Last night was all about the big battle: Sony and Microsoft competed at E3 in Los Angeles. While presenting a new PlayStation, the other tried to defend the Xbox One. A decisive battle for the two giants. So who won the hearts of the gamers? For myself, the answer is very clear: there has been a definitive knockout.
Everything is in the title. A knockout… Or more like a headshot to the head of Microsoft, while both Redmond’s firm and Sony showed their respective Xbox One and PlayStation 4 : the next generation consoles. We all like competition in video games, as I clearly remind you of the so-called Console Wars, but before showcasing this knockout, let’s put things in place.
E3 Expo reminds us every year that Christmas falls in summer, and normally enthusiastic developers are presenting their next games which spread out throughout the year and the holiday season. Conferences are going well, it’s like the growth is recovered, and everyone is happy. Sometimes, flashback and bad buzz ignites a disastrous effect to the manufacturers that will be stuck for years. Some of them are remembered as great comedic moments, funny or mere cries of jubilation.
A knockout… Or more like a headshot to the head of Microsoft
This is the total gap between the euphoria of these conferences and the seriousness of what is happening at the same time.
Back to Los Angeles, Microsoft is settled on its throne, comfortable in their home turf. From a general view, it was a pretty good show full of games, such as exclusive multi-platform, far enough from the constant talk of TV, sport, and more exclusive American products. Many games will come out on both machines such as Metal Gear Solid 5, Batman: Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4, Mirror’s Edge, Call of Duty, FIFA, etc..
Then you have the jealous exclusives made by or for Microsoft, like Titanfall, Quantum Break, Halo, Forza Motorsports 5, Capcom’s Dead Rising 3, or even the comeback of Killer Instinct, which will help each member of the gaming community to have his pick.
This year, the dominance, for all consoles combined, was the Open World genre, which usually means do what you want or will. It eluded us into believing that these machines would make it easier to create entire universe where you can roam with more or less freedom.
The other big trend was the post-apocalyptic futures, with or without zombies. Usually it also involves cops, secret organizations, and an overdose of zombies and in the case of Bethesda a bit of Nazi spices. The spearheads of this fashion are Watch Dogs and Tom Clancy’s The Division, both coming from French publisher Ubisoft, to change the mood of their now becoming annual Assassin’s Creed releases, (don’t take me wrong, I’m a great fan of the developers). The irony is that the greatest godfather of a hopeless future, Mad Max, was silently announced.
But focusing resolutely on video games let alone anything else, and forgetting about its business model goals or even explaining it made a lot of people angry. Maybe it was a way to not look too ridiculous after a series of setbacks, where it all began with a big chaotic PR fiasco.
Unfortunately, two official demos that Microsoft made on stage were kind of awkward, giving way to rape jokes during the Killer Instinct showcase. On a playful tone and yet very prepared, the producers said to the girl ““Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon,”. Laughter emerged, but they started to overdo it, continuing by saying things such as “Wow, you like this.” If I learned something about live conferences, there is nothing serious or appealing about an air of discomfort in the room, after a badly scripted joke.
There is nothing serious or appealing about an air of discomfort in the room, after a badly scripted joke.
With this strategic nonsense and carefully considering the devastating effect of the bad PR were unstoppable. To close the loophole in its communication and avoid a bigger disaster, Microsoft has released a few days before E3 a “harsh” press release to explain all the restrictions of the Xbox One, to prevent having to say it live in front of the whole world. So yes, it will be possible to lend his own game to someone, but not more than once and only someone who is in your friend list for more than 30 days.
Worse, we imagine the pressure of legal services when we see that the statement stipulates that any of your friends has the right to play on your console, if it is a friend or family member. This is not a new concept, and if you are Steam user, you’ll understand, such as Phill Spencer’s statement to Destructoid: “Any other device that you own, your library is digital. Frankly, if you’re on the PC, or a Steam customer, or an App Store customer on iOS devices — this is how you think about your library of content.” Microsoft also had to reassure people, Emphasizing that “You are in control of what Kinect can see and hear,” not filming the world 24/7 for some shady NSA or CIA agency, and that you can also disconnect it but yes, your Xbox One still needs to connects to the internet at least once every day to continue to run its games.
The price itself was no surprise with 499 dollars, but through the magic of the exchange rate, become 499 euros in Europe seems weird, and will hurt the potential buyers, especially with the way the economy is going.
Later during the day, Sony finally made its move for a long show with some reminders about the PS Vita being just at the “beginning” of its life cycle, and slips quickly on the fact that we will now have to pay to play online on the PlayStation 4.
After the same catalog of multi-platform games, Sony pulls some exclusives like Kingdom Hearts 3 in collaborations with Disney and Square Enix and Final Fantasy XV (formerly know as Versus XIII), while constantly reminding that there’s no release date at the time.
The Order: 1886 looks like a promising title, set in a steam-punk Victorian London. Reminds me of a Dishonored with Werewolves, but then again, originality is scarce nowadays, and we can’t really ask for much. You can even salute the courage to leave the spotlight to a few smaller independent games, necessarily to confirm their support for the Indies. Then the all-powerful troll emerges…
Shortly before the end of the conference, between a few words about cloud gaming, Jack Tretton announced with the proudest million-dollar smile what we never needed to clarify before the Xbox One. Lending a game is possible, like the good old days or even let them keep it. This is not a stab in the back, but more like a guillotine cut to Microsoft’s neck. Never did I see it before in my career: Sony shifts the ball to its field, and trolls a hilarious viral video which shows its officials game exchange tutorial for the PlayStation 4.
Sony won the public PR, kind of amazed they went after Microsoft so blatantly
The result gets even bloodier: the price of the PlayStation 4 will be 399 dollars, 100 less than its future competitor. Because even if the limitations of the DRM exclusives that the Xbox One will appeal those that prefer it, we cannot deny the fact that the market is getting cheap, and not everyone can afford Microsoft’s price tag.
But as veteran developer John E. Williamson stated yesterday, there’s something a lot of people didn’t realize. “I am surprised that no one is pointing out the obvious: sure you can trade discs now on PlayStation 4, and sure there is no DRM, but in 18, 24, 36 months, when all titles are digital, it won’t matter. Sony knows that all digital is the direction we are going, by allowing you to trade used discs now, they might lose a few bucks in the short term, but they will get a bigger foothold at the start.” Stated Williamson, “Sony won the public PR, kind of amazed they went after Microsoft so blatantly. I’m shocked at the price for PlayStation 4 […] Microsoft will likely counter, have an Xbox One for the same or lower price, but with a mandatory Xbox live account [to reach its target]. Microsoft can’t remove the Kinect, but they will not go into November $100 more expensive. They will find some way to cut costs.”
In the end, one thing is sure, and this tense from Games of Thrones will surely fit for the future of gaming, because Winter is coming.