E3 2013 will do gown as one of the most interesting case studies in corporate maneuvering in the history of the videogame business. The day started with mountains of fan excitement. People had gathered their information and drizzled their speculation sprinkles on top, waiting for Microsoft and Sony to show their wares. For the less initiated, E3 is the Super Bowl for gamers; or better yet our yearly World’s Fair. The place in which we get to hopefully have the “World of Tommorrow” moments that will show us what our favorite hobby will look and feel like in the years to come.
Day one of E3 provided many of those moments, both forgettable and not, leaving everyone in the gaming world abuzz with excitement and some wanting a way-back machine to recompose and rethink.
Microsoft, after coming off a three week public relations beatdown by gamers and press, had a lot to prove. Their restrictive DRM, online check-ins, and inability to share or purchase used games brought out all daggers and pitchforks from the community. The promise of games was supposed to satiate most and squelch some of the fires set at the last press conference. However, they lost so much good will with their backward thinking that I don’t know if anything but a complete reversal of policy would have made people forgive their past misstep. To their credit, Microsoft showed some damn awesome games. Metal Gear 5: The Phantom Pain and Quantum Break showed where the system wants to go with their future: big, robust titles that will show the power of the Xbox One.
Microsoft took some interesting risks as well with the games like Project Spark and Below. Both in my opinion reached out to that Indie-gamer base that the Xbox was sorely lacking in the current gen.
One of the bigger surprises of the night for them was the huge deal they inked with Twitch TV. Millions of gamers watch and interact with streamers on a daily basis. Being able to stream directly from your XO will be an amazing feature that many would-be stars will take advantage of. It will also be interesting to see if those who already have big followings on Twitch will be able to cash in somehow.
All that being said, the star of the show for Microsoft was TitanFall from Respawn. An immersive futuristic Call of Duty-esque game with the mech warfare included. Nimble “pilots” wall run and jetpack their ways around the battlefield while racking up XP points. The game looked fast, fluid, and extraordinarily fun. With the gameplay they showed, they gave folks a reason to buy their box–and then most of the good will was sucked out of the room when they dropped their $499 price tag.
Hesitant cheers filled the room when the number was spoken, and even slight groans could be heard in the background. I think even with all the bad news surrounding the XO, people could still see what the future held and were starting to rethink their position, but that price seemed to remove most of the benefits they showed during the conference. Or at least made die-hard Xbox fans willing to wait to see what Sony had to offer later that night.
Overall, Microsoft had a really good conference. The lack of apology for not listening to the fans in any way would have gone a long way toward rebuilding faith that the company wanted gamers to be happy. The lack of post-conference press questioning and no follow up left a bad taste in the mouths of many and set the stage for Sony to steal the night.
Sony had been waiting in the wings for awhile, and going last during the conference day would absolutely play into their favor. Microsoft had shown their hands and Sony could maneuver and adapt to the messaging provided by their rival. They started the ball rolling albeit slowly by setting the stage with PS3 and Vita software. Although many gamers are chomping at the bit to get to next-gen. Sony showed that there are some quality games coming down the pipe until the end of the year. Critically-acclaimed games like “The Last of Us” still bring about oohs and ahhs but people really wanted the new stuff.
A couple of minutes later the PS4 was revealed: a two-toned slanted box. An Xbox One with a methadone-addict lean. As you can see I’m not a fan of the design and think they went safe but I guess in the end the box’s looks don’t matter. What you can play on that box does and they showed some great upcoming titles like “The Order”, “infamous: Second Son” and many Indie titles that I’ll go into more detail in my “On My Radar” posts coming this week.
PS4’s biggest showing was Bungie’s game Destiny, the game looks gorgeous with expansive worlds. Awesome weapons and gameplay situations called “Public Events” that will add to experience by gathering large groups of players to take on community-timed challenges or enemies. The way it was implemented looked amazing and made me want that game now. Knowing Bungie’s background and ten year commitment, I think gamers on all platforms are in for a surprise.
Lots of great content was shown but the bombshells that everyone was waiting for were about to be dropped. Sony had been eerily quiet on the used game front especially after Microsoft went whole hog on the game lock-down stance. Rumors abounded that Sony would adopt the same policy of letting the publishers determine how used games would be dealt with and online connectivity “check-ins”. And with one fell swoop, Jack Trenton changed the landscape of the next gen universe by confirming that the PS4 wouldn’t adopt ANY of those previously discussed programs or policies. For good measure, Sony threw in a snarky instructional video showing how to share your games on the new system.
That wasn’t the final straw: a price tag of $399 garnered cheers and howls from the crowd and left many people slack-jawed that Sony undercut Microsoft by a full hundred dollars with the kind of hardware they were pushing. Social media streams blew up, people claimed new alliances with the PS4 and others deemed the XO DOA right out of the gate.
It was an interesting spectacle on many fronts. You don’t really see things like this from entertainment companies, especially during conferences held that closely together. It was refreshing, though, to see one company listen to its most ardent fans and–at least for that night–seem to understand what those consumers really wanted.
Huge kudos go out to the Sony team for being adaptive and not doubling down on stupid.
Some things you might have missed
- Your Xbox live subscription will carry over onto the XO
- An XO “Day One” sku will have a “Day One Achievement Code” and special controller
- No more MS Points, you can use real currency from your region
- XO will be released in November and you can preorder on Amazon now
- Kinect Sports Rivals will be a launch title
- Crimson Dragon will have Synchronous and Asynchronous gameplay.
- PS+ will carry over to your PS4 and Drive Club will be free to members
- You will need a PS+ subscription to play multiplayer games
- The system will come with a 500GB HD and you can swap it out for a bigger one
- A new headset will be available at or close to launch
Whew!! As you can see, the amount of information coming out is fast and furious, but I am on the case trying to bring you the most up-to-date information. Be sure to check out the “On My Radar” features this week, when we go more in-depth with some of the games from the show. Lots of trailers and thoughts coming so stick with us and let me know what questions you have. Tag your questions with #TSPe3!