Sunday, June 16, 2013

E3 2013 Impressions, Part I: Sony wins the show before it even begins.

It happened around 10:00am local time on Monday, June 10th. Microsoft was wrapping up its keynote press conference showing off an impressive lineup of games, explaining the features of their new console, the Xbox One, and overall putting on a decent show. They didn’t directly address the biggest gripes among the gaming press and public at large; it has to be connected to the internet at nearly all times, trading games was in a defacto state of not being allowed, and Kinect was integrated in the system. Out of sight, out of mind….

…well then came the price tag: $500.

Many of the industry people I spoke with (not associated with Microsoft) the night before the press conference was guessing the system would launch with a $400 price point. It made sense due to the face that Microsoft could afford staking a loss on each console, if they made up with it in games and other parts of the company.

Sony’s presser was yet 6 hours away, so they had sometime to plan a response. Sony was worried, however, that even though Xbox had run through some negative press in the three weeks since the Xbox One was announced, they could save themselves and swoop in with a low price and kill off any planned momentum Sony could get this time around.

Instead, Microsoft handed Sony a gift. $499 gave Sony the perfect opportunity to speak directly concerning the gamers’ gripes and slide in at a lower price point.

I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Sony Press Conference. On the bus ride over to USC, there were some media people behind me reciting the IGN story that there were going to be three PS4 SKU’s with tiered pricing going from $399-599. There wouldn’t be any announcement about DRM because there were going to be some DRM policies in place, and that we may not even see the console that night. Even when I was seated, the talk was still about what can Sony do to win the day. “Well, they can’t possibly be cheaper than Xbox so they’re going to have to show some killer games”.

The conference started out talking about Vita games and games currently slated for Playstation 3. Now, I’m a Vita owner and really enjoy playing it, but I honestly was tuned out for that part, because everyone wanted to see what the PS4 looked like – even most of the Sony people I spoke with hadn’t even seen it.

The PS4 reveal was done poorly, in my opinion. They showed this short video that showed the console at the wrong angles; it honestly looked like an Xbox with a blue ring. It was also presented from the side, which made it look like a rhombus as opposed to the front resembling a blade. The air was kind of sucked out of the room, as people wasn’t sure what to think.

The Walking Dead on Vita. See, it isn't that difficult.
As the conference chugged on, (and I’m trying to be polite—but it chugged), we saw some of the video features that no one seemed to care about (Flixter), we saw some indie developers, which was impressive, but I’m still of the opinion that ALL INDIE GAMES SHOULD BE ON THE VITA. Other than Jack Tretton, there really weren’t many dynamic speakers on stage, and I could sense that there was a serious lull in the air, especially when the Assassin’s Creed IV Demo froze up and got cut off.

However, they really did save the best for last; a 5-10 minute live Multiplayer demo of Destiny (which looks amazing), followed by the announcement of the price. Before that, Jack wanted to take a second to cater to the audience – PS4 would not restrict game sharing. It would not have to be constantly connected to the internet. They would support rental and used games (much to Gamefly and Gamestop’s joy). And, they would retail at $399.

Boom. Mic dropped. Don’t forget to tip the waitress. Try the veal.

Those that were following the action on twitter, media, went nuts. Applauses erupted from the arena. I thought the guys sitting next to me were going to start crying. The rallying cry on Social Media was “cancel your XBONE preorder; go with Playstation 4”.

Microsoft is fucked. They don’t understand why, and I don’t understand that at all.

There is a fierce loyalty among the gaming community and I think Xbox and Sony took that for granted; the problem is that Sony learned that the hard way last time around and made up for it; Microsoft is just now learning that lesson within the last 48 hours. Gamers don’t want to hear what you can’t do with your “All in One” uber console. I don’t trade games in, I have my Xbox connected to the internet at nearly all times. I’ve been a faithful Xbox guy for the last 10 years, despite dealing with a few hardware failures. However, when you go out of your way to lock people out of playing games or acquiring games the way they want to play or buy, you are alienating the consumer. You especially look bad when your biggest competitor swoops right in and tells the gamers “Do what you want and do it for 80% of the price”.

At that point, your loyalty means nothing.

I get a lot of my games from either Amazon or Gamefly. If I can’t use Gamefly, I either have to dump them or dump Xbox One. Many other gamers are in my shoes—they rent games, buy them used, or trade new games in. They are going to jump like rats off the ship if Microsoft doesn’t do something.

What is more disturbing is they should have seen this coming. I saw it coming and I don’t work for Microsoft. They should have known that Sony would be willing to undercut them. Having Titanfall be an Xbox Exclusive isn’t going to drive people in droves to the console the way Halo did in 2001. These consoles are virtually the same—they pretty much do the same thing. Microsoft thinks that the integration of Kinect, along with a strong exclusive game lineup would be that which the gaming public was looking for….

It isn’t.

Microsoft should have ditched Kinect completely. While the concept has potential, it isn’t new. It is also costing Xbox because its mandatory inclusion in the system is driving the price.  Developers aren’t falling over themselves to include Kinect in their games, and  many of the hard core gamers find it irrelevant now and will be a bigger nuisance when they have to (HAVE TO) set it up with their new system.

Team Xbox has five months to sort this out. They can roll back their DRM policies and their always online connectivity. They can reduce the price of the console and sell it at a loss. However, they don’t seem to be getting it--in light of the last two days, have come out and said “if you can’t have your Xbox One connected at all times, just buy a 360”. These statements just insult the intelligence of the consumers and are only driving them into the arms of their biggest competitor, who are more than willing to accept them and their market share.

You just made Jack Tretton a man of the people, Microsoft. Think about that. The ball is now in your court. 

1 comment:

  1. FYI -- Titanfall is an Xbox One 'console exclusive'. It'll also be on PC. And my new laptop should be able to run it pretty well. So there's that.