"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

E3 2013 Microsoft, Sony Press Conferences

Monday was the first day of E3 and it was a doozy. Microsoft's XBox One was attempting a bit of a comback as the last month of public relations has been very poor thanks to a decision to give control of support to used games and lending games to publishers. The same group that historically have long wanted to ban the selling of used games. This choice was further compounded by Microsoft's decision to assume their customers are thieves unless they prove otherwise by having the XB1 check in every 24 hours. Meanwhile, regarding the Playstation 4, Sony offered no comment on their used game policy or potential to phone home simply saying that they would reveal the system, price and details like that at their E3 press conference. To start lets summarize the information from the two main press conferences from Sony and Microsoft the videos of which are below.


- XBox One release date: November 2013
- XBox One price: $499
- XBox 360 redesigned, based on XBOX One look. Launched today starting at $200
- XBox Live Gold now gives members two free games per month
- XBox One features include recording gameplay or streaming live on Twitch.TV
- Microsoft Glass expanded to act as a second screen to control certain gameplay elements within a game. Exact implementation vague, seems to depend if publishers want to bother to take advantage or not
- Games: Metal Gear Solid 5, Halo 5, Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Forza Motorsport 5, Titanfall and more.

While Microsoft tried to remain focused on the XBox One line-up and features, the reality is their decision to treat their customers as thieves remains a problem. The result is any physical discs you buy are not really yours but really on loan from Microsoft since they ultimately dictate what you can do with them. You can't really sell, lend, or borrow them without making sure Microsoft is with it. The used game market is billions of dollars so publishers hatred of it is somewhat understandable but also proves that its quite popular among gamers and trying to block that isn't going to sit well with many. Angering buyers before they buy usually isn't a sound strategic move. A side effect of all this is if you live in a rural area with poor internet connectivity, an area without internet (military in battles zones for instance), or Microsoft servers go down then your XBox One becomes an attractive brick. All this without even considering the future years from now when decide to dust off the console and take out those old games (like some do still with the NES, Super NES, etc.). Now back to Sony.

- Revealed the Playstation 4 console which is a shiny black box with a parallelogram profile.
- Release date: Holidays 2013 (so November or December)
- Price: $399
- Counters XBox One negatives with no mothership check-in, used games supported, loaning games supported
- Playstation Plus modified to be universal so only one subscription that covers PS3, PS4, and PS Vita. Online multiplayer now requires a Plus subscription.
- Sony's Video Unlimited service will include 150,000 movies and TV shows, 20 million songs.
- Expand PS Vita store to play around 650 PS3 games and new PS4 games through remote play (when this will occur is unclear)
- Games: inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub, Killzone: Shadow Fall, The Order: 1886, Assassin's Creed IV, Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts and more

After seeing Sony's press conference, the reaction was pretty much universal - Microsoft got their rear end handed to them. Sony systematically undercut nearly every single selling point of the XBox One. The PS4 is $100 cheaper, no limitations on how people use their physical game purchases, support of used games, a more varied game launch library that isn't just shoot em ups, and a superior membership program. The audience reaction to the used game announcement alone established who won the E3 press cycle and reinforced with a already widely distributed "Used Game Instructional Video".

The end result of Monday's press conferences is Sony has declared open warfare and Microsoft is simply not prepared to counter. Unless Nintendo pulls off a historic line-up, they are no longer even in the running. While Sony has probably won the launch window, the video game industry is about the long game. Microsoft has plenty of time to overcome its mistakes while Sony will have plenty of opportunities to stumble. At the end of the day its about the games and in that both systems are looking very good. The next year should be a whole lot of fun for gamers both casual and hardcore.

Update: A nugget of new information from Sony regarding DRM/used game policy. My interpretation is that how things work on the PS3 will remain the same for the PS4 when it comes to store bought discs. By this it means that Sony will not make any attempt to prevent loaning or used games but nor will they prevent other publishers from trying to stop that activity. A recent example being EA requiring disc buyers to enter a code to access any multi-player content.

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