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The Console Wars: Pre-E3 2013 Edition

The Console Wars: Pre-E3 2013 Edition

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With the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo mere days away, video game enthusiasts around the globe are chomping at the bit for any and all news related to the new generation of consoles on the horizon. Both Sony and Microsoft have announced their new hardware, both are scheduled to be released in the fourth quarter of this year, and both can be expected to be industry leading pieces of technology, but which, if any, should you purchase?

On February 20th 2013 Sony officially announced the Playstation 4 and received mixed reviews. Many people were very concerned with the fact that Sony neglected to actually show the hardware, prompting worries that the console was not near completion. Those worries were later amplified after the show when it was revealed that the gameplay shown for Ubisoft’s Watchdogs was actually running on a PC and not a PS4. Several of the announcements that took place ranged from questionable, to downright embarrassing. Having Bungie employees come out on stage for a grand total of 2 minutes to announce that their next title, Destiny, will be on the PS4, even though that was already common knowledge, seemed like nothing more than filler. Square-Enix had a cringe worthy presentation, first showing a tech demo that they had already shown at E3 2012, and then begging fans to “please be excited for E3”. There were impressive new titles shown, such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and inFamous: Second Son, but these are expected follow-ups to established franchises. Capcom showed a new IP, tentatively titled Deep Down, but rather than talking about the game’s potential, everyone seemed concerned with whether the “gameplay” shown was indeed gameplay, and who could blame them after the Killzone 2 debacle from E3 2005. People were expecting to get their socks knocked off, and that simply didn’t happen. The system’s specs look good, and there was a lot of cool software shown, but it all seemed a bit too predictable. There was no huge game announcement or massively innovative piece of hardware. There were no surprises. A new generation of consoles is a rare thing, it only happens twice a decade, and Sony’s presentation just didn’t live up to the massive (perhaps unfeasible) expectations, which left the door wide open for Microsoft to swoop in and steal the show.

Microsoft had the advantage of letting Sony go first. They were able to analyze what gamers liked, and what they didn’t like about Sony’s outing. They had the chance to shoot Sony in the foot way before the consoles ever hit store shelves. All they needed to do was show the hardware, have someone on-stage give us some live gameplay demonstrations, and have a couple of unexpected software announcements. People not only thought Microsoft was capable of doing what Sony didn’t, but they expected it. They took their sweet time, but 4 months after Sony’s announcement, on May 21st, Microsoft announced the Xbox One. They held a one hour press conference to usher in the new console, and it took about 30 minutes for them to start talking about video games. 30 minutes. The first half of the conference was focused on the Xbox One’s abilities to display television programs and respond to voice commands. With an audience full of video game enthusiasts in attendance, and millions more watching via stream, Microsoft decided to delegate half of their conference to stuff that gamers do not care about. When they finally started to talk about games, they brought out an EA executive to announce that the yearly sports titles will be on the Xbox One (what a surprise), and then showed a Forza Motorsport CGI trailer before closing out with Call of Duty: Ghosts. I don’t think it would have been possible for a more underwhelming and utterly mundane presentation. If you were to simply watch the first half of the conference you’d be hard pressed to say the Xbox One is a video game console. If Microsoft’s outing can be called anything, it would be a missed opportunity.

New XBOX ONE

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Sony’s seemingly average press conference now looks amazing when compared to Microsoft’s snooze fest of a presentation. Sony’s conference started off with a video montage emphasizing playing video games. After spending a couple of minutes introducing the console, revealing the name and the specs, they jumped into game announcements. It was game announcement after game announcement. Maybe none of the game reveals were completely out of left field, but they were games, and that’s that we tuned in to see. It was apparent that Sony was advertising a video game console, where as Microsoft seemed to be peddling a huge box that looks like a 90’s VCR that has the capability of playing games, but is first and foremost an all-in-one entertainment unit.

Microsoft simply did not pay respect to its core audience. Leading up to their press conference there was nothing but negative rumors surrounding the new console: Does it need to be “Always Online”? Are used games going to be blocked? Will Xbox Live remain a paid service? None of these questions were answered on-stage. And while much is still unconfirmed, it does not look good for the Xbox One. While used games may not be “blocked”, it seems like games will be tethered to one console, and if you want to play it on another console a fee will need to be paid. It seems like the console will not require 24/7 connectivity to the internet, but will require users to connect at least once a day to authenticate with Microsoft’s servers. And while Sony’s Playstation Network will remain a free service, it seems that Xbox users will still need to pay a yearly fee to access the most basic online functionality. By neglecting to address these concerns during their conference, Microsoft only poured more fuel onto an already burning fire. Users cannot help but wonder what will happen if they don’t connect their Xbox One to the internet once a day, or if they will be able to share their games with siblings and friends.

At the end of the day, is it all doom and gloom for Microsoft? No, not even close. Hardware wise the two systems are very similar in terms of both power and capability, and both platforms will have a host of exclusive titles which will no doubt be system sellers. If anything, Sony and Microsoft are now on even ground after the previous generation which tilted ever so slightly in the Xbox 360’s favor. The key here is looking at Microsoft’s announcement as simply that: a hardware announcement. With all of the boring details out of the way, Microsoft is primed to have a stunning E3 conference that will contain nothing but games, games, and more games. While in the other corner, as long as Sony didn’t blow their entire load at their announcement presser, their E3 presentation can be equally as good as Microsoft’s.

PS4

The Verdict

While Sony’s announcement seemed underwhelming at first, it can be said that they were a victim of unreal expectations as they were responsible for being the first to step into the next generation (sorry Nintendo fans, the WiiU doesn’t count). Microsoft, on the other hand, were a victim of nothing but their own poor planning and execution. When thinking about which next generation console to buy, I look at them as a gamer. When analyzing a console I don’t care about its ability to stream live TV, or its ability to surf the web; the one and only thing I care about is games. After watching the two announcement conferences, it’s clear which of the two companies has made a machine which is primarily a video game console. It’s not all said and done quite yet, the dust hasn’t settled, but I have a feeling that when it does, Sony will stand victorious at E3, and the Playstation 4 will be the console of choice for gamers around the world.

Matt De Azevedo

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