Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Time of War

E3 Press Conferences

E3 took place earlier this month and I was planning to post something during or shortly afterward but, unfortunately, the stomach flu and some other things prevented me from doing so. However, I'm kind of glad because so much has changed since the show that it's worth talking about it all at once.

Leading into E3 all eyes were on Microsoft and Sony to see what further details would be released about their upcoming consoles, the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Microsoft had been catching a lot of flak for some of their policies regarding the Xbox One. Specifically the restrictions they would be placing on used games and the requirement of having to take your console online once every 24 hours to prevent yourself from being locked out of playing games.

That's "sic" yo!

People were looking for Microsoft to justify these restrictions by explaining how these policies would be a positive thing for customers and by showing some amazing, exclusive games for the system. During their conference, Microsoft seemed to have a rather stand-offish attitude about the whole controversy and simply restated their policies and assured everyone that THIS is the future. They also announced the price: $499; a bit steep, but not outrageous for a brand new console and certainly not the "$599 US dollars" announcement that made a joke of Sony when they announced pricing for the PS3 years ago. They did show a few interesting games, but we'll get to those in a bit. Overall MSoft's E3 press briefing felt just as scripted and awkward as most of these conferences do.

For your consideration

Later that night was Sony's event. Everyone was interested to see what they had to say about the PS4 coming on the heels of all the backlash that Microsoft had gotten. Most people expected them to follow suit with Microsoft and announce similar used games and internet restrictions.

Oh how wrong we were

Sony started out simply enough by stating their continued commitment to the PS3 and Playstation Vita, which is expected from this type of conference. However, after they got past all of that is when the bombs began to drop. The first huge moment was when they announced that their policies regarding used games would remain the same as they are now; i.e., you can trade or give any game to a friend or sell it back to a retailer without any extra cost or hoops to jump through. This was in direct contrast to Microsoft's policies and was a slap in the face of what they were trying to do. And, just to twist the knife a little more, following the show Sony released this OFFICIAL video regarding used games:

We cordially invite you to suck it, Xbox

Keep in mind, this isn't some fan made video mocking the Xbox One; those guys are big shots in Sony's American and Japanese game divisions who were on stage making announcements about the Playstation 4 themselves.

As if this wasn't big enough, Sony went on to announce that the PS4 would NOT require an internet connection for games that have single-player components. Not once a day, not once a month, not EVER.

The floor was already littered with the jaws of onlookers, but Sony wasn't quite finished yet. Jack Trenton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA), took the stage to announce the price of the console: $399. A full $100 less than the Xbox One; the final bomb had been dropped, and it was a doozy.

Please excuse me while I blow your mind.

How could Sony afford to undercut Microsoft by that much? It's since come to light that they did it by removing the Playstation Camera(Their equivalent to the Kinect) from the standard PS4 package. This is a brilliant move in some ways but ultimately dooms the PS Camera to being just a niche product that most people probably won't own, but that's a topic for another time.

The Aftermath

Microsoft was understandably shaken by the moves made by Sony and they struggled for the rest of the show to explain how their way would ultimately be better for the consumer in the long run. This led to some pretty embarrassing moments like this one where Don Mattrick, the man leading the Xbox One charge, basically told the world that if you don't have a constant internet connection then you're not the type of person that we're selling this new generation to.

No internet? What are you, a savage?

Ouch. Microsoft spent the rest of E3 getting absolutely slammed in the media and on the internet for their attitude and policies. And it was reflected in the pre-order numbers where the PS4 was outpacing the Xbox One by at least 3:2, if not better in some regions.

You could almost hear the death bell tolling for the Xbox One even with months left before launch, but then something remarkable happened.

The "Xbox 180"

Just days after E3 ended Microsoft announced that they heard their customers speaking and that they were officially changing their previously stated policies for the Xbox One. The console will only require an internet connection once during the initial set-up, and there will be no restrictions on used games.

Despite all of the bad press, this was still an unexpectedly dramatic move for Microsoft. The idea of a company completely changing course months before their proposed product is even in stores is simply unheard of. It was an undeniably smart move, though. This change in course shows that they are listening, at least to a certain extent, to their customers and are willing to adapt to what the public wants.

Uh, hey, you guys remember all that shit I said? Yeah just forget about like half of that.
But will this move be enough to save the Xbox One in sales this holiday season? Only time will tell, but in a way it feels like it may be too little, too late. A lot of people had already put in their pre-orders for PS4s before MSoft corrected themselves, and a lot more people still feel burned by the attitude and arrogance that the big M has shown over the past few years.

Personally, I've owned both of the previous Xbox systems, and I'd love to carry my profile and achievements over to the new one, but I can't help but feel weary about the whole situation. What happens if Microsoft backpedals and reintroduces these unpopular polices a few months after launch? What happens if most gamer migrate to the PS4 and the Xbox One is a commercial failure and is discontinued after a few years? I owned a Sega Saturn and a Dreamcast; so I know what it's like to be on the losing team. I'd hate for it to happen again.

Games, games, GAMES!!!

Ultimately, at the end on the day it'll all come down to games. Whoever has the better, more interesting exclusives will rule the day this console generation. Then again, who knows, most games are coming to both platforms so maybe they can coexist and continue providing healthy competition for one another. Here's to hoping!

As far as the games of E3, that'll be the topic of my next blog. Until then, Game On!

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