Sony has a knack of saving me through the hardest times. I’ll never forget their presence for me and other gamers growing up.
But as we got older, PlayStation would find exciting ways to follow us. Its games turned into complex stories that reflected our own lives. New characters would be our heroes for years to come. Their upcoming adventures would be our investment. More importantly, every generation brings a better escape – a greater way to keep our chin up. Even if it’s up for watching Nathan Drake say cheesy quips on TV.
No price tag on memories.
Since my dad surprised me with the PlayStation 2, I couldn’t let go of the Dualshock. At age six, it’s hard to describe the immeasurable value of being a hero in PlayStation’s world. Sure, I kept my childhood busy with a steady flow of franchises like Ratchet & Clank, God of War and Sly Cooper. Absolutely, cradling the controller after a hard day would be Sony’s way of hugging me. Even for a few hours, PlayStation’s motley characters would be there for me when nobody else was.
In 2021, I never thought Sony would pick players up this way on a deeper level than before. Obviously, the pandemic knocked many of us down in different ways. Staying at home would test my ability to cope through games. This is exactly why Sony and PlayStation earned their brand of the year. By delivering a source of joy and excitement when the world needed it most. With respect: I commend Xbox, Nintendo and Sony for boldly releasing consoles at this time.
But let’s address that ray-traced elephant in the room. Sony picked one hell of a time to usher in the next console generation. The PlayStation 5 would imbue players with a new sense of fulfilment. From riding the next-gen wave to a steady lineup of releases, being at home suddenly felt better again. Its controversial launch and limited supplies would scream of demand. There’s no surprise Sony broke a record of nine million PS5’s sold in under a year. PlayStation’s vows were renewed by trusted fans, ready to grow older with another console. As for the system, it’s a breath of fresh air. Through a heavenly white design and real quality-of-life changes for the long generation ahead.
Sporting a custom AMD processor, NVME and gaming’s most future-proof GPU yet, the PlayStation 5 ironically fares better in value. It’s specs match 2021’s best gaming PCs, without a $2000+ MSRP. Players can also bask their eyes in games that look a bit more believable. Ray traced lights are scattered over Ratchet’s fur. Shadows loom over the faces of a motion captured astronaut waking up from death. Stonework and debris crumble from an invincible dragon’s attack. This is a full package of gaming’s finest tech – all costing less than a GPU.
Make no mistake – the material joy of securing a PlayStation 5 is priceless. Reuniting with figures like Spider-Man, Ratchet and even Frank Woods pull us back into happier times. These are also some of the characters players could meet right on Launch Day. It’s impressive enough that Sony’s developers churned out titles from their homes. But the real magic came from staying true to PlayStation IPs. This foundation built one of Sony’s best launch lineups to date – and masterpieces to enjoy without waiting.
The revolutionary DualSense helps players feel more like their favourite characters. Sony has created one of gaming’s best controllers to date. It’s hard to describe the DualSense’s reaction with game worlds. Triggers rattle like real automatic weapons. Rain and snow gently massage your palms. The controller’s touchpad buckles with every zipper pull. The DualSense to every player is what a proverbial 4D Motion seat is for guests. In the grand scheme of gaming, it’s no surprise Sony has changed the way players can feel this time around. With PlayStation normalizing haptics across DualSense and its upcoming VR headset, other gaming companies only need to follow.
Wait less, play more.
A pandemic didn’t stop PlayStation’s first party studios from giving gamers the next-gen impression they waited for. Demon’s Souls, Bugsnax, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales/Remastered and Astro’s Playroom were a few launch exclusives which set the PlayStation 5 apart. In a rare feat, some of the console’s best games were made on Day 1. It’s also a stark contrast to the Xbox Series X launch, as fans clamored without champion Master Chief in Halo Infinite.
PlayStation persisted in 2021. Like the Xbox Series X, third party titles like Hitman III, Resident Evil Village, Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla continued to make lockdown bearable. But PlayStation 5 owners would continue to be happy with more exclusives. The secret? Highly replayable games until the next big thing. Demon’s Souls kept players busy at launch. Month’s later, players would experience Returnal. The roguelike shooter immersed players with a challenge. But took every advantage of the PS5 to deliver a long term cinematic experience. Not to forget bonding with Selene Vassos through endless struggle. Of course, Final Fantasy VII Remake would be re-injected with its special Intergrade episode starring Yuffie. Long time fans returned to Midgard, thanks to another pandemic release which continued to impress.
For a second period in my life, Ratchet & Clank came barrelling back to cheer me up. Rift Apart stood as the PS5’s best next gen showcase to date. It also took me back to simpler times of rescuing different alien worlds. Blasting alien scum. Laughing at whimsical characters. Going on mini-adventures every night and putting my own world on pause. Sony tugged at fans’ hearts with Rift Apart, serving as a reminder that our childhood figures are with us.
A brand that keeps on… Giving?
Sony would actually do much more to give back in 2021. The brand established their Global Relief Fund, which would support frontline workers and worldwide communities in need across the entire pandemic. Its surprise announcement in 2020 pledged over $100 million US dollars to help others. Virtue signaling or not, Sony would continue funneling money in critical hot spots. Its Global Relief Fund actually has delegation – particularly for India as the country struggled to gather oxygen supplies in May 2021.
2021 and the pandemic would further bring out Sony’s true colours. I’m convinced that money is never a problem for them. Besides opening the gates to next-generation gaming, Sony would focus on helping gamers stuck at home. Can’t snag a PlayStation 5 just yet? Hard-working gamers would be treated to a Play at Home program. The initiative would provide 10 free games to keep players busy during lockdown. Free of charge and without strings, this was one of PlayStation’s most surprising moves of the year. All while saving a few lives in the process by offering Ratchet & Clank and Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s worth noting the program came back stronger than ever. In 2020, both Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey were given for free at the height of COVID-19.
PlayStation 5 owners would get more than their money’s worth during the pandemic. Backwards compatibility would breathe new life for PS4 titles. Personally, there was no better time to play God of War and Ghost of Tsushima for the first time. Higher frame rates would clean performance up. Titles like The Last of Us Part 2 would reach their full potential through new hardware. For newly broke PS5 owners, Sony’s Plus Collection of games would give subscribers their best exclusives to work on. As a working-class subscriber, Sony has slowly evolved into serving across the pandemic.
Adopting or adapting? Let’s do both.
My respect for Sony and PlayStation only went up with their willingness to listen. It’s a great time for communities to be heard by game companies. That gave Sony a bigger commitment to serve gamers – so much that PlayStation Studios was created. It’s no surprise that PlayStation would get their own division. But it was long overdue in 2021. The new label would keep some of gaming’s biggest franchises alive. Announcing God of War Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West is only icing on the cake.
Returnal’s success came from Sony welcoming indie studio Housemarque with open arms. Team Asobi, Bluepoint Studios and Bend Studio were also acquired in the same year. Sony pushes their envelope for Brand of the Year by giving the industry a chance to succeed with them. For developers, 2021 would usher in new job opportunities while benefiting players in the long run. An acquisition of Nixxies Software would spell the promise of PC ports and give more players a taste of PlayStation’s greatest hits.
Sony’s own movie division would start to draw on PlayStation IPs. Cases in point: the bold announcement of an Uncharted movie starring Tom Holland as Nathan Drake. An HBO adaptation of acclaimed hit The Last of Us. PlayStation’s move into Hollywood is one of the stranger news to come during 2021, but pushes entertainment beyond digital realms. It’s impressive to see PlayStation and Sony tie their brands together with mixing mediums. In the process, Sony brings the best out of its own divisions with creative freedom. For Brand of the Year in 2021, Sony aims to accomplish more by tying the knot with long-time associates.
An ally at home
For many, the PlayStation logo symbolizes comfort. A lifelong friend growing up with gamers through magical IPs and too many adventures to count. 2021 has reinforced Sony’s ability to be there for gamers, companies and communities in need.
PlayStation and Sony realize their value during hard times. The brand’s contributions for entertainment played a detrimental part to wellbeing. Their love for working class gamers became clearer through a number of Play at Home releases. Of course, there’s more to Brand of the Year besides releasing the PlayStation 5 during a pandemic. It’s a controversial launch which still haunts early risers. But greatly improved quality of life at home for well-deserving owners. Movies and other Hollywood projects shine a brighter light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
Sony’s Brand of the Year nomination is written from gratitude. To a company which has given myself and millions of gamers an escape. Heroes to become in and out of a game. More importantly, for keeping my chin up in 2021.