E3 – A post-mortem of Microsoft’s fall from grace

Perhaps I’m an outlier, but I’m one of only a few of my friends who actually own a Playstation 3 – the world and their auntie seem to have gone the way of the Xbox 360. When asked why, they often preach damning statements such as: “Well, the Xbox is simply better.”

And now I get to sit back with a smile on my face, because Sony have won the console war.

My face

My face

I was shocked initially to hear that Metal Gear Solid had strayed from the light and was offering it’s services to the opposition, despite a long standing link with the Playstation franchise. I was worried – what other tricks did they have up their sleeve? The answer, fortunately for this Sony fanboy, was ‘sod all.’ A laboured journey into Microsoft’s endorsed indie games covered the wide expanse of just two – Minecraft and developer Capybara’s Below. The former seems almost redundant, with Mojang’s fantastic pixelated adventure game becoming a flagship example of indie prowess all by itself.

Big names like Battlefield and Witcher were shown, and I even managed to catch a showing of the new Titanfall game – which actually looked like a lot of fun – before Microsoft dropped the financial bombshell.

Since the reveal of the Xbox One last month, and the publicity nightmare which stemmed from the console giants imposing sanctions on the re-selling and sharing of your games, as well as the constant online presence requirement, it was all going to come down to Sony’s handling of game sharing, online dependency and the price tag. With their shields raised, MS announced that the November-release is going to cost £429/$499.

For what the system offers, it could be worse. If they had the audacity to breach £500, then the Dorito confetti would have been flying in the audience, but as it is the price falls within the scope of reason.

Then, a challenger appeared.

The PS3 and PSP section of the Sony conference was lacking. Perhaps not because of a poor showing, but because the hype surrounding E3 had come to a head with the release of these next-generation consoles. After a look in at some of the new games on offer, we finally moved on to the good stuff, starting with the slightly drawn out reveal of the PS4 model.

A retro throwback to the PS2

Shiny, isn’t it?

A polite nod to the PS2, I feel, with nothing too daring or extravagant. Minimalism seems to be the way forward, and Sony have hit the nail on the head.

Then you have Microsoft, who seem to have created something which George Orwell foretold in his novel 1984. I mean, look at it. Really look at it.

I'm sorry for making you look at it

I’m sorry for making you look at it

Like some sort of post-modern air conditioner.

Sony started to pry open the phalanx from here, standing toe-to-toe with Microsoft on the indie games front by, you know, showing some indie games. Klei Entertainment’s amazing Don’t Starve, Daylight, Octodad: Dadliest Catch (possibly one of the most hilariously unique games I’ve had a go at) as well as a host of others. The stage was full of these designers, each with their pride and joy creations airing live on the screen behind them. Not to mention that you can self-publish on the PS4, but you can’t on the Xbox One. First blood.

We were then introduced to a showing of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which I was hesitant about. The trailer was a nice showing, albeit very jumpy with freezes and pauses – not unexpected for a game not ready for release. I like the Assassin’s Creed series, they’re always fun and graphically challenging, but with the plethora of next generation engines, gameplay and longevity, the franchise tends to fall behind. Play it once, and trade it in.

Did I mention trading in?

SCEA’s CEO Jack Tretton took to the stage once again, and this time he brought the rain. With the composure of Gerard Butler booting the Persian emissary off the face of the Earth, Tretton announced that you could sell, trade, share or keep your games – it’s up to you. They’re yours. The crowd were on their feet.

Sony supports gamers. Yay!

Sony supports gamers. Yay!

You won’t have to be online to play games – I’ve only touched the surface on how infuriating a restriction that is with games like SimCity on the PC.

You won’t have to sign in online every 24 hours. You don’t even need an internet connection.

And the coup de grace – the Playstation 4 will cost £349/$399 – £80 cheaper than the Xbox One.

I had previously expressed my concerns that this was not a console war, but a fight to see who could conform to social networking integration the best. Microsoft sought to exert this absurd control over people who bought the console, tying themselves in knots trying to explain and justify these sanctions.

Sony held their punches, with Vice President of Worldwide Studios saying that these decisions were not a response, but something that was always in the works. I’m jubilant that I’m getting the option to purchase something that’s a video gaming console first and foremost at the end of this year.

Microsoft’s misgivings were so widely criticised, that Sony’s counters were greeted with the crowd actually chanting the company’s name. The more composed among the gaming industry are calling for others to wait for Microsoft’s reply, but I can’t envisage any scenario in which the Xbox can wiggle it’s way out of this one. Your move, Microsoft.

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