With Microsoft confirming the worse in recent weeks that it will impose some of the most drastic and ultimately consumer-restrictive policies the gaming industry has ever seen, it was absolutely crucial they performed at their very best at E3 2013 - for there own console's sake. Suprisingly, they did just that as it was arguably Microsoft's best E3 press conference ever and yet the overall atmosphere still left them ultimately losing in the wake (and appearance) of Sony's Playstation 4. Worse still, Sony's conference was not particularly engrossing but they did capitalise on Microsoft's choices and more importantly, sided with the gamers.
Microsoft's E3 Press Conference 2013:
After watching both Sony and Microsoft's Press Conferences, Microsoft's presentation actually came across vastly superior both in content and delivery. They revealed that they will be offering two games a month free to XBL Gold members, in a similar fashion to Sony's Playstation Plus members, every month until Xbox One's console launch. I'm assuming this was the Xbox 360's surprise reveal for E3, but none the less a worthy addition to Xbox Live. Microsoft then went on to reveal the Xbox 360 console with the Xbox One's design. It looked nice and received somewhat of a cheer from the watching crowd, but it was an ultimately worthless addition to gamers.
Then we moved on to the main event - the Xbox One's section of E3. They did particularly well with this section it has to be said. Microsoft flaunted very little of Kinect and its uses, with only Kinect Sport Rivals being shown, and concentrated on the more hardcore games - even Crytek's Ryse no longer fully supports Kinect. They cheekily revealed Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on the Xbox One, with even an appearance from Hideo Kojima himself to mention how good the console is in his slightly broken english. They revealed for te first time actual gameplay footage and a fair bit of content about the game. It looks fantastic with the new Fox Engine and plays even better.
Overall, One's event was more of a success rather than a failure given the critical mauling Microsoft has received in recent weeks - they revealed a solid and almost tempting selection of games and a good amount of exclusives (including Dead Rising 3 being the main exclusive suprise here), but everyone was anxiously waiting for the big reveal - the cost of the Xbox One at launch. The words $499 and £429 echoed the room, followed by a mixture of cheers and slightly disappointed murmurs. It seems quite expensive, given that we have to have Kinect included in the package due to their new policy that Kinect is required for Microsoft's new console. Atleast you XBL Gold membership transfers to Xbox One without additional cost - that would of been the true 'icing on the cake'.
Sony's E3 Press Conference 2013:
More specifically, Sony's Playstation 4 Press Conference as that was what essentially everyone was here for. I felt slightly disappointed by the games revealed here exclusives-wise. I'm assuming the big heavy hitters from the likes of NaughtyDog are being kept underwraps especially given they have nearly released ' The Last of Us' on the PS3 - a game that has hit the world of gaming by storm. More to the point though, little first party titles weren't as eventful as Microsoft's. In fact, many games had exclusive extras for Sony's console such as items in Diablo III, additional gameplay in Assassin's Creed 4 and Watch Dogs - things that don't really cut it for me as being titled exclusives or being catogorised along with Sony's true exclusive titles. They stated over 140 games are currently in development for the PS4, 100 of which will be released within the first year and 40 are exclusives or have exclusive content. My question and only major concern at this is how many of those 40 games are third-party games with merely exclusive content like additional skins or an extra one hour of gameplay? I sincerely hope this is not the case as the PS3, despite its obvious flaws, prided itself in its triple-A exclusives.
Sony did, however, reveal a major blow to Microsft early on by focusing on the Indie developers and gamers, with them presenting the crowd with several exclusive indie games. They reiterated their new stance that they are open to Indie developers and will not impose any restrictions for developers to present their new games onto the Playstation 4 Network - something which Microsoft does not do on the 360 or with the Xbox One. A loud cheer emerged with plenty of fans smiling at this news. This was Sony's first jab of many directed towards Microsoft. And it was working.
People were eagerly awaiting for the physical console reveal itself that eluded the world back in February 2013. It did not take long for Sony to ease their suffering as they did just that within minutes of discussing the PS4. The console looks surprisingly small and compact when compared to the chunky Xbox One and even there own console, the PS3. Some have described it as a small box that has been squished diagonally whereas others see it as a baby from the Xbox One and PS2. I personally thought it looked suprisingly similar to the Nintendo Wii black version. Interestingly, they demonstrated the new console standing vertically and sitting horizontally - again, something which the Xbox One cannot do with its sheer bulkness. Was this another jibe at Microsoft? Small, compact and seemingly could fit anywhere or a rather large black box similar to an old VHS player with a large camera having to be placed near it? It certainly felt like a subtle dig to me.
Then the real information and arguably the first haymaker at Microsoft arrived; the Playstation 4 supports preowned games. That is they believe the consumer has a right that when purchasing a disc, they can lend it to as many or as few friends as they like, they can trade it in to any retailer (not just participating and Microsoft approved retailers), sell it on ebay, or just keep the disc for themselves. The hugely exciting roar from the giant crowd was amazing, a true highlight of E3 history if there ever was one. The cheers continued for a while and Jack Tretton's face could not hide his emotions as he cracked quite a smile and said "I guess that's a good thing." Sony knew this was a victory point but even they could not of expected such a huge reaction from the crowd to something that consoles have been doing for generations.
The haymakers did not stop there as Tretton continued that not only does Sony support preowned games, but there console will require no internet connection or authentication to operate. The crowd were ecstatic and the loudest E3 2013 had been on day one. Microsoft would of heard that regardless if they were watching or not. Jack Tretton did this by stating:
"The Playstation 4 won't impose any new restrictions on you. The PS4 supports used games - we believe in the model that people embrace today with the PS3. In addition, it doesn't need to be connected; if you enjoy playing single player games offline, the PS4 won't require you to check-in online period and it won't stop working if you haven't authenticated in 24 hours."
Not only was this several haymakers to Xbox One's exterior, but it was a stab to their circuits. This was huge for Microsoft, publishers and gamers alike. Many have felt that the rumours of PS4 supporting some form of DRM were going to be true and surely Microsoft would not of risked such a PR nightmare if Sony was not going to do something similar? These decisions could potentially decide who wins next generations of console gaming. And the slaughter didn't stop there as at the end of the presentation, Sony revealed that the PS4 will retail this winter holiday at $399 and £349 - undercutting Microsoft immensely by $100 and £80 respectively. Again, the cheers from the crowd were rediculously loud at this news with fans shouting "Sony! Sony! Sony!" and many taking pictures of the slide revealing the retail prices, just like they did for the no DRM slides.
Sony had done what Microsoft couldn't - to win the hearts of millions of gamers and make them feel like they are being cared and catered for. They learned from their mistakes with the PS3, gathered feedback and actually listened as opposed to claiming they listened and delivered. It was a subpar presentation that still blew Microsoft's excellent one out the water by simply going along with what gamers want. The E3 crowd appeared more than delighted at the news, despite being slightly dampened that PS4 multiplayer will require Playstation Plus membership to function but this was surely to be expected given that Microsoft had been doing this requirement for over 8 years - making millions it has to be said. Together, along with the news that the PSN will be completely overhauled and updated for the modern gamer to include such things as cross game chat (i.e., party chat), Sony won a huge victory at E3 2013 and surely have gathered momentum to succeed as the console to own next generation.
Gamers were then again given rediculously good news from Sony the following day. Shehei Yoshida confirmed via Twitter that PS4 is region free, meaning you can finally play those Japenese RPGs that never make it to Western retailers and vice versa. This was just becoming sadistic from Sony's part; not only did they redicule Microsoft's new restrictive policies during their own event that won E3, but then topped off the mauling with a simple tweet the morning after. It was like they were just not finished as they revealed this information as Microsoft's new console had already been confirmed to be region locked. It seemed that Sony's philosophy was simple; give the gamers what they want and gamers will respond with equally open arms. Unfortunately from Microsoft's perspective, this is still a PR nightmare despite the games they threw in attempt to attract back the surely distancing audience. An interview released shortly after the events of E3 seemed to demonstrate both Microsoft's arrogance and frustration with what is happening around them. Don Mattrick (Microsoft Interactive Entertainment President), in a response to the criticism of always-online, stated:
"Fortunately we have a product for people that aren't able to get some form of connectivity - it's called an Xbox 360."
The last thing you want from what can only be described as an E3 loss, and the potential to lose millions of your consumers to your major rivals, is to have an interview released of a Microsoft President coming across arrogant and lacking any care towards your fans regarding the harsh restrictions that have been imposed for the Xbox One. Sure, they will sell the Xbox One - it has good games, a solid online system and some interesting prospects like live streaming via TwitchTV. However, they have already lost a huge audience that do not have the internet whether through availability or affordability and are rapidly losing there own fanbase that they deservedly earned through the accomplishments of the Xbox and Xbox 360. Many gamers don't like the idea of having to pay and forcably use Xbox Kinect, preventing them lending games to friends, choose where they can trade in and (if possible) sell to as well as having to authenticate there Xbox every 24hours and every one hour if they are on a friend's Xbox. Combine this with the considerably more expensive price tag and Microsoft has got one hell of a dilemma on its hands. Perhaps Microsoft should learn from Sony's approach. Perhaps things can change. Perhaps not. Only time can tell.