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Microsoft held their E3 press conference yesterday and Sony held theirs today and many people are saying that Sony knocked it out of the park compared to Microsoft.  Both companies had a lot of major announcements so I’ll break them down.

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Microsoft E3 Announcements

Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will require an internet connection.  Microsoft recommended a broadband internet connection of 1.5 Mbit/s.  The internet connection does not need to remain active at all times.  The console is designed to work offline for a limited amount of time.  Games can be played for 24 hours on the primary console, or for one hour on a separate console, before they must be reconnected to the internet; this includes single-player, offline games.  They also stated that games that are designed to use the Cloud may require an internet connection all of the time.

Multiple accounts on the same console can share the same games, while up to 10 people can be designated as “family members”; each member can view the same game library on any game console, and one member can play from the game library at the same time as the original console owner.  Used games can be traded at “participating retailers,” though support for this is dependent on the publisher of the game, who may opt out or include additional fees for retailers.  Aside from retailers, disc-based games can be given to friends, but those friends must have been on the player’s friends list for more than 30 days, and each game can only be given once; support for this is again dependent on the third-party publishers.

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Announced Xbox One Titles

Minecraft Xbox One Edition

Forza Motorsport 5

Halo (which I’m not sure if this is Halo 5 or something else in the Halo franchise.)

Killer Instinct

Project Spark

Quantum Break

Ryse: Son of Rome

Sunset Overdrive

Dead Rising 3

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

Titanfall

Microsoft’s General Reception

Game Informer offered both praise and criticism for the console when it was revealed in May 2013.  Matt Helgeson described the console as Microsoft’s intent to “control the living room”.  He called the Xbox One’s instant switching features “impressive” , and that the console was “a step in the right direction” with regards to TV entertainment, especially the prospect of avoiding the usage of non-intuitive user interfaces often found on cable set-top boxes.  Jeff Cork said that Microsoft had “some great ideas” for the console but that it failed to properly communicate them.

After Microsoft’s E3 press conference, perceptions of the Xbox One by critics changed.  Multiple Gamespot writers were critical of the new console; Mark Walton considered the Xbox One’s launch lineup to be “uninspired”, “lackluster”, and plagued by “old men in suits, a stream of buzzwords, and superficial games that valued visuals over innovation.”  Editor Tom McShea noted that despite the increased capabilities and cloud-oriented nature of the Xbox One, the presentation consisted only of “pretty games that didn’t offer any noticeable change to the core experience that we’ve already been playing (on the Xbox 360)”, providing gamers with little reason to spend $499 on the new console.

McShea also went on to say, after seeing Sony’s E3 press conference, that Microsoft had become anti-consumerist, trying to “punish their loyal customers” with strict restrictions.  He went further and wrote that ” by saying no to the used game restrictions and always-online that Microsoft is so happily implementing on the Xbox One, Sony has elevated the PlayStation 4 as the console to grab this holiday season.”

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Sony’s E3 Announcements

Sony finally unveiled what the PlayStation 4 looks like.  It, like the Xbox One, has a very boxy shape to it with a few more diagonal angles.  Sony also announced that the PS4 will not require an internet connection to function but Sony says that the PS4 experience will be much richer when online.  Games will not be region-locked and gamers can trade, lend, and re-sell their games, as buying a game means you own it forever.

The system will feature downloadable content similar to what is available on other PlayStation platforms.  In addition, to physical media that can be picked up in store, all PS4 games can be downloaded online, plus every game can be sampled for free.  Sony will not prohibit the usage of second-hand games purchased in physical form and there will be no requirement for the console to frequently check-in online to validate game legitimacy.

When a game is chosen to be downloaded online, only a portion of the game data needs to be downloaded before you can start playing (like the first level), with the remaining parts being downloaded during play, eliminating loading times.  This is accomplished via the consoles background processor.  Similarly, system updates are downloaded seamlessly in the background without interruption.  The PS4 will also feature technology that will attempt to determine trends, including titles that a gamer is likely to express interest in next, and then automatically download a small percentage of those games in the background, even in sleep mode, in order to save time.

The PS4 will not be backwards compatible but Sony has detailed plans to explore cloud-based emulations of previous generations as a long-term solution to the challenges of backwards compatibility.  They also are yet to also rule-out on-console emulations of previous generations.

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Announced PS4 Titles

Driveclub

Gran Turismo 6

Infamous: Second Son

Killzone: Shadow Fall

Knack

The Order: 1886

Sony’s General Reception

Initial reception to the console is generally positive.  Eurogamer calls the graphics technology in the PS4 “impressive” and an improvement from the difficulties developers had with the PlayStation 3.  Ted Price, President and CEO of Insomniac Games, said: “As a longtime of Sony’s we’ve enjoyed some pretty awesome console tech over the last couple of decades and it looks like the PS4 will continue that trend.  I think most of us in the console development world are always looking for more horsepower, more memory, more storage, faster load times … Sony showed clear evidence that we’re getting those boosts with this console.  However, since we at Insomniac love creating new IP, what seems particularly cool is the Gaikai streaming which should allow you to experience console IP on different devices.

After Sony’s E3 press conference, IGN wrote that both PS4 and its games looked “good”, while the price and Sony’s attitude were “right”  They agree with Sony that “if you care about games, you’ll buy a PlayStation 4.”  In addition to Sony’s policy of no DRM, no online requirements, no restrictions, and no authentication, the PS4 is also region-free and and its HDD is removable and upgradable which IGN thinks would give the PS4 advantages over Xbox One, which is region-locked and has inaccessible HDD.

Gamespot also states that PlayStation 4 is “the gamers choice for next-generation”, citing the price, the lack of restrictive DRM, and most importantly, Sony’s efforts to “acknowledge its consumers” and “respect its audience” as major factors.  Gamespot editor Tom McShea wrote that “by saying no to the used game restrictions and always-online that Microsoft is so happily implementing on the Xbox One, Sony has elevated the PS4 as the console to grab this holiday season.”

My Verdict

I am a Xbox fan at heart and it truly hurts me to say this but Microsoft has basically dug itself into a hole.  By having so many restrictions and rules, they have turned away many customers and loyal gamers.  Also, by having the console be always-online, they are completely cutting out other potential customers from other countries that don’t have reliable internet or internet at all.  To me, Microsoft seems very narrow minded about the direction of the Xbox One and what they are going to do with it, where as Sony seems like the exact opposite.  They fully embrace what their customers want and what they are saying.  They also had much more impressive games that they showed off than Microsoft.  It pains me to do this but I’m afraid I’m going to have to change my vote to the PS4.  It just seems better overall to me as a consumer and as a gamer.

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