The Console War May Not Be Over, But at Least It's Finally Interesting
Sony President Jack Tretton wears the smile of a man who knows he just curbstomped the competition.
Monday was a big day in the world of video games, one that may go down in history depending on how the next few months play out. It was the start of E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) and the eyes of the video game world were all looking to see what the two superpowers of the Console Wars would do.
This is the year that Microsoft and Sony release their new video game consoles. While each company announced its new device weeks before, Monday was the official coming out party for the Xbox One and PS4. It was the day we'd see what new games were on the horizon, and how each company planned on winning the next front of the war.
Understand, however, that there's nothing particularly interesting about this. Every year both companies hold big events at E3 to fire up the fans and give video game journalists something to blog about, but rarely does anything interesting actually happen. Until Monday.
On Monday Sony launched the single most devastating attack in the history of the Console Wars.
We may never really know what Sony had been planning behind the scenes leading up to E3, but the facts are these:
1. Microsoft announced restrictions on disc-based games that would make sharing and reselling games costly for the consumer. They also announced that the system required users to be online pretty much all the time if they want their games to work, even if they're not playing them online. (If you can't be online all the time, Microsoft suggests buying an Xbox 360. Seriously.)
2. The majority of folks out there suspected that Sony would announce the same type of policies for the PS4.
It appeared that the Golden Age of Game Trading was coming to a close.
Then came Monday.
Truth be told, there's not a lot to say about Microsoft's presentation. It happened, and the only thing anyone seems to be interested in talking about is whether or not a rape joke was made during it. All Sony had to do was go out and give a variation on the same, tired presentation that gets trotted out every year, and everyone could move on to complaining about games that weren't going to be out for six months.
Instead Sony decided to break the mold and make an announcement that would cause the video game world to lose its collective mind: PS4 supports used games.
(The good stuff starts about 55 seconds in.)
Those cheers? That's real excitement. That's video game fans responding to news they actually care about, rather than the polite applause they give to the newest trailer for [Sports Game] [Year] or [Murder Simulator] [Sequel Number]. And that was just the response live. On Twitter and message boards around the Internet, people were buzzing as well. And then they went in for the kill.
So not only is their new system used-game-friendly, it's also $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. The crowd roars. And just to prove they know exactly what they're doing, they end things by introducing a new phrase: "True Consumer Ownership."
It was at that point that a new narrative began to develop. The story of Monday was not going to be "A First Look at the Future of Gaming."
Whether or not that's true remains to be seen. We're still months away from either one of the machines hitting store shelves, which means there remain months of commercials and game trailers and PR spin ahead for video game fans. Video gamers are also very brand loyal, and it's hard to imagine that the hardcore fans of the Xbox are just going to flock to the PS4.
But that's not who Sony is trying to sway.
This is a move not for the converted but for the hearts and minds of those who haven't picked a side. This is about getting the big holiday dollars that parents will be spending on their kids and significant others will be spending on their significant other. And if the question is, "Do you want the video game system with the weird restrictions or the one that lets you do pretty much as you please?" then it's probably going to be a really good holiday season for Sony.
Of course, that's still months away. For now I'm content to watch everything play out and see just how many times Sony can work the phrase "True Consumer Ownership" into a press release.
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