E3 has drawn to a close and the dust is beginning to settle from Sony and Microsoft's big events. Both set out to show why their console was the one gamers should choose this holiday season but did either make a strong enough case? Was there enough shown at either event that made gamers want to rush out and spend $500+ on a new console and games this fall?
Much has been written about the Microsoft DRM/internet requirement and how Sony used that to their advantage to win the hearts and minds of a lot of gamers at E3. However gamers are very forgiving and have incredibly short memories and depending how Xbox handles this over the next few months they could rebound. After all, Microsoft got through the 'Red Ring of Death" debacle early in the Xbox 360 life and some how convinced people it was ok to pay a yearly subscription for access to services like Netlfix and Hulu they were already paying for.
Microsoft's E3 presser had a few interesting announcements like Quantum Break, a video game and TV show that will supposedly both have an impact on each other. Developer Remedy says, "how you play the game impacts the show, and the show informs how you play the game." It all sounds promising but we don't know much about the project yet. Another interesting game showed was "Project Spark" that blends the XBox One with the Kinect and SmartGlass and allows you to make 3D worlds using voice commands and touch controls on your tablet.
Microsoft also showed a teaser for the next Halo, the racing game Forza, Metal Gear 5 (which looked amazing) and the former Kinect game Ryse: Son of Rome. The highlight of the show was the Xbox One/Xbox 360/PC exclusive game "TitanFall" from Respawn Entertainment, the former Call of Duty: Modern Warfare creators. It's a first-person shooter similar to Call of Duty but the twist is there are giant mechs and rocket boosters that are attached to each player. Yeah I know, another shooter on XBox, how predictable, but it actually looks fun even if it does kind of look very familar. Respawn announced the game will use cloud computing but didn't go into much detail into how that will enhance the game.
Which leads me to my biggest problem with Microsoft's event. Most of these games seemed like just prettier versions of games we're already playing on our Xbox 360's. I was looking for Microsoft to show the benefits of having a console always connected to the internet and the use of that magical "cloud computing" they keep talking about. Instead I was showed games that didn't look or feel much different than what I'm currently playing, especially on the PC. Microsoft missed an opportunity to not only address the concerns about used games, DRM, and constant internet connection but show gamers the benefits that come along with some of those restrictions. If they want to win back gamers that are on the fence this generation they need to make a case why being always connected is a positive. Another stick point is the XBox One will cost $499, $100 more than the slightly more powerful PS4. Microsoft needs to convince consumers that their games and entertainment features are worth spending the extra $100 on.
While Sony came out of E3 looking like the white knight that will save gaming, if you take away Microsoft's missteps (DRM & Price) Sony's press conference was kind of mediocre. Sure they did a lot of fan service showing Final Fantasy Versus…I mean Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 (hell yeah!), but neither of those games are PS4 exclusives. They did manage to snag the Online MMO, Final Fantasy XIV, which will be on the PC and PS4, but it doesn't mean much to the larger audience of Final Fantasy fans that aren't willing to pay the monthly fees of an MMO. With the largest stable of first-party studios in the industry (13) I was looking for Sony to show a few more exclusives at E3 after showing Killzone, Infamous and Knack in February. Instead we got tons of indie games, which was great, don't get me wrong but most, if not all of them could be ran on the PS3.
Sony did however manage to show a new exclusive IP that was one of the more interesting games of the entire convention, The Order: 1886.
The Order: 1886 takes place in an alternate universe with steam punk guns, horse carriages, blimps and what appears to be werewolf's in a fictitious London. The game was beautiful but little was shared about gameplay or story.
After that there was little meat left on the bones, at least from a first-party or exclusive perspective. From the midway point to the end, Sony trotted out 3rd party developers, one after another and announced some vague partnership that usually meant nothing more than character skins or collectables that were "exclusive" to the PS4. Most of it was meaningless and did little to convince me that the PS4 was a better console or had better games than the XBox One. I expected to see something from either the God of War team (Santa Monica), Naughty Dog, Sony London, and I was really crossing my fingers hoping they would announce Team ICO's "The Last Guardian". But no such thing happened. They did however show an amazing tech demo (Dark Sorcerer) from the talented studio, Quantic Dream, responsible for the cinematic PS3 hit, "Heavy Rain" and the upcoming "Beyond Two Souls". But it was after all a tech demo with no plans of it becoming an actual game in the near future. Finally they closed the event with a long and somewhat boring demo of of the persistant online first-person shooter, "Destiny" which again will be a cross platform title.
If it wasn't for the announcements of no new DRM restrictions and the surprise price of $399 for the PS4, gamers and media may have left the Sony press conference wanting much more. The word is Sony has all of their 1st-party studios working on PS4 games and perhaps we'll see more of what's to come (The Last Guardian) from the PS4 at Gamescom in August and the Tokyo Game Show in September. It's worth mentioning Sony managed to sneak in the fact that online gaming will now require a PS Plus membership ($50/year) similar to XBox Live. What makes this pill easier to swallow is that PS Plus is an incredible value as Sony will give away games and discounts monthly for the PS3, PS Vita and PS4 to subscribers. Another benefit over Xbox Live is that none of their media features like Netflix and Hulu will require the subscription service to use.
Looking at both shows, 3rd-party studios were the only ones that actually brought anything interesting to the table, many of which will be available on the PC. Games like "Watch Dogs" & "The Division" showed how they would take advantage of the internet and mobile computing that create persistent worlds that feel alive while Microsoft & Sony are continuing to trot out more sequels. Sure Forza had their "driveatars" but what game was shown by either Sony or Microsoft that couldn't be made for the current generation? Yeah I know it takes time to get familiar with the new hardware, new engines, and create something unique but if anyone would be able to do it in a timely manner you would think it would be the people who are actually making the hardware. Game sales have consistently dropped for the past few years as people have found other things to do with their time.
Will Sony or Microsoft have a problem selling out of consoles this holiday season? Of course not, the die-hards that have been waiting for this spec bump will surely purchase without question. But if they don't have anything more interesting to show a few months after release than shinier versions of the same games, people may decide to sit this generation out for a while or make the switch over to PC and Steam. This may be the first generation where the reason to instantly upgrade consoles isn't so easily apparent. Both companies still need to present a compelling argument why the Xbox One and PS4 should be under your television this holiday.
Did either company show anything that makes you want to rush out a buy a new console in November?
For the record I'm one of those die-hards and have already pre-ordered the PS4....still contemplating the Xbox One.