The PlayStation 4 emerged the clear winner over the Xbox One at the entertainment expo E3 2013, which came to a close on Thursday in Los Angeles. At least, that was the general feeling at the fair, judging by the euphoria among the crowd that attended the presentations of the two next-generation consoles.
Andrew House, the group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, got dramatic as he pulled out the PS4 and tried to project his high-pitched voice for added effect: “This is the next great console. It will cost 399 dollars.” That’s 100 dollars cheaper than the planned retail price of the Xbox One.
It is worth remembering that the current consoles on the market retailed for around 600 euros when they were first released seven years ago. Regardless of whether they shift more or less units, both companies are going to suffer until their devices become profitable through new games and other complementary products. And therein lies the key to declaring a final winner.
The approach to the product launch was very different. While Sony focused on its music and movie catalogue, Microsoft paid more attention to games – titles such as Forza Motorsport 5, featuring hyper-realistic car races; Project Spark, a highly detailed imaginary world where gamers can share settings and levels; and Ryse, son of Rome,a “hack-and-slash” game set in Imperial Rome. The last game to prompt plenty of applause was Halo 5, which is expected to come out in 2014.
Microsoft has adopted a somewhat more serious attitude, trying to pave the road for the future
Sony, meanwhile, is interested in controversy. Its finances have been suffering, and it needs to be aggressive. That would explain why even the head of product development, Shuhei Yoshida, posted a video poking fun at Microsoft.
The folks at Redmond have decided to limit and control the second-hand game market with a solution based on digital formats. Yoshida’s video, in which he explains Sony’s own game-lending strategy, got millions of hits on YouTube: “You grab it, you walk up to your friend and you give it to him.” Three simple steps, compared with the confusion generated by Microsoft’s complicated Digital Rights Management (DRM) strategy.
Sony’s other weapons, besides the 100-euro savings, come in the shape of Killzone Shadow Fall, Driveclub, an impressive Infamous: Second Son, the eagerly awaited Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3.
The initial strategy was for both companies to implement some DRM control over used-game sales, but in the end only Microsoft has gone ahead with that. It is suggesting an approach whereby gamers choose a group of 10 friends and relatives with whom they will share purchases; even if the game is bought in a physical format, it is automatically copied to the cloud. Restrictions apply: in order to resell a game, the new owner has to be among your contacts in the 30 days prior to the transaction.
By deciding to eschew this kind of control, Sony has earned brownie points in the eyes of many customers, although the company later clarified that there will be a mechanism that requires a third party system for the activation of games.
Games for both consoles will still be released on physical media, although they could have opted for downloads only, as the majority of mobile devices now do. The reasons for this include the ability to give a game as a gift, one that is there for immediate use; maintaining their network of specialized stores, which are in danger of extinction; and keeping collectors of special editions happy.
Meanwhile, the battle between the current rival models, PS3 and Xbox 360, does not have a clear winner. Both models have sold between 70 and 80 million units worldwide.
Microsoft has adopted a somewhat more serious attitude, trying to pave the road for the future, even as criticism continues to pour in because of its mandatory connection system.
But one of the points that fans fail to consider is that the price includes, as well as a controller, the new Kinect, a movement sensor that opens the door to simulations and experimental narratives beyond the traditional experience; it also incorporates Skype, allowing gamers to talk to each other, and Smartglass, an application that allows iPad and Android tablets to function as a second screen during games.
At Redmond, the Xbox One is considered an integral part of its ecosystem. In fact, the development platform is based on Windows 8, which fosters the development of games and applications to do things like, for instance, comment on TV shows in real time. This is one advantage over the PS4. But ultimately, both consoles are facing the same challenge: not to lose users to tablets.