Coming out of E3 the entire conversation seems to be focused on the renewal of the great console war between Microsoft and Sony. Based off of the reactions and comments in social media you would think that Sony has already won the next generation and Microsoft should just pack up their stuff and not even bother. It’s surprising to see such a one-sided battle.
I think most people are incredibly overreacting to stuff that has happened at E3 and that this upcoming generation is going to be a lot closer between the two than you might think. Here’s a couple reasons why:
Microsoft Has The Games
A big differentiator between the press conferences or Microsoft and Sony was that the Xbox One looks loaded with first party and third party exclusives. At launch we are staring at a strong lineup including Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 and Killer Instinct. Plus Xbox continues it tradition of solid timed-exclusivity with DLC for Call of Duty and now Battlefield 4. Look towards the next 18 months and there’s even more exciting exclusive games such as Titanfall and Quantum Break.
Microsoft’s Policies Aren’t Changing That Many Things
Based off of the reaction when Sony announced that used games will work exactly the same as they do now, you would think Microsoft has a completely closed system. However it has been clearly said that used games will still exist. You can still share copies within your household and amongst your family with ease. The only things that are different about this generation in a negative way is the 24 hour online check and the inability to lend and rent games. The renting/lending games issue is already being worked on by Microsoft and the 24 hour policy feels acceptable if it comes with the benefits that we get. Which leads to…
Microsoft’s New Policies Have Many Benefits
This is the big one that people seem to be missing, mostly because Microsoft has done a terrible job emphasizing it. There are a lot of cool things that come with the Xbox One. Your entire game collection is available to you anywhere on any console. You no longer have to haul over game discs to friends’ houses. Having everything attached to your account also means that you don’t need the disc even when you are at home, letting you take advantage of instant switching for every game you own, not just those you’ve downloaded. You can share every game with up to ten people in your “family,” even enabling two different people to play the same game at the same time on different consoles. They even announced that you can share Xbox Gold with family members using your main console.
People Are Quick to Forget Sony’s Problems During This Current Generation
With so many people declaring their allegiance to Sony right after E3, it’s almost like all of the problems that the PlayStation 3 had and is still having have been washed away. Sony still needs to prove that it can create an intuitive interface that works smoothly, something that has never been updated on the PS3 even once this generation. There are also questions surrounding their network infrastructure, including multiplayer games and download speeds. It’s been a problem for the current generation and Sony hasn’t really shown anything to ease our minds when it comes to cross-game chat or ease of use, nor have they addressed what they are doing to fix the horrendous download experience that affects most PlayStation 3 owners.
Sony Is Making Some Changes Too
Swept up in the hype surrounding Sony’s price point and DRM policy has been what is changing with PlayStation Plus. Most people have noticed and accepted that playing online multiplayer is now attached to the service, putting it on par with Xbox Live, at least in theory (obviously the aforementioned questions about their online stability remain to be seen). What is troubling for current PlayStation Plus members was the news that we will get one title a month on the PlayStation 4, a big change from the current slate of one title a week. Now granted we will still see Vita receive free games and the PlayStation 3 will likely keep reaping new titles but without backwards compatibility that doesn’t really mean much. Hopefully it’s just a restriction for early PlayStation 4 life when there are few games and not just a shift in what PlayStation Plus means. You never like to see features removed or downsized.
Sony May Not Be Able To Control DRM
The actual state of PlayStation 4’s DRM policy has gotten muddier and muddier since their E3 press conference. We started with everything working the same as it is right now. Then that switched to first-party games having no restrictions but third-party games could impose their own as they saw fit. Then Sony said online passes will no longer exist due to having to pay for multiplayer but that isn’t going to necessarily stop other publishers. If it truly was the publishers that pushed for Microsoft to have stronger DRM policies, we could very easily find that they include the same or similar restrictions on their own titles on the PlayStation 4. In all reality there really isn’t anything Sony can do to stop them publishers in this regard, which means that consumers are putting a lot of faith in companies like Ubisoft and EA who have already shown that they are more than willing to fight things like used games in the current generation.
Those are just a couple of things that I feel people need to keep in mind when looking at the next generation of consoles. We are still a long way away from the launch of these new consoles and there could be many things that change in the time span. There are still things that both companies need to prove and explain to consumers before these fancy new boxes are ready. Of course there is still one big distinction that will go a long way towards making up most people’s minds: the Xbox One does cost $100 more than the PlayStation 4 and that is a big deal.