PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale: How embarrassing idea-theft sums up Sony's failings, but is also a smart move

Sony, let’s face it, has not always been the most original company in console gaming. You might well mock Microsoft for its lazy, simultaneously cheap and expensive “buy the hits” approach to its first party output, and you’d be right to. It’s a situation that has only become grossly exacerbated over recent years, as real games have given way to Kinect fluff and the misconception that third-party DLC exclusivity periods are as exciting as Uncharted 3. But for all of MS first-party faults, it has rarely been known as a flagrant rip-off merchant.

Sony however, has notorious pedigree in this area, going back as far as the day it stuck a couple of extra buttons on a SNES pad and called it the PlayStation Controller.

Don’t get me wrong. SCE is responsible for some of the freshest, most exciting IP seen in this (or any other) generation. And it still has amazing-looking stuff to come on its current-gen console, even at this latter stage of the PS3’s life. But when Sony does decide to 'take inspiration from' someone else's idea, it does so with an utterly shameless blatancy that from a cynical mindset borders on applause-worthy.

Yes, this industry thrives on iteration rather than revolution, and if you think otherwise then either you haven’t been paying attention for the last 20 years or you’re Nintendo. Evolutions of other people’s ideas are fine. Healthy, even. But every so often Sony seems deliriously happy to throw pride out of the window and simply reskin someone else’s idea wholesale. And that makes me sad. It’s almost as if SCE has an ongoing tally board on the wall detailing the company’s shifting balance of originality-karma.

“We’ve made a brand-new, bespoke, beast-powered processor and we’re sticking a Blu-ray drive in our console? Yeah, that clears us to staple motion control onto a Dual Shock now that Nintendo has surprised us with the Wii. Just pretend we were going to do it all along and forgot to mention it at first”

“Uncharted is pushing cinematic narrative into hithero unimagined places in games, LittleBigPlanet is a revelation of user-generated content and community, and Flower is like nothing else in the world? Yeah, we’re good to knock out Move and Sports Champions now”

“We have Journey coming out this year? Sweet Christ, green-light that Smash Bros. clone now!”

Above: And green-light it they did

But this stuff doesn’t just make me sad because of Sony’s intermittent wilful wallowing in unoriginality. It makes me sad because it’s utterly pointless. As I said above, gradual evolution is a good thing in video games. Iterating upon rival ideas is how game genres and concepts go from being cool and fun to being polished to perfection. And beyond that stage it leads to industry-changing evolutions. Doom begat Quake. Quake begat Half-Life. Half-Life begat Half-Life 2 and the Gravity Gun. Half-Life 2 and the Gravity Gun brought a quantum leap in interaction with 3D worlds.

But flat-out cloning without bringing anything new to the execution of the idea? That gets no-one anywhere. Yes, Sony has another box checked on its rival first-party line-up comparison chart (though at this stage the tactical importance on that list of “Our version of a 13-year-old Nintendo 64 game” is debateable), but by definition there’s no evolution, no development of ideas, and absolutely no value added to the health of gaming as a whole. It’s a total creative cul-de-sac. Aside from the rare few who may have spent years rampantly coveting Super Smash Bros. but have never bought a Nintendo console, no-one genuinely benefits from this. And gaming certainly doesn’t.


  • Unoriginal - April 28, 2012 5:26 p.m.

    The only thing I am worried about regarding this game is it's hit point mechanic replacing the percentage-smash mechanic from Smash Bros. If you're gonna rip something off, at least rip off the good parts.
  • Divine Paladin - May 8, 2012 5:34 p.m.

    But we really don't know if this *is* a bad part yet. It very possibly could work well.
  • winner2 - April 28, 2012 5:42 a.m.

    They might be very original with the idea, but it'll still be fun. That's all that really matters in the end, right?
  • c-c-c-combo breaker - April 27, 2012 1:57 p.m.

    Hey, no knocking the original playstation controller. I love how sony stuck with the same design, almost 20 years later.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - April 27, 2012 11:37 a.m.

    Is this game inspired by Super Smash Bros? Yup. Am I still looking forward to it? Definitely. I would hate to live in a world where games couldn't lift good ideas from other games for fear of getting branded a thief. (Sorry guys, you can't use the dual analogue control scheme for your first person shooters because Halo did it already. You have to use the right trigger to move left, up on the directional pad to shoot etc. because that is the only control scheme not used yet.) My point is that developers should be free to use what has proven to work without fear of being labelled rip-off artists. I wonder why Mr. Houghton is so staunchly against Sony's creative freedom here and was so blindly supportive of Bioware's creative freedom in an earlier article? I hope this is only for the obligatory week of hate article. Until Nintendo decides to put out a SSB game on the PS3 I will happily accept any similar game types.
  • AlbVega - April 27, 2012 10:59 a.m.

    I miss the "High Horse" articles. This was very much welcome, thanks.
  • bass88 - April 27, 2012 10:50 a.m.

    So, because someone has done it nobody else should try it? I'm not sure why people complain about this practice. It's like films - there are only so many ideas but it's what you add to the idea that makes it stand out. For example, (as a Miike fan you should appreciate this, Mr. Houghton) Takashi Miike's Rainy Dog. An exiled hitman forced to look after a distraught child. Sounds like Leon, right? Yet the execution and presentation is different. It's a brilliant film and I hate to think they wouldn't have made it if people said "Yeah, but it's like Leon." Also, people complained about the controller!?! Now, that is sad. Imagine Phillips calling up Mitsubishi to cry about similar TV controllers. Pathetic. I'm not interested in this game by the way. I'm not a fan of SSBB. It's the kind of game you play for five minutes at a friend's house and then ask him what else has he got. And finally, PS Move -> Wii -> Eyetoy -> [I'm pretty sure it was tried before]. And before someone else brings it up, I remember Sony stating that the Vita would be compatible with the PS3 before Nintendo unveiled the WiiU.
  • Cyberninja - April 27, 2012 12:36 p.m.

    About the last paragraph I would say either is a ripoff of each other because even if Sony announced vita/ps3 connectivity before wiiu was unveiled, the wiiu still would have been in development for a few years.
  • bass88 - April 27, 2012 1:50 p.m.

    As would have been the Vita. The point I'm bringing up is that companies are not necessarily stealing from each other but meeting customer demands. Both companies saw the smartphone take off and decided to build their tech based on that - knowing there is a market for it. And Sony knew there was a PlayStation market that wanted a SSBB game. Nintendo are definitely not going to offer it on a rival console so Sony makes their own. That's all there is to it. But fanboys don't see that. All they want is another excuse to slate others and defend their precious Nintendo / Sony / MicroSoft / Sega console so much that they distort reality enough in their own minds. PlayStation beats Nintendo 64.- fanboys whined about how the 64 was just too advanced for its time. It wasn't - it had a shitty controller and a dry selection of games. That's why it lost. It didn't fail - it just didn't sell as much. Same thing with Xbox360 beating PS3. Fanboys claimed it lost due to worldwide conspiracy involving MicroSoft, developers and the gaming press in which the PS3 was slated by journalists and developers released inferior ports on it. That was not the reason. PS3 lost because it arrived later, was overpriced and didn't have the killer launch title it needed. And again, the PS3 didn't fail - it just didn't sell as much. There is no "stealing". Just companies spotting a gap in the market and grabbing it. Likewise Ford and Mazda.
  • Channel4 - April 27, 2012 10:13 a.m.

    TBH I think whats more important is that the main draw of Smash Bros. is the immense amount of fan service it brings. And it does it perfectly. The fact that it also happens to be a near perfect fighting game on top is just a (big) bonus for most people who buy the game. Now I honestly can't see Sony doing fan service properly, especially since they're trying to mix games like GoW and LBP. It'll either be incredibly dull or cringe worthy and embarrassing.
  • ncurry2 - April 27, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    If I could manage to put my thoughts into beautiful, elegant articles; I would be David Houghton. But since I can't, I am infinitely happy to read his. So much agreement.
  • hellver08 - April 27, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    I wish the quality of writing for online "articles" improves in the near future. I love the internet, but the lack of good writers pisses me off most of the times I read this website and a bunch of other similar sites. They have enough good content to keep me coming back, but their writing is just atrociousness; no backing of statements, generalizations, assumptions, OPINIONS passed as facts, etc. Assumptions and opinions are fine with me, as long as they are presented as what they are.
  • McNeelyJ - April 27, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    I'm excited for this, just wish Xbox did this first. Smash Bros is a great game, but the lack of online support (voice chat) was so disappointing I didn't get the mileage out of the last one like I did in highschool. Since i'm an adult and my friends are not all local.
  • Divine Paladin - April 28, 2012 7:12 a.m.

    There aren't enough Microsoft mascots for it to work well. Most all of the exclusive characters use solely guns, with the only exceptions being the Fable characters and cars from Forza.
  • BladedFalcon - April 27, 2012 9:22 a.m.

    Classic Houghton Article. You have a good point, and then you over-inflate and exaggerate it to the point of ultimately writing off said good point as ridiculous, due to extrapolation. Yes, Sony's blatantly ripping off Smash Bros. No I don't think it really matters. Regardless of the actual end quality of the game, it's intent it's obvious: Cash in on Sony's franchises. And while that isn't groundbreaking or creative, given Sony's rather shitty economic situation, I can't exactly blame them. And that's it, I don't see this being indicator of anything else.
  • Person5 - April 27, 2012 10:42 a.m.

    Of course he over inflates it and exaggerates, this is a week of hate article, its kind of expected (at least by me it was)
  • BladedFalcon - April 27, 2012 11:45 a.m.

    I'm not entirely sure this is a week of hate related article though. since it's not even really a properly hateful article. Specially considering all the highlighting of Sony's virtues. This is how David Houghton always behaves mate, week of Hate or not :P
  • Divine Paladin - April 27, 2012 9:12 a.m.

    You're overreacting WAY to much for something like this. Fans of Sony's have been begging for YEARS for a Smash Bros. clone, and when Sony delivers one, you're going to complain? Of course Sony's not the most original company out there, but let's face it, this game will sell millions, and Sony needs that money more than ever before. Saying that, while neglecting to note the other ripoffs that have come out recently is pathetic and almost an insult to me as a gamer. This is almost as bad as viciously attacking BioWare for the one mistake (let's not count Dragon Age II here) they made and in the same breath praising Activision for making such "amazing" games. Now, what makes it more saddening for me to read this article is that you also admit that Sony is usually the most groundbreaking out of the Big Three. Shouldn't such a high amount of uniqueness and creativity actually damage a company after a while? It makes sense on Sony's part to give in to trite concepts, because it costs quite a bit of money to be unique. The worst part, in my eyes, of your complaint is that you've immediately written off the game as a 100% clone. They've shown ONE trailer, and you're bashing it as if it were Call of Duty Black Ops 48. I'm going to at least wait to judge the game, as any gamer should, before I write it off as copypasted bullcrap.
  • Hobogonigal - April 27, 2012 9:50 a.m.

    To be honest, I think you are also overreacting yourself. Mr Houghton has labelled all of his points and given his reasons which makes it his opinion. Your first paragraph doesn't really make much sense at all. While Sony sure does need money, they have clearly ripped off an idea from nintendo not for the first time (Playstation Move, Little Big Planet Karting etc.) The author is just simply pointing this out and showing examples which validate his claims. Why would the author even need to consider other non-sony rip-offs, when this article is dealing with the topic of this Sony Brawler. Its really essay/article 101, stick to the topic or else it just becomes way off track. Don;t see what Bioware or Activision have to do with this game. Your second paragraph also makes no sense as well as you state that by being original, this will 'damage' a company 'because it costs quite a bit of money'. Of course, this is why Nintendo and, dare I say, Apple are failing isn't it... oh wait hold on. Nintendo have had there first loss in decades and I'm sure its safe to say it won't happen again now that the 3DS is selling like mad. Apple... $108billion revenue last year isn't too bad is it? Lastly the author hasn't totally written it off as 100% clone, maybe 75%. I think the author is really using past evidence to support the fact that from the trailer, this game looks extremely like Super Smash Bros. The level design looks similar, attacks look similar, Super smash is similar to the final smash etc. Sure, there may be a wealth of original content in this Sony brawler but why have they not shown it in the trailer instead of something that looks like a rip-off. Then again, it might be great. Or even fantastic. Who knows? However we are all allowed to make predictions and state our opinions regarding a game and this is what the author has done. Don't quickly blame him for merely showing his stance.
  • Divine Paladin - April 27, 2012 7:07 p.m.

    I have one thing to say in response: Trolololol. I literally went on a mindless rant because I hadn't done so in the entire Week of Hate. Thank you for taking the bait. (Looking at it again, I probably should've messed up some spelling and grammar more to make myself seem much more like a moron.) That being said, I still do actually wholly disagree with the author's point. I feel that his complaints aren't necessary in an underused genre that SHOULD be much larger (that being what I call the Smash Bros. genre; I don't personally consider the SSB games close enough to be called "Fighters" due to their major differences in gameplay and Party-Game feel). If these complaints had been about, say, MOH Warfighter, a complete and total CoD clone in a genre that doesn't need more of those, I'd agree. In a genre that has a sum of maybe a dozen games, though - and one that needs expansion - these kinds of complaints just seem dumb (for lack of a better word).

Showing 1-20 of 31 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000