E3 is never the ‘war’ that we in the press like to make out. The exception being E3 2013. That was the year Sony very much emerged as the victor.
The stage was set for a brutal murdering of its rival in LA and Sony seemed absolutely delighted to deliver successive knockout punches.
£349. That’s just £20 short of being a massive £100 cheaper than Xbox One. Cheaper, of course, despite being a more powerful games machine.
The price was just the icing on the cake, mind you. Sony’s real victory was the glee in which it declared (with absolute, blissful clarity) that PS4 will NOT be required to connect to Sony servers to operate and will NOT restrict pre-owned software.
The company even had the balls to release this really quite wonderful tutorial about used games on PS4:
We also discovered last night that Sony’s isn’t even going to force its camera on us. We’re going to be free to choose whether to use it! And developers will be under no pressure whatsoever to shoehorn camera functionality into their games.
In truth though, Sony’s software lineup lacked the pizzazz of Microsoft’s. Halo, Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive, Killer Instinct, Ryse, D4 and Dead Rising 3 is a very impressive line-up that Sony wasn’t really able to counter.
Don’t forget, either, that Sony has now introduced an Xbox Live type fee for online multiplayer. Under normal circumstances it would be torn apart online for such a decision.
But these aren’t normal circumstances.
Right from the off it has been perfectly evident that Sony really means business with PS4. It’s determined to make up for the wrongs of PlayStation’s past. The new console was born with developers at its heart and it has grown to embrace gamers equally as lovingly.
Sony’s E3 conference was one that was desperate to show it was listening. There could not be a more stark contrast to Microsoft’s conference, which desperate to tell you that it knows best.
What problems does the Xbox One solve? What consumer demands does it answer? Have gamers been clamouring to control their Sky box with Kinect? Have they been yearning to channel all their AV equipment through a Microsoft manufactured machine? Have they been asking for pre-owned limitations? Have they been clamouring for mandatory online server authorisations?
God no. No no no.
These are the demands of corporations, of rights holder and content providers, of lawyers and publishing executives. It’s of course important for any platform holder to keep such partners on side but when the end game is forgotten – that being, selling to a happy consumer – then you know that a company has completely lost its way.
Whether any of this proves to be as significant in the long-term as it feels this morning now comes down to consumers. Think of it as an election. The decision to buy PS4 or Xbox One is one that does in fact have wider consequences.
A vote for Xbox is a vote for a change to whole way the video games industry works. It’s a vote for closed corporate ecosystems, publisher power and eroded consumer rights. A vote for Sony is a vote for people who like to play video games.
The polling stations will open their doors this Christmas.