Microsoft ruffled the gamer waters last week when it clarified its policies revolving around used games, game rentals, always-on connectivity and more. When Microsoft announced the Xbox One on May 21, most of the presentation revolved around the console itself and its media capabilities. When Microsoft took the stage at E3 on Monday morning, it was all about the games.
Microsoft showed trailers for games we knew were coming – like (the awesome-looking) Quantum Break while also showing off a bunch of those great exclusive titles they teased a few weeks back. I was really impressed by the (albeit brief) videos for Sunset Overdrive, D4, Dead Rising 3 and Below, and was chomping at the bit to pre-order the console. (Which I did.)
Sony’s presentation to close out E3’s first day was disjointed, sloppy and, frankly, boring. Some games looked cool, but I had a hard time staying focused. (Note to major companies: PLEASE HIRE MORE PEOPLE LIKE AISHA TYLER TO HOST YOUR CONFERENCES! She did an outstanding job for Ubisoft.) Then, everything changed.
As Sony neared the end of its presentation, though, it brought out the big guns and put Microsoft to shame. About an hour and 23 minutes in, Sony began to cater to the gamers, rather than brag about the console’s specs or new games on the horizon (and this is where Sony and Microsoft differ).
Jack Tretton, the President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, simply stated that the PlayStation 4 would support used games. Before he could finish his sentence, the crowd erupted into a chorus of cheers and applause that lasted about thirty seconds. “I guess that’s a good thing,” Tretton chuckled.
It was at that moment that Sony won the next-generation console war.
To get a better sense of the reaction, this is how Kyle Orland of Ars Technica described the reaction from his seat in-house:
Rewatching Sony’s “used game” moment on video, the applause clocks in at about 25 seconds from beginning to end, which is really incredibly long for a sustained reaction at this kind of E3 press event (the Vita price announcement, for instance, got ten seconds of applause). More important than the length, though, is the precise nature of the reaction.
It starts even before the words are fully out of the presenter’s mouth, as soon as a small piece of the crowd realizes just what is being said. Then the cheers sweep across the room and start to fade a bit, only to pick up again, as if a large segment of the audience collectively felt the need to reinforce just how much it supported this move. Sony received another sustained applause break of about 27 seconds less than a minute later after laying out more details about the PS4’s simple used game policies. Then there were ten more seconds of applause with the news that the system doesn’t make online checks to confirm game licenses. That’s over a minute of applause given to this one issue alone. That’s “State of the Union address” levels of ridiculous.
Even though we’re five months out from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4’s launch, the internet has been up in arms (as it is wont to do) about Microsoft’s tyrannical rule over gaming. Tretton’s one sentence was enough to shift the tide in Sony’s direction. You could feel it while watching the conference and you can see the shift in how sites like Joystiq, Kotaku and Polygon have covered the event.
Sony’s one slide about used games wasn’t enough. It had Microsoft woozy and was looking to land the knockout blow… but not before playing with its prey a little bit. Tretton said you can trade in your games at retail, sell them to another person, lend them to a friend or keep them forever. (Microsoft’s policy, you ask? Eek.)
This slide, pictured above, inspired a “So-ny! So-ny! So-ny!” chant amongst the. I was laughing out loud at this point. Tretton’s last few sentences were such a clear middle finger to Microsoft. It was hilarious and Sony knew it. It didn’t care; it wanted to kick Microsoft while it was down. This was Sony’s moment to shine, to prove that it was the company for gamers. They did just that.
Microsoft was stumbling across the canvas, begging for a reprieve. Sony wouldn’t quit.
“In addition,” Tretton continued, “PlayStation 4 disc-based games don’t need to be connected online to play.” RIGHT HOOK TO THE JAW.
“Or for any type of authentication.” LEFT JAB!
“If you enjoy playing single-player games offline, the PS4 won’t require you to check in online periodically. And it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours.” UPPERCUT!
Microsoft was on the canvas, down for the count and begging for mercy. (As if that wasn’t enough, Sony put out this 22-second video at the end of its presentation for one final nail in the coffin.)
Sony also undercut Microsoft by pricing its next console $100 cheaper — $399 vs. $499. That price is somewhat deceiving, though, as the Xbox One’s hefty price tag includes the top-notch new version of the Kinect while the PlayStation 4’s inferior PlayStation Eye camera is a $59 add-on. (Also of note, to point out the speck of sawdust in Sony’s eye before repeatedly poking at the plank in Microsoft’s: After offering free multiplayer on the PlayStation 3, Sony announced you’ll need to sign up for its PlayStation Plus program at $49/year to get the same experience on the PlayStation 4. But if you own a PlayStation 3 and aren’t already paying for PlayStation Plus, you’re doing it wrong.)
At the end of the day, Sony proved that it was the company that listened to the gamers and gave them what they wanted. (At least, for now.) Microsoft’s executives could do nothing but sit around and watch as millions of gamers sitting on the fence and billions of dollars in revenue swung in Sony’s direction.
When Microsoft outlined its policies, it was clear that the policies could change at any time. Microsoft might want to visit that idea and change the way they’re doing things. As it stands now, it has no choice but to re-group and prove why gamers should give spend $500 of their hard-earned money on a console that limits how you play.
I’m getting both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but if any of my friends ask which they should buy, the facts speak for themselves and the choice is clear. (And as for Nintendo? The Wii U is nothing more than a joke at this point.)