E3 was always going to be highly anticipated but with the announcement of next generation consoles, Sony’s Playstation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, expectations were running at an all time high. This was mostly for two reasons; firstly, Microsoft has been extremely vague despite seeming to be rather forthcoming. First, they unveiled the console and its accessories and then the specifications and they announced their policies and approaches to next-gen gaming. The problem was simply that their policies were horrible. Microsoft appeared to be actively attacking their consumers. Within the coming weeks, Microsoft would make some attempt at damage control but failed to make the machine any less Orwellian.
If Microsoft is an exhibitionist, displaying themselves warts and all for anyone who wants to look, then Sony is undoubtedly a strip tease. They got the jump on Microsoft but didn’t unveil anything more than an updated controller and buttons to assist in multiplayer and video gaming. It wasn’t until the recent E3 conference that we even saw the console itself, a more angular versions of the PS3 that remains more stylish than the PS2. Even as Microsoft was effectively tying the noose around their own neck, Sony remained in complete silence until E3, suggesting that this slow, seductive reveal had always been the plan.
Of course, little attention was spared for how the PS4 looks or how the share button will impact casual gaming because what most people cared about was how PS4’s customer policies would look when lined up against Microsoft. Had Microsoft led the way in creating a gaming generation where the consumer was now paying for the privilege rather than the right to play a game? Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, as Sony not only revealed that that had no intention of imposing used games fees but also mocked Microsoft’s convoluted trade in system in a short video demonstrating the Sony system of simply handing the game to a friend.
That isn’t to say, however, that Microsoft’s Xbox One is doomed to fail, selling zero copies. When the Playstation 3 was first released in 2006, it was more expensive than the Xbox 360, which had already been released almost a year prior. The inclusion of Blu-ray in the PS3 was also considered risky as Blu-ray was relatively new to the market at the time and both consoles faced stiff competition from Nintendo’s family friendly Wii console that appealed to children and party gamers. While the Wii is still the best selling console of its generation, the PS3 overcame its late start and untested specifications and has now caught up with the sales of the Xbox 360.
Concerns regarding the PS3 lay largely in the use of Blu-ray and the fact that, on launch, there were not that many high profile games with which Sony could generate interest or lure customers from Microsoft. The Xbox One won’t have that problem because Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Project Spark and Sunset Overdrive have all been confirmed as exclusive to Microsoft’s all in one entertainment system. Dead Rising 3 is probably the game which will attract the most gamers because it harkens back to the release of Dead Rising when the Xbox 360 was launched and Dead Rising 2 was quite well received. The series isn’t going to win any awards and the story isn’t anything to write home about but, at the very least, it was fun. Very few games really just let you customise items and slaughter enemies on mass anymore. Fallout springs to mind but instead of mass slaughter you get dry despondence at the horribleness of humanity.
Halo’s new game was also be exclusive, due to the company being owned by Microsoft but it won’t be released until 2014, after the Xbox One November 2013 launch. So Microsoft will have to rely on other exclusive games in order to sell the new console. As mentioned, Dead Rising 3 is an attractive suggestion, but the other exclusives leave something to be desired. Sunset Overdrive looks fun but seems like a game you would expect to see on a Nintendo console, whist Project Spark is what appears to be a gaming simulation where you build a world, set the AI and play the result. There was no demonstration of scripting in the E3 demo but it seems to require some kind of scripting capabilities. I expect most people to just get bored and begin creating penile shaped worlds given that the kind of micromanagement required to get the most out of this kind of game is more suited to PC gamers. That would suggest that Microsoft don’t even know who their target demographic is. There’s little to be said about Killer Instinct because all we really know is that it is a fighting game.
The PS4 list of exclusives is smaller, with the most interesting being Killzone and infamous. Despite that, PS4 pre-orders are through the roof, reportedly surpassing Xbox One, which would lead me to believe that Microsoft policies have indeed shot them in the foot. For people who always have their devices connected to the internet, they may not understand the problem, but I for one live in an area with less connectivity. Sure, my laptop is generally connected for the majority of the day, but if I lose connectivity for any reason, the Xbox One would cease to be operation within twenty four hours. Sure, a smart TV and a digital box are generally always connected but if the internet cuts out, I can still watch television indefinitely. It may not be able to access all the features but I can still use it to watch television, which is why I bought the device, unlike the Xbox One, a gaming console that restricts your ability to play games.
I don’t quite get the excitement of consolidating my television, gaming console, laptop and whatever else into one machine, as if the existence of various machines in one house is a ploy of electronics to wipe out humanity and we must in some way contain them. No, I’m happy to have more than one device in my home all doing different things, namely because if one breaks I’m not completely screwed. In the same way, I wouldn’t by a device which consolidated my fridge, freezer, oven and car into one machine because if the car broke down not only would I not be able to get to work but I also wouldn’t be able to cook breakfast.