PlayStation 4 is the gamer's choice for next-gen

Sony is backing gamers this holiday season, and that's a good thing.

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I have just preordered a PlayStation 4. This is an act of great personal significance for me, because during the last generation, Microsoft's Xbox 360 was my primary console. I purchased it ahead of the PlayStation 3, and it was my go-to choice for nonexclusive software. It wasn't a case of platform bias, but rather a marriage of convenience and consistency for my software library.

After Sony's E3 2013 showing, I firmly believe Sony's console will become my primary console of choice for the first time since the original PlayStation back in 1994. This is huge.

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Earlier this year, after Sony first unveiled the PlayStation 4, I wrote an article saying I wasn't particularly impressed with the lineup. And, in all honesty, I think the exclusive software Microsoft showed during its E3 conference was actually stronger than what Sony showed today. So why the PlayStation 4?

The difference is attitude. The power of Sony's press conference runs deeper than its actual announcements. It's more than just the price and the lack of condescending and restrictive software licensing, though those are of course major factors. The real difference, and the one that's encouraging me to open my wallet, is that Sony is making an active effort to acknowledge its consumers, to respect its audience, and to directly respond to the criticism levied upon it for the mistakes made with the PlayStation 3.

Think about what we've all seen today, as Microsoft works desperately to transform its Xbox One into an end-to-end service, and its Redmond campus works to rigorously control its product from manufacturing through to content consumption itself. With Xbox One it feels like the consumer is just another link in Microsoft's service chain--the part that forks over all the money, it seems--and it's hard not to feel restricted by such a chafing corporate vision. Right now, the Xbox One is essentially Apple's App Store but with none of the benefits, such as a barrage of cheap titles and a virtually anything-goes approach to development and publishing. Perhaps this will change with time. I hope it does, and I think it will. Microsoft is not a stupid company.

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The real difference in the equation is Sony. The Sony that announced the PlayStation 3 at $599, that launched the PlayStation 3 with rudimentary online support, and that was taken offline by Anonymous in 2011 has been truly humbled by the prominence of the Xbox 360. It seems weird to think of it now, but when Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360, it felt like the gamer's choice--that Microsoft was listening to its core audience and responding accordingly. And now, almost a decade later, Sony seems to have taken the wind right out of Microsoft's sails.

When Jack Tretton took to the stage to announce, with a glint in his eye and a grin on his face, that the PlayStation 4 would embrace used games and wouldn't need to check in online, the message was obvious. And when the price was announced, well, it didn't even matter that the PlayStation 4's own camera peripheral would jump the price up closer towards the Xbox One's cost; the PlayStation 4 already felt liberating. It was the knockout blow that everyone had been wanting but nobody really expected.

Both Microsoft and Sony are eagerly eyeing the possibility of their next-generation consoles acting as central digital entertainment hubs in our increasingly connected homes--Sony didn't mention that it's the most-used console for Netflix for nothing--but the differences in approach are plain to see. Sony laid out its mission statement in a neat and tidy package: showing respect for its current devices, presenting its AAA games, respecting the potential of indie development, and then respecting the consumers who keep the ecosystems of console gaming running in the first place. Sony is opening its arms and saying that if you like gaming, you'll like the PlayStation 4. This isn't about platform bias or the console wars, but a case of backing the giant corporation that seems to be most aligned with the way I play games.

I'll think about how I'm going to afford the £349 later. Welcome back, Sony.

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