Was I fearful that Microsoft would make me eat my words prior to E3 2013 officially beginning? Absolutely. Was I terrified that the last beacon of hope for the core gamer that was Sony and the PS4 would turn out to be a false prophet? Definitely. Am I trying to hold back laughter as I jubilantly type this post? Pretty much.
There are few things that need to be said in the aftermath of Sony’s E3 2013 press conference. The legions of Xbox fans may have had their worst nightmares come to fruition, but it wasn’t all bad news coming out of Microsoft yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately for them, the announcements that should be getting some recognition will ultimately be overshadowed by what Sony and the PS4 delivered tonight: a message to gamers everywhere which stated very plainly, “We have not abandoned you.”
While it may be difficult to declare Day 0 of E3 2013 anything but a Sony victory, let’s take a quick recap of where we stand:
Microsoft and the Xbox One – $499
The Xbox One will have a very solid lineup of exclusives – Microsoft and Xbox have been consistently criticized for their lack of exclusive IPs, particularly when compared to their competitors. Their press conference directly targeted such criticisms. Even though Ryse may look like the devs were simultaneously watching 300 while creating the game and the flow of combat may be interrupted once too often for a flashy animation sequence, the game certainly holds promise, and it’s undoubtedly about time we saw the Crytek project we were teased years ago. Killer Instinct makes it’s triumphant (and exclusive) return by landing on the Xbox One. Sunset Overdrive looks like a heavily stylized Left 4 Dead and is reminiscent of Jet Set Radio only with guns and zombies, which is damn cool. Forza 5 looks primed to take hold of a very competitive racing genre. Dead Rising 3 will surely continue its impressive franchise run with more open world and even better environment utilization. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has something for every gamer in the household and looks like a blast to play cooperatively, and yeah, Titanfall is Microsoft’s game of the show.
You will not be missed, Microsoft Points – You mean we’re now able to use non-imaginary currency on Xbox Live? That’s right, and it’s about damn time. If $60 were not a steep enough price for the service, Xbox Live users have often been required to buy Microsoft Points in bulk in order to afford digital purchases. In many cases, the remainder of the points ultimately became wasted money as they sat in accounts that were uninterested in purchasing a hat for their avatar simply in order to get rid of them. Now, on the Xbox One, you’ll be able to pay straight up for the item without the aforementioned hassle.
TwitchTV and Upload Studios are great additions – Twitch has been big throughout the pro gaming circuit for a while now, allowing uninterrupted feeds of pro gaming matches and streams. An ingenious addition to Xbox One, gamers will be able to upload their favorite clips and vids straight to Twitch as well as stream content live via the service. FPS gamers particularly will find this feature to be a heavy advantage over other consoles, as they’ll be able to seamlessly provide friends and followers with their newest montages.
Ahem, Microsoft, aren’t you forgetting something? – The above announcements provide gamers with a very optimistic future regarding Microsoft and the future of the Xbox One. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, there were a few things that gamers waited patiently to be addressed. And waited. And waited some more. Then it became clear that Microsoft was conveniently opting to completely ignore the shitstorm that has engulfed the Xbox One regarding it’s controversial polices (see the link in the first line of this article) since its unveiling. The fact that Kinect is pre-packaged with the One and must always be plugged in, in order for the console to work? Not mentioned. Once-a-day DRM requirement? Nothing. What about the whole negative stance toward the used games market? Silence. It’s worth nothing that when PSN was hacked and user information stolen, Jack Tretton appeared on-stage to apologize (Boy, did he look appropriately giddy tonight) directly to the customers that were wronged. Yesterday, gamers were justified in expecting the same from a company they’ve supported over the last decade. They got nothing even close, and Microsoft failed to even remotely acknowledge that there might be a problem with their next-gen policies.
Sony and the PS4 – $399
The PS4 will have an impressive games list of its own – Sony has been known to cater to their extensive list of critically acclaimed exclusives, and while the PS4 might lack them at launch, it’s sure to catch up to its high standard. The Order is Santa Monica’s newest project. Blood and gore are generally perceived to be their specialty. Killzone: Shadow Fall will continue the PlayStation’s most popular shooter franchise. inFamous: Second Son has a new protagonist just as snarky as Cole McGrath. Quantic Dream’s Dark Sorcerer tech demo was damn clever, and if David Cage can adapt that stuff into a project, we’re definitely excited. The enormous announcements of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III both looked fantastic, but slightly taking away the shimmer for Sony was that neither was announced as PS4 exclusive, though it remains to be seen if they will become multi-platform. Microsoft would be blatantly lying if they said that seeing Bungie on a Sony stage didn’t hurt their souls, and it more than made up for Sony seeing Kojima on Microsoft’s. It’s also worth noting that the highly anticipated Watch_Dogs will be getting an additional hour of exclusive gameplay on the PS4.
Indie developers like the PS4 – If you’re an indie developer, chances are your heart was warmed while watching the Sony press conference. Sony announced that the PS4 would feature a section of PSN dedicated to allowing gamers to easily find the newest and most popular indie titles, which developers can self-publish on the PS4. Sony went as far as to make a nice gesture to the work and appreciation of indie developers by inviting a select few onto the coveted E3 stage to showcase their work, allowing millions of viewers to view titles that they may have otherwise not been subjected to. It appears as if the PS4 will be much less restrictive to indie devs and will allow them more freedom and control in their work.
Online multiplayer is no longer free for PlayStation users – While not a fatal blow to Sony by any means, the news that “PS4 multiplayer online access requires PSN account & PS Plus subscription” may annoy the portion of PS users not on board with PS+. However, PS+ stands at $50 for the year while Xbox Live remains at $60. Sony’s online service has also generated a generous reputation, providing a new host of acclaimed, free games every week.
Gamers, Sony has spoken. The used games market is open for business – I stated earlier this week that “I essentially need Sony to announce at their E3 press conference, ‘See what those guys are doing? We’re not doing any of that shit,'” and that I’d be ready to make my next-gen console decision. Sony heard all of you say the same thing. And guess what? They responded loudly and clearly. Gamers can buy PS4 games, trade them in to retailers, lend them to friends, or keep them forever. Tretton, looking like the proud father of a son who just won the starting spot on the football team, said gleefully to the millions worldwide.
After the audience was done with their raucous applause, he continued: “If you enjoy playing single-player games offline, PS4 won’t require you to check in online periodically. And it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours.” There are few E3 moments in recent memory that were more touching, or even memorable. A large portion of the gaming population expressed extreme discontent over what they saw as anti-consumerist, unjustified polices directed in support of the publishers and at expense of the customers. Not only did one such company hear the cries, but they made evident on-stage that gamers can in fact employ tangible change within an industry they care so passionately about, and what’s more, that same company stated that they support them. When an audience consisting mainly of journalists who have incessantly reported on the controversial policies of the Xbox One begin to give a standing ovation to a piece of news, you know you did something right.
It’d be ignorant and naive if one were to presume that this albeit massive victory for Sony and the PS4 signals the end to the next-gen console war. But the battle that was fought today was damn near lopsided. It was like watching a War of the Worlds remake in which the PS4 plays the giant, attacking barstools and the Xbox One features as the hapless little Tom Cruises on the ground running for their lives.
But not even Xenu could have helped Microsoft and the Xbox One yesterday. In fact, the battle was over before it began, and only got worse as it progressed. Sony’s only major missed opportunity was failing to bring out Kevin Butler to apply the coup de grâce to the One through a series of quick-witted wise-cracks. While both systems feature a steady slew of exclusives and will be helped by significant third party releases, the conflict was fought and won in the trenches. Sony rightly jumped on Microsoft’s controversy, stated that they will cater to indie developers, and announced that for $100 less, you can purchase a system that doesn’t require a massive, intelligent camera in your home, allows you to buy used games and lend the ones you’ve purchased to friends, and facilitates an offline experience for those financially or geographically unequipped for a constant broadband internet connection. Meanwhile, with an oblivious nature that the Black Knight of Monty Python would even find to be comical, Microsoft failed to acknowledge that the Xbox One has some serious issues that need to be addressed.
Still not ready to ring the bell and declare Sony the winner of the day?