I had some thoughts after the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One were finally revealed. Now that we’ve gotten past the biggest conference in console gaming, I thought I would do a brief summary of my thoughts coming out of that conference, and see what has changed.
Summary: 2014 is a good year for Wii U… maybe
Nintendo did attend the conference, but did not hold a large public press conference like it’s competitors. Instead they opted for posting a Nintendo Direct, and using an exclusive deal with Best Buy to get demos of the new games to users around the United States in addition to the show floor. The Direct gave Nintendo users high hopes, since they showed off a number of exclusive titles, such as Bayonetta 2 and Wonderful 101, and staple brands, such as Super Mario 3D World and Super Smash Brothers. These will be coming through to the end of this year, as well as some throughout the next (presumably).
What seems to be lacking, however, is a plan for where their brand is headed. While a truckload of good first party titles may have bought them a second wind, once the new generation of systems start filling out their libraries, Nintendo will still be in the same situation, likely with less third party support to keep them aloft.
Verdict: Unfortunately, little has changed. Nintendo is not going away anytime soon, but they’ll need a remarkable strategy to get ahead in 2015 and beyond.
Summary: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
Microsoft’s press conference was adequate for what it was. As promised, it focused on the games and not the console features — ironic since there was more concern over the console and policies than interest in the games for this conference. In addition, they revealed the console will release in November of this year, giving them a holiday season to look forward to. The stable of games presented looked good, and their exclusives looked like good draws to the console.
That was the case until the interviews started with developers. While Ryse looks good, it looks dramatically different from the Kinect-based title seen in previous conferences. Killer Instinct looks sensational, but it was revealed to have a free-to-play sales model, leading to some confusion. In addition, some of these “exclusives” are exclusive on a technicality. One of the early big exclusives, Titanfall will also be available on PC as well — making it a ‘console exclusive’. Project Spark will be releasing a Beta on Windows 8 platforms before moving to the XboxOne and Xbox 360.
To make the online connection requirement problem worse, Microsoft executive Don Mattick in an interview Geoff Keighley essentially told Microsoft customers to “Stick with the 360” if they don’t like the Xbox One’s online solution.
Adding insult to injury, the Playstation 4 not only undercut their $500 price tag by $100, but had a nice long talk during their press conference how their system would not impose the same restrictions as the Xbox One.
Verdict: This can still go either way for Microsoft. Much of it has to do with their strategy from this point forward. They are already working on some damage control by setting up interviews with larger media outlets, such as CNN. If they want to reach a broader audience, they should announce a subsidized version of the console soon, as $500 might be too high for the average consumer. Also, from this point, they can actually recoup some or all of their image by removing some of these features (which are mostly OS related anyway). Much of it really depends on their belief in, and support of, a silent majority that doesn’t care about these issues.
Summary: In a three man race, you only have to be faster than two people.
General consensus has been that Sony ‘won’ E3. An interesting proposition, since no other public meeting such as this seems to have declared winners and losers — except maybe national politics. Such is the fervor and atmosphere surrounding the Playstation 4 conference. I mentioned before the jabbing at Microsoft’s Xbox One policies, which made most of the crowd relieved. While there were plenty of interesting games at the conference, in the long run it didn’t seem to matter. They could have walked on stage, said ‘No DRM,’ and walked off, and they probably still would have come out ahead of the Xbox One.
Highlights of the PS4’s coming titles include the following: the Division, a game in the Tom Clancey universe that has a massively multiplayer aspect; Elder Scrolls Online, which will be a ‘console exclusive’ to the PS4; and Drive Club, a driving title that will be free to Playstation Plus members at launch. Coming to the system also will be the long awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XIII Versus — now known by the name Final Fantasy XV (though later revealed for both next gen systems). While about half of their games appear to be a long way off, it is a well-rounded, if not terribly strong, showing.
What Sony lacked, for the most part, was energy. The Sony camp seemed to have less eye-catching or heavy hitting franchises as Nintendo, nor the fervor to speak on the details of their product like Microsoft. In essence, we learned more about what distinguishes it from it’s competitors than from it’s precursor the Playstation 3.
Verdict: While gamers are flocking to Sony in droves, there are a few interesting details to consider, which may effect other buyers decisions going forward. $399 seems to cover just the base system, a controller, and a headset. This does not include any Move or camera accessories, and does not include a Vita or other type of secondary controller. It’s worth considering whether a consumer who’s interested in these different features is willing to make purchases of separate accessories like this going forward. They also are not giving out a date yet. Timing is going to still be key if they want to move as many units as possible, and Microsoft has already claimed a good portion of the holiday season.
While this year’s E3 has easily divided gamers into their separate camps for the next several years, the true results are still months away — and it may take us a couple years before we can fully comprehend those results. This holiday season (or whenever the PS4 drops) will be a tipping point for the industry. Consumers vs Peddlers, PC vs Console, Mobile vs Portable will all begin to unravel as a new age of gaming falls upon us.
Microsoft will either realize their dreams of forcing the transition to digital, or not.
Nintendo will either rise from the ashes of obscurity, or not.
Playstation will either live up to it’s savior status, or not.
Console gaming will never be the same as it was in 2013, nor should it be.
Myself, I may do well to take a page from Yahtzee’s book.
Don Mattrick Response to XboxOne, PS4 (video may be gone by the time this posts)