This is the second of four articles looking back at highs and lows of 2013. You can read Part 1 focusing on the console reveals here, but this time we travel back to E3 2013 and explore the immediate aftermath of the big console reveals.
Sony and Microsoft revealed most of their console plans prior to E3, but millions of gamers still tuned into the June gaming conference to learn the most important details: when are the consoles coming, how much will they cost, and what new games are on the horizon?
Microsoft started the E3 press conference circuit, and they delivered on their earlier promise to focus on games. The spectacle of their new console may not have translated into any gameplay innovations, but seeing games like Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, and Forza 5 showed the graphical power Microsoft’s console would be able to deliver.
The Xbox One would still require an Internet connection at least once every 24 hours, but Microsoft also talked about their family sharing plan and their commitment to creating a cloud-based gaming future. Within the same household or with friends, more than one account would be able to play games even when they were purchased digitally, and if you visited someone else’s house, you’d be able to download a game to play even without the disc.
Finally, the price for the Xbox One was revealed at the somewhat expected $500 with preorders available immediately. All bundles would come with a controller and Kinect sensor, but as revealed later, they would not come with a pack-in headset.
Sony’s conference took place later that same evening, and after revealing their own slate of games and a focus on making it easy for indie developers to bring their games to the platform, they addressed users' complaints with Microsoft’s Xbox One directly. The PlayStation 4 would have no online requirement (though similar to the Xbox, multiplayer would require a subscription), and used physical games would work just fine. Finally, the console would be $400 -- $100 below Microsoft. However, this price did not include the upgraded PlayStation camera that was also shown in some stage demos.
The presentation won over several of the GameSpot staff who felt that Sony seemed to be listening to consumer feedback and addressing it directly with the new console. There was still a lot of time until the consoles launched, and a lot could change, but Sony showed that they’d learned from the missteps of the PS3 launch and weren’t going to make the same mistakes again.
Nintendo, meanwhile, already had their next-gen console on the market, so their press conference was a scaled-back affair. In line with the recent Nintendo Direct videos, Nintendo instead released pre-recorded footage with demos and trailers to show off Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Super Mario 3D World, and Wind Waker HD.
Nintendo also addressed sales concerns for their console and took the blame for lower than expected totals. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said, “We have been unsuccessful in coming up with one single software with which people can understand, 'OK, this is really different,'” (a perception issue which the company is still fighting to clarify).
But all of that took place before E3; the actual show was still all about the games. A short list of some of the biggest stories included:
- The reveal that Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III will be coming to Xbox One and PS4.
- EA will use the Star Wars license to continue the previously cancelled Battlefront game. In fact, EA currently has the rights from Disney to head up all console-based Star Wars games.
- Mirror’s Edge 2 is not just a rumor and is actually happening.
- How Destiny and Tom Clancy’s The Division are working to redefine the meaning of MMO.
- Another look at the oft-delayed, crude, (but funny) South Park: The Stick of Truth
- The start of the confusion between Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain (sure, you know the full story now, but at the time it was purposefully unclear).
But the most attention-grabbing story happened right after E3: Microsoft’s policy about-face. Finally bowing to fan pressure, privacy concerns, and constant criticism, the company reversed many of their previous Xbox One policies and also abandoned the family sharing program (Microsoft has since hinted that a form of the family sharing program could come back in 2014). The Xbox One would no longer require an online connection or a plugged-in Kinect, and physical games would have no built-in DRM restrictions.
It was a dramatic reversal from a company that had spent so much time defending their decisions. Former Xbox boss Don Mattrick explained at the time, “While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds."
However, Microsoft maintained their $500 price point claiming that the system was “over-delivering on value against other choices.” Mattrick said, “Any modern product these days you look at it [and] $499 isn't a ridiculous price point. We're delivering thousands of dollars of value to people, so I think they're going to love it when they use it."
With all the excitement of E3, it’s hard to imagine a AAA game also coming out at the same time, but that’s exactly what happened this year: The Last of Us, GameSpot’s PlayStation 3 game of the year, released right around the same time as the show. But even that game ran into controversy. Actress Ellen Page, who was starring in Beyond: Two Souls, a separate PS3-exclusive, claimed that developer Naughty Dog "ripped off" her likeness. The uncanny resemblance persisted even after the character that resembled Page was altered prior to the game’s release.
The next shift in the collective gaming consciousness (and Part 3 of this series) will look at Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V juggernaut and the reveal of Valve’s home console project, the Steam Machine.