So far this year we’ve got a lot of information about the new generation of consoles coming at the end of 2013. E3 had a treasure trove of information on both consoles and their games for both the PS4 and the Xbox One. At the end of it all though, one company had a clear vision for their console. Ultimately, it was this collective vision of building a community for consoles gamers without limiting their access to content and games that gave Sony the clear advantage in this next generation console war.
So clearly was the message heard in fact, that Microsoft had to go back to the drawing board and re-work just about every single policy they had previously set for the new console. The initial rocky start may have been the firm kick in the ass Microsoft needed to get them motivated and contending at GamesCom this year, and hopefully come November when the consoles launch.
Microsoft has certainly come out with some great updates about the Xbox One in between E3 and Gamescom. One of the big changes that have been made between these two conferences in that small and indie developers now have a self-publishing option for the console. They’ve removed a bunch of the red tape that has been in the way and frankly only served to separate the indie and triple-A developers.
This is one of the smartest moves they could have made, especially in the face of Sony’s announcement in overwhelming support of small developers that want to release their games on the PSN. In fact Microsoft even released a short gameplay demo from one of the worlds’ most popular indie development company, Mojang. We got to see some of the company’s new project, titled “Cobalt.” A 2D platform shooter that is certainly worth watching as we get closer to release.
What is odd about this whole conference is that Microsoft didn’t do it publicly. Microsoft doesn’t seem to really be interested in competing directly with Sony as the next generation quickly draws near, not in the same way that Sony is anyway. While it’s great that Microsoft stepped back to re-envision the role their policies should play when the new console hits the market.
Microsoft’s vision for this new hardware and by extension, their next generation titles being released on it could suffer. It is going to be curious to see where Microsoft goes with Xbox One, especially so close to it’s rumored release of November.
The Gamescom conference was only about thirty five minutes but got right to the point, they did seem to have a more unified direction this time through compared to the earlier E3 and debut presentations but seem to have forgotten their competition is also releasing new hardware this season. What would have been nice to see would be some actual gameplay from some of these exclusives that should be vying for our decision and our money, but instead they seemed to fall a bit short with just theatrical trailers for games like Fable Legacy, which is offering an in-depth cooperative experience and The Fighter Inside, a fighting simulator that works with Kinect.
Microsoft is nonetheless trying to drum up support for the Xbox One, and they seemed to be inspiring more confidence in the upcoming console at GamesCom, adding to the steam it has been building over the last few months. Though all of it appears to be happening all a bit later than fans and the company would probably like. Microsoft’s vision for the up and coming hardware seems to be a bit skewed, gamers aren’t sure where they are going with the One. There is a lot going on with the Microsoft’s new console and not a lot of time to sell the public on it.
To their credit Microsoft did announced some exclusive features to the Xbox One for Tom Clancy’s The Division. They showed a wonderfully tactical view of a battle as it progressed and how another player, using provocative and interesting second screen support for the game. What would have been great to see from this presentation was even more games and gameplay from other titles as well. We’ve seen a lot of the Division so it’d be great to see even more from Titanfall or other launch titles that are coming. One thing’s for sure though Microsoft is incredibly enthused by their up and coming hardware. It’s got plenty of promise that at the very least, Microsoft and it’s fan are sold on One and they have certainly gained more confidence as they move forward with the new console.
Sony has continued onward, give us even more information about the console. In fact, we’ve been given a rock solid, North American release date of November 15th, and the 29th of November for Europe. They don’t appear to be too worried about Microsoft’s sudden change in policy and are still pushing the same information they were from E3 as Gamescom.
Sony has gone into a bit more depth this time around though, which is great. Their community has a bit of a surprise for people who are really into sharing content.The PS4 is going to have support Twitch TV, while it was rumored to be the case, had not been confirmed until Gamescom, allowing gamers to be able to stream their own original content to the web. This big push in community, sharing and friendship in console gaming is a first for consoles and a great idea that Sony seems to have put a lot of thought into so far.
What was wonderful about Sony’s press conference was that they didn’t seem like they were trying to sell us a product, but rather came together to discuss the future of their console what their vision was for not only the hardware, but the games that will be coming to Sony’s next generation console. Sony appears to be using their ideas and the vision they have for the future of gaming to help sell the console and it’s working pretty well, they clearly are taking this next generation hardware seriously and have thought a lot about it.
While they haven’t deviated much from other press conferences they’ve done their formula does seem to work, though a bit uninspired at this point even if it’s polished. For all of this though, they do seem to have a lack of enthusiasm and passion at the time. While Microsoft acted as the excited salesman, trying to grab up market share due to lost time and bad image from E3, Sony had this relaxed approach to it; a bit too relaxed at times. The conference seems to meander around topics and really just doesn’t seem to have much enthusiasm at times.
This may be because Sony’s already announced plenty of goodies with their products and did set a sizable lead ahead of Microsoft since E3. Their new product has absolutely swept through pre-orders. The next generation console war certainly isn’t over, hell it’s barely even started at this point.
The philosophy of game development from the perspective of the creators is great, but I don’t know that Sony’s PS4 press conference was the best play to talk about it. It’s something that is so in-depth it really is something that developers should be addressing for a longer period of time and more individually. Microsoft and Sony’s press events left a bit to be desired on both sides and ironically enough each side seemed to be lacking what the other had in abundance.
Microsoft’s approach to it all was showing the shiny bits, and discussing how they’re going to “improve” gaming, how secondary devices like the Kinect or features like second screen support is going revolutionize the industry. It felt like a sales pitch from a car salesman who is a bit low on sales this month and is trying very hard to catch up to their competition.
The best thing for Microsoft to do in this case was to let the games and the hardware speak for itself, let it’s features sell the hardware and talk about their philosophy as the move forward with their new consoles.
Sony on the other hand seems to have shifted to neutral and is just coasting off the steam they’ve built up since E3 and onto the release date. The console still needs plenty of plugging since it hasn’t even hit the shelves yet and while it is appreciative to see them go into so much detail about the upcoming titles, that focus should be left up to developers and certainly cannot be fully explored in one conference.
Sony’s low-intensity press conference made it a bit difficult to get excited about and at times seemed to devolve into a bunch of developers talking about “What if’s” and “eventually we’ll be able to…” sort of conversations. This may be in part because Sony doesn’t think they have anything to worry about from Microsoft, but even with MS’s seeming lacking focus they still do have a nice product with some impressive hardware.
Coupled with the classic favorite franchises like Halo and the Fable series, Microsoft certainly isn’t out of the game yet, but they’re going to need to pick up the pace if they want to catch up to Sony by the time their hardware launches. One things for sure, we’ve got plenty of time to see which console makes it’s lasting mark on consumers.