E3 2013 is finally here with Microsoft going head to head with Sony in a battle of supremacy over the next-gen consoles. So lets to a look at the positives and negatives of both of today’s conferences.
So let’s start the ball rolling with Microsoft. Once again Microsoft kicked started the conferences and focused most of their firepower on games having explored most of their Xbox One Dashboard features, Kinect details and policies at their reveal event 2 weeks ago and boy did they have a lot of great games on show. Starting off the conference with the first look at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which returned to the iconic stealth gameplay which has defined the franchise. We also got another glimpse of Battlefield 4 (after some technical difficulties) which looked AMAZING. However bear in mind this was a single player mission where many of these moments were scripted and although we did get a pretty awesome look at the destruction physics of Battlefield 4 in EA’s multiplayer reveal, the question is will we see this same level of destruction and unpredictability on the consoles.
Halo 5 was also showcased in the conference and was one of the more surprising trailers, featuring a rogue Master Chief wearing a hood over his iconic Mjolnir armor. Another interesting game they showed off was ‘Project Spark’ a creative game with the ability to generate your own objectives and settings, somewhat similar to Sony’s ‘Little Big Planet’ but on a much larger scale. Quantum Break was also featured once again with a closer look at some of the gameplay (although I am a little suspicious that it was simply a CGI trailer). ‘Ryse’ was also featured in today’s demo after we first got a glimpse of the game 2 years ago, it has now made Kinect an optional extra a change from its first showing where it was Kinect-based. Another great announcement was the reveal that current and new Xbox Live Gold members will be able to download 2 free games every month from a select group of titles such as Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II on the Xbox 360. Smartglass interactions were also a welcomed.
The biggest games reveal by far was Rare’s ‘Killer Instinct’ a franchise that has not been seen since 1996 (I definitely know one guy who’s stoked about this announcement) this was coupled with the reveal of the Xbox’s One DVR settings and their partnership with twitch.tv for online streaming. Respawn Entertainment wrapped out the conference with the reveal of Titan Fall, a mulitplayer-only FPS game featuring mechs called Titans as well as traditional soldiers known as Pilots who have unique parkour platforming using jetpacks. World of Tanks was also revealed to be a free to play on the Xbox One, Minecraft: Xbox One Edition, Forza 5 and Dead Rising 3 were also revealed in the conference.
Microsoft also spoke a lot about supporting small studios, carefully tiptoeing over the fact that these developers must have a publisher to release their game which basically shuns any possibility for indie games on the Xbox One. But then there was the elephant in the room – the price. At $499 US, $599 AUD, £429 and €499 this console is way too overpriced. The hardware involved in this console is only worth around $400 US dollars and given that these consoles are created in bulk there is no reason that it has to be substantially higher than that. Culminate that with Microsoft’s complicated and controversial policies on used games, sharing games and DRMs and its huge emphasis on TV integration and you get one massive deterrent in buying this console even for hardcore fans.
Now let’s take a look at the the Sony conference. The beginning took further looks at many of the games we have already seen showcased earlier this year at the PS4 reveal event such as Killzone: Shadowfall, Infamous: Second Son, Knack and Drive Club as well as a new Gran Turismo title. 2 new titles were also demoed: The Order, a game based in renaissance times with some nifty guns, and other bits of modern technology like radios; and The Dark Sorcerer (which was hilarious) – details on this one are still a bit sketchy as it isn’t quite clear what it is at all. There was also a look at the The Last Of Us which is dropping on PS3 in three days time as well as the flexibility of using games on the PS Vita and PS4. The reveal of the console was also shown with a rather sleek, simplistic design similar to that of latter PS3 slim models.
The conference also featured Final Fantasy 15, a brand new Kingdom Hearts game, demo’s for Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV. Sony also took a look at indie developers, in complete contrast to that of Microsoft who require all games to have a publisher. Following the announcement of these games and demos thing started to get a little dirty. Sony President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Jack Tretton laid out their used game and DRM policies plain and simple. There are no policies. Used games will remain the same, lending games will remain the same and the PS4 will be able to be played offline. It really stuck the knife in for Microsoft, taking all of its controversial policies and ridiculing them on a literally global stage. The only real downside of the PS4 is that Playstation Plus will be required to play online multiplayer games.
Sony topped of the demo with the first gameplay footage of Bungie’s Destiny, which featured cooperative teamwork in large, gorgeous environment, with an almost Borderlands-esque feel. Following this Sony set the prices for the PS4 at $399 US, £349 and €399.
Ultimately I think Sony won this years E3. Sure there were less new games on show this year, no dramatic teaser for a new God of War or Uncharted but there was one thing that they did much better than Microsoft and that’s emphasize gamers as their top priority. They completely turned Microsoft’s policies on their head and poured salt into the wound by directly addressing these issues without any grey area. To top it all off, they priced the console a whole $100 US cheaper than that of the Xbox One. Even though there were less flashy lights and crazy tech demos in Sony’s conference they won by appeasing their audience of gamers and giving them the console they were asking for.