years now and although Microsoft has made considerable strides over the last year or two in trying to catch up to Sony’s sales lead, the PS4 remains the dominant force in console gaming. Although the PS4 is winning the current console war, there is still considerable room for improvement on Sony’s part. The PS4 does many things well and is a considerable improvement in most regards when compared to its flawed predecessor, the PlayStation 3, but there are still a number of areas where Sony’s console falls well short of its promise. Whether or not any of the following issues are going to be addressed is a question only Sony can answer, but as a diehard PlayStation fan, I really hope Sony addresses these problems going forward in order to make the PS4 even better.
10. External Storage Support
Update 2/3/2017: Sony has announced that firmware update 4.50 will include external hard drive support.
As anyone who owns more than three PS4 games can attest, the console’s default 500 GB fills up right quick. Upgrading the hard drive is pretty much a necessity when games regularly take up 40-50 GB of hard drive space; unfortunately, Sony doesn’t make it very easy to do so. For some unfathomnable reason, the PS4 only supports internal storage drives, which severely limits your options when you inevitably have to shop around for a larger hard drive (not to mention internal drives are generally more expensive than external). This is surely something Sony could fix with a firmware update, so it’s perplexing why they haven’t done so yet. 2.5″ SATA drives — the only type the PS4 supports — currently top out at 2 terabytes which, while still a massive improvement over 500 GB, pales in comparison to the options available with an external drive. Just imagine how many games you could put on this thing!
9. The Ability To Search For Communities
“Communities” are a newer addition to the PS4 ecosystem, enhancing the console’s social functionality by allowing users to rally around similar interests, play games together, and share tips and tricks. While they have been a popular and welcome feature, Sony dropped the ball in a a big way by seemingly forgetting to include the ability to search for Communities. This means that users have to do a bit of digging around to join up with a specific one, involving a number of unnecessary steps that are inefficient and time-consuming. Considering the backlash this error in judgment has received so far, it’s likely only a matter of time before Sony implements a Community search bar, but this is still an issue that shouldn’t even exist in the first place.
8. Video Capture Categorization
The PS4’s sharing features are significantly better than what the Xbox One currently offers, but there’s still considerable room for improvement. Perhaps the biggest issue (and one that seems to pervade the PS4 as a whole) is the poor categorization options included for organizing recorded screenshots and videos. The PS4 simply doesn’t allow for enough organization when it comes to these game captures, which makes things needlessly complicated and cumbersome for users who like to share content on a regular basis. Admittedly, the lack of categorization options is systemic of pretty much the entire PS4 user experience, but fortunately, adding these kinds of features isn’t anywhere near as complicated as something like backwards compatibility, so updating the video capture menu is probably something we’ll see down the road.
7. Allow For Pinned Apps
Another fix that seems so simple, but one that PS4 users continue to wait for is the ability to pin apps. Right now, it’s still pretty easy to find whatever apps you want to use, but is there any good reason why something like Netflix — an app that most PS4 users use on a constant basis — has to be needlessly buried in the “TV and Movies” tab? Users should be able to pin their favorite apps and games so that they can access them quicker. This pretty much all stems from the PS4’s inexplicable lack of organization and categorization options (something that definitely needs to be addressed in a future firmware update) but the ability to pin apps should be at the top of Sony’s list for future PS4 improvements, especially when it really wouldn’t be that difficult to implement.
6. “Appear Offline” Mode
This is such a simple feature it’s baffling that Sony hasn’t thrown it into one of its many firmware updates. The ability to appear offline isn’t an important feature by any stretch, but with consoles pretty much having to be always online these days, it’s sometimes nice to at least pretend you’re offline for those times when you want to be antisocial. We don’t all want to be pestered by our friends to play an online game when we’re deep into a mission in Fallout 4 or have every moment of our gaming time broadcast to everyone on our friends list. Sometimes it’s just nice to be left alone and do some solo gaming, but evidently Sony doesn’t want anyone to do this or else they would have added this feature long ago. Come on, Sony: The Xbox One has an appear offline feature; why can’t the PS4?
[Update] – Sony has announced an appear offline setting as part of the PS4’s 3.50 firmware update. Progress!
5. Better Controller Battery Life
Although this isn’t a fix Sony can simply make just by releasing a patch (unless there’s a way to turn off whatever drains the battery so fast) the fact of the matter is that the DualShock 4’s battery life is much too low. You pretty much need to own at least two controllers so that one is always being charged, as the DualShock 4 consumes battery power at an alarmingly fast rate. If there’s no way to make any fixes through a firmware update, it would be nice to see Sony release new batches of controllers with improved battery life, or the option to replace the existing rechargeable battery with some AAs like the Xbox One does (although those controllers don’t have rechargeable batteries by default, to be fair). Whatever the solution, the PS4 badly needs a controller that doesn’t die after less than 8 hours of use; either that, or toss in a charging cable that that’s more than 3 feet long.
4. New Dashboard UI
Overall, the PS4’s user interface is adequate and smartly laid out, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a bit of a facelift. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the PS4 UI feels like it’s in beta form for the last two years and that we’re still waiting for the full realization of what the system should look like. The main thing that’s missing right now is the ability to organize games; it makes sense to have the most recently used games and apps appear earlier in the horizontal list, but there has to be a better way to categorize everything. Hopefully Sony pulls a Microsoft and releases something like the “New Xbox Experience” next year that overhauls the entire PS4 dashboard, bringing new features and a better overall aesthetic with it. It’s time Sony moved away from its launch day UI and gave us something new and vibrant.
3. Better PSN Infrastructure
While PSN and Xbox Live are pretty much on par these days and are both well worth their subscription price, it’s hard to deny that Xbox has a much stronger online infrastructure that Sony simply can’t seem to match. Dreadful download speeds, strange networking quirks (what the heck is a NAT type error anyway?), and an infrastructure that seems to be a cyber terrorist’s best friend (remember that month long PSN outage back in 2011) are simply a reality of using Sony’s online service. While the company continues to upgrade the PSN and make it better everyday, it still plays second fiddle to Xbox Live. As the leading console this generation, Sony should also be leading when it comes to its online experience and unfortuantely, it’s just not there yet. Sony needs to continue making improvements to PSN’s backend that improve stability and performance across the board if they ever want to have the same reputation as Microsoft and their (comparatively) rock-solid online infrastructure.
2. True PS3 Backwards Compatibility
Demand for backwards compatibility with PS3 games has only gone up since Microsoft (I know, I know! Enough with the Xbox references but Microsoft’s system does a lot of things right. To be fair, you could pack an entire list of things the Xbox One should copy from the PS4, so it’s all relative) revealed that the Xbox One would be gaining the ability to play Xbox 360 titles earlier this year. While recent reports suggest that PS2 emulation is coming soon, there’s still no way to play the PS3 games you own on the console. There are two potential ways Sony could go about remedying the PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility with PS3: they could go the emulation route, which could very well not even work considering the PS3 was such a needlessly complex piece of hardware. The other solution and the one that seems like the more likely of the two is to expand PlayStation Now to allow you to stream all of your PS3 games. At the moment, PlayStation Now allows you to play a variety of PS3 titles for a monthly subscription fee, but nobody wants to pay twice to experience games they already own. If Sony can make PS3 emulation a reality or improve upon PlayStation Now’s functionality, it would go a long way in matching what Xbox One has on offer and better unify the entire PlayStation library.
1. PSN ID Changes
This is the big one, but also the one that may be the most difficult to remedy, perplexingly. Unlike Xbox Live, PSN does not allow you to change your name. That means that if you chose “ChronicMan420” as your handle back in 2006 when the PlayStation 3 first came out and you were a young idiot, you’re still stuck with that unfortunate ID 9 years later. While it seems like it would be a simple thing to allow users to change their names, the PSN was set up in such a way where your actual ID — and not a series of numbers like on Xbox Live — are tied to everything on an account level, which means that it would a be a very complex process to switch any PSN name, let alone give every user the option. Recent comments from Sony suggest that they have heard the complains loud and clear, but that it might not even be possible to allow users to change their IDs. We can only hope that Sony finds an engineering solution that will allow us to no longer live with our shortsighted, regrettable online handles any longer.