Next-Generation Console Shortcomings
Enabling full-access Discord on the PlayStation 5 is the final piece in the puzzle in delivering a truly next-generation experience
by Mustafa Mabruk
Courtesy of MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images
Recently, Sony announced and displayed the user interface for the upcoming next-generation PlayStation 5 console. In the reveal, we see a number of developments with regards to the social experience offered, including a new control centre, promising an instant-resume to games and allowing you to interact with the system in a variety of ways, but also providing interactive notifications, the ability to join an ongoing call while in-game, starting a live screen-share with a party (similar to the Discord screenshot function), and 4K Screenshots that can be taken and shared in game (similar to the Steam screenshot function). Parties now serve a bigger function as well, acting as permanent groups with ongoing calls that can be joined at any time (again, similar to Discord). These efforts prove that Sony is dedicated to “connecting you with great play and a passionate community of gamers”.
However, while these developments are significant, they do seem lacklustre in the context of a ‘new-generation’ experience. As I have stated, we have seen these features before in Discord and Steam, other online game platforms, and seem less of a next-generation leap and more of a big system update that can be introduced to the current-generation PlayStation 4. In essence, while the promised SSD provides us with incredible load-times, and the jumps in performance do seem like a leap-forward, the same cannot be said for the social aspect, which is arguably the most important.
You may assume that the above-mentioned criticisms may seem nit-picky and come from a consumer who has been jaded and lost interest in the hype of the next generation of consoles. While your assumptions may be entirely accurate, they are justifiable when you consider the current state of video games. As time progresses, one realises that there is nothing that can be done on a console that cannot be done with a PC, which also doubles as the ideal choice for a long-term investment. After all, while running games to a similar performance may cost slightly more on a PC (which is debatable), video game purchases will cost less, and there will be more flexibility on how much is spent for accessories, with most cheaper on PC anyway. Ultimately it seems that one has three reasons to purchase a PlayStation 5; “I like the exclusives a lot” (a valid argument), “it's easier to play games on and to use” (no comment), and finally, and most importantly, “my friends have one so I may as well”.
The final one, to me, seems to be the most compelling argument. In an age where people choose to group themselves not by class type (working, middle etc), but rather our identity as consumers and what we buy (which manifests itself in our daily lives as hobbies and interests) playing video games as a hobby, for an increasing majority, is less about the video games and more about the social experiences, memories and friendships they may produce, as well as a primary method of keeping in touch with friends you may not be as close to anymore (all the more true due to the events of this year). Sony certainly knows this phenomenon is occurring, so this begs the question; why would Sony keep the “community of players” you can interact with when purchasing a console limited to those who purchase the console? Why not open this community up, and allow third-party apps like Discord to fully run on the PS5?
Allowing the use of third-party apps to do so, would be Sony’s way of embracing the direction that video games in general are going - that gaming, as time progresses, becomes more of a social hobby, that may be a bigger part in how some people connect and make friends, as well as how well and how often you keep in touch with existing friends.
Think of the following scenario; you want to play the new Spider-man on the PS4. However, since you have the luxury of having both a PS4 and a PC, you have to make the decision between hanging out with your friends on call for the night, or settling for the single-player PS4 experience, the moments of which you cannot fully share because most of your friends have a PS4. You try to compromise and call your friends on Discord on your phone while playing, and either persevere or give up halfway through.
Perhaps the above scenario is a bit too specific. How about the following; you and your friends want to play Rocket League, however, your friend has it on Xbox. You either play without calling, using in-game text commands to communicate, or the friend playing on console can call on Discord as described earlier, or you go for what I find to be the most common; rarely ever play together.
Despite these frustrations, the success of cross-platform games such as Rocket League and Fortnite have proven that the future of the success of video games will lie somewhat on the availability of cross-platform features. Allowing third-party apps such as Discord would be a simple yet highly effective step in allowing cross-platform communication to flourish, instead of being dependent on the games themselves to provide this service. It also allows for a wider audience to be exposed to the PlayStation 5’s new games and features; currently, there are 113 million PlayStation live users, while there is an audience of 250 million active users on Discord. Allowing Discord access would be a step in reaching a wider audience, as well as embracing the future of cross-platform features and truly delivering on a comprehensive next-gen experience.