E3 2013, one of the biggest video game conferences of the year, is about to kick off and Sony and Microsoft had a lot to say about their next consoles, the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One, today, leading up to the actual conference. Each company revealed tidbits about their next consoles earlier this year, but today’s E3 press conferences became the first chance since these events that video gamers around the world have had to hear more news about each console. Sony and Microsoft have been rivals for a long time, both in the industry and among video game fans. All eyes were set to see which console maker would best deliver an experience gamers would want and at the end of the day, I have no doubt that Sony’s PlayStation 4 stole the entire show from Microsoft’s Xbox One with its price point and pro-consumerism.
Going into E3, Microsoft was facing an uphill battle with controversy behind its decision to limit the used game market via licenses and the need for an internet connection once every 24 hours to authenticate games. The other complaint about the Xbox One was the lack of games, which Microsoft fixed today with previews of games like Battlefield 4, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Killer Instinct, and more. While Microsoft brought the games at their E3 press conference, they did not do any damage control regarding these other issues. Microsoft did show off more of its social capabilities, announcing a partnership with Twitch to stream gameplay. In addition, Microsoft finally announced that the Xbox One will be coming in November at the $499 price point, which is a bit more than what most people are willing to pay for, I imagine. The PlayStation 3 launched at a significantly higher price of $599 with a base model of $499 and that was criticized heavily.
Sony, on the other hand, did everything right at their E3 conference. They capitalized on the momentum gained over the last couple of weeks with the Xbox One used game and internet connection controversies. During the conference, Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, made it clear that the PlayStation 4 will not have any restrictions on used games and will not require some sort of internet connection for authentication. This was met with huge applause by the audience. In addition, the PlayStation 4 will be priced at $399, a $100 less than Microsoft’s offering, which also came with loud cheers from the audience. To top it off, PlayStation Plus memberships will continue on the new platform, even offering a PlayStation 4 game free at launch. Unfortunately, players will now need a Plus membership to play multi-player games online, the one point of contention in Sony’s entire conference (single player games can still be played for free online without a membership and access to services such as Netflix will also remain free to access without a Plus membership).Video game players across the internet are rejoicing at the news Sony delivered. Sure, Sony’s conference was a bit slow at first with a focus on PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, and Sony Pictures, but it quickly ramped up into more PlayStation 4 games. Of particular interest is the large amount of indie support the PlayStation 4 will be receiving – yet another point of contention with the Xbox One that many independent developers lamented after the Xbox One’s reveal a couple of weeks ago. Sony really delivered with announcements and demos for big game titles such as Killzone: Shadowfall, Infamous: Second Son, the now renamed Final Fantasy XV (previously Final Fantasy Versus XIII), Kingdom Hearts III, Grand Theft Auto V, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV, and Bungie’s Destiny, featuring the first live gameplay footage of the game.
It’s interesting to see how different each console’s strategy is for their next console even though both have very similar hardware. The Xbox One is looking to be the center of the living room – one box to rule them all. It packs in a lot of extra features such as live TV and is more closed with its built in DRM via internet authentication, effectively limiting the used game market, and forcing players to jump through unnecessary hoops. This closed model also applies to developers, leaving in place strict requirements on what indie games make it to the online market. The PlayStation 4 is on the entire opposite end of the spectrum. It has put gaming first while making sure services gamers want are still available – Sony made sure to talk about its partners such as Netflix, Hulu, and Redbox at both its reveal conference and its E3 press conference. The PlayStation 4 was created for both players and developers. As such, developers can self publish, a huge hit with indies, and players have free market reign on what happens after they’ve bought a game. Sony is also boosting its social network, allowing players to share videos, watch live streams, and message across devices. On top of all of that, Sony’s Gaikai cloud service promises to bring older titles from the PlayStation catalog and stream all PlayStation 4 games.
Sony made all of the right moves with the PlayStation 4. After the controversy Sony faced with its PlayStation 3, it had to succeed with its PlayStation 4 and, in my opinion, it has. This is the console gamers will want to have in their living rooms. While I won’t be buying one on launch day because I’ll be waiting for lots of great games to play, I have no doubt that I will be a future PlayStation 4 owner and I will not regret that purchase at all. The talent and exclusives behind Sony’s consoles (look at Uncharted 2 and the critically acclaimed The Last of Us by Naughty Dog) are formidable. Sony, great job picking up the pieces at E3 this year and completely stealing the show from Microsoft (and Nintendo).