E3 2013 – Sony vs. Microsoft – Who Won?

Yesterday, we had the epic showdown between Microsoft and Sony’s next gen systems, and what a match it was.

Microsoft has certainly had a very hard time recently with the massive amount of bad PR they got with all of their DRM restrictions and focus on television over games. They promised that we’d only be getting games at this E3 and they did not disappoint. In fact, what we saw was game after game after game with a whole slew of exclusives, and, more impressively, most of the games weren’t throwaway Kinect games. On Saturday, I said Microsoft could turn around their fortunes by announcing a large number of new, interesting games that could capture a brand new audience. Not all of Microsoft’s announcements hit home, but enough of them were engaging that Microsoft shouldn’t be counted out this generation, something that many gamers had been declaring ever since the DRM debacle.

Quiet, Nintendo. You’ll get your turn.
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Microsoft started their conference with a phenomenal trailer for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. This isn’t an exclusive, but it acted as a show of force. Back in the early days of the PS3 and Xbox 360, Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of the biggest exclusives for Sony. Now, the Metal Gear Solid series is multiplatform, but this was just Microsoft’s way of twisting the knife, to remind everyone that they now have access to a once Sony exclusive. Microsoft also had a dig against Sony’s Playstation Plus system by expanding their gold membership to include two free games a month. It’s a great ripoff of Playstation Plus; although, unlike Playstation Plus, the games are yours to keep forever even if you quit Gold and, of course, Gold membership isn’t really an optional service. There’s a reason that Microsoft opened with these two announcements. It was an attempt to undermine Sony.

Jaw dropping

After clearing through the 360 games, which didn’t have any impact, we got our first look at Ryse. Ryse: Son of Rome was originally going to be a Kinect game, something that seems to not be true anymore considering the constant button inputs that could be seen throughout the trailer. It looked like a mix between a modern military shooter and God of War. The aesthetic was brilliant, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be a good game. It didn’t look like there was any depth to combat and everything seemed far to scripted. Most maddeningly, there were constant quick time events, which is a major red flag. It looks like this game, despite the high production values, will be a failure in the same vein as Genji on the Playstation 3.

Press X to win – Next Gen!
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Killer Instinct was revealed to be coming back on the Xbox One, and it looks… pretty bad actually. The game looks really ugly and it seems like the gameplay is relying on a dated turbo mechanic instead of having sufficient depth. Nostalgia is powerful, and Killer Instinct is loved by fans, so it may inspire many to join the One wagon. Unfortunately, it later came out that it will be a Free-to-Play game, and will launch with a single free character, so Killer Instinct is going to be nothing more than a cash grab. Sunset Overdrive is Insomniac’s new IP for Microsoft, and it might be a great game. Insomniac certainly has the chops to pull out a fantastic game, but at this point all we got was a cinematic trailer. The trailer was charming and reeked of games such as Fuse and Team Fortress. Truthfully, it could be a massive hit, or it could fall flat in a wave of similar shooters, and, let’s face it, we’ve seen a lot of shooters already this year.

This is probably going to be great, but I’m not making bets without any gameplay.
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Next up was Forza 5. It doesn’t look like anything special graphically, but the developers pulled out their drivatar concept (stupid name) and showed off why people should pay attention. Basically, it affirmed a focus on AI that we simply haven’t seen this generation, and that’s something I’d like to see more of. Other exclusives look good such as Dead Rising 3, despite the fact that it seems like it lost its sense of humour, looking more like Resident Evil than Dead Rising. Quantum Break still has no gameplay, so it looks incredibly boring at this point. Crimson Dragon looks a little weak, but for Panzer Dragoon fans, it should suffice. D4 looks really weak, but a good story may overcome its poor graphics and style. Finally, Halo 5 was teased, which was perfectly expected, and a little lacklustre. Of course, these games were just teasers for the most ambitious games.

Project Spark and Titanfall are the two games that stood out the most in Microsoft’s conference. Project Spark looks like a mashup of Minecraft and Little Big Planet. The creative tools look far more accommodating than those two and the game looks like it could be a ton of fun with a huge amount of variety of play options ranging from action adventure to Angry Birds catapult gameplay. Many gamers don’t have time for creation games, but those who do look like they’re going to get a gift. Titanfall is one of the only new shooters I’ve seen so far this E3 that really impressed me. A combination of mechs and a huge amount of mobility really sold me on the game; although, I wonder how much singleplayer there will be in this predominantly multiplayer game. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Titanfall is not an exclusive, coming out for PC and Xbox360.

Definitely a game to watch for those who have a PC, 360 or buy the One.
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Then there is all of the smartphone interaction. I wonder exactly how effective this will be and exactly how far reaching it will end up being. This is a common thread across next gen games, and it will be interesting to see if tablet and phone integration will change how we approach games. The price is the final point. $500 is what I expected from next generation. Microsoft fulfilled what I expected. They announced it at the end, and they made sure that it got glossed over. As I said, it was what I expected, but it did allow Sony to completely undercut them.

And it’s weaker than the PS4 for some reason.
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Microsoft had a very strong conference, the strongest they’ve probably ever had. This meant that Sony really needed to bring out all of its guns. Sony had a very back heavy conference with the initial moments being boring or even embarrassing. After Microsoft’s big conference, we wanted to see Sony’s games match up, and Sony took its time. Instead of wowing us, they talked about media, they bragged about their sales and attach numbers for the Vita of all things, and they spent a lot of time on the PS3. This wasn’t all bad. The PS3 still feels very alive with some amazing games coming out unlike the Xbox360 which feels really dead no matter how many tank games are bing released. The Vita on the other hand didn’t go over nearly as well. We did learn that many excellent console games are going to be ported onto the system and there’s going to be a host of indie games coming, but one or two AAA titles would have been nice to get announced. The reveal of the PS4 box was underwhelming, but what did people expect? The box reveal was never important.

Wow, it’s a box. Was this worth getting angry over?
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Sony’s first new game reveal was The Order 1886, which has an interesting concept. Like Sunset Overdrive, however, all we got was a cinematic, meaning we don’t really know anything about the game. There’s a good concept here and it’s in a time period that we’re only starting to get into with games like Dishonoured and as Assassin’s Creed marches forward. We got an update on Infamous Second Sun, Killzone Shadowfall, Drive Club, and Knack. Gameplay was shown off for Infamous and it looked a lot like an Infamous game to be honest. I didn’t see anything that really stood out at this point. Killzone on the other hand was beautiful and tight, easily one of the better shooters at E3; although, not quite as interesting as Titanfall.

The PS4 has 200% more mutton chops than the X1.
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Then Sony threw it’s first punch at Microsoft. The Halo factory has been getting a lot of bad press over the last year about how bad they are for indie developers, which is something they did nothing to debunk at E3 despite wearing silly t-shirts. Sony announced a whole slew of amazing-looking exclusive independent games, and, more importantly, confirmed that developers could self-publish on the PS4, something that Microsoft has been adamantly against. The biggest coup was the newest game, Transistor, from the developers of Bastion, a game that was exclusive to Microsoft and critically loved. These independent games are far more important than anyone on the internet is giving credit for. As development costs rise, a lot of the innovation will come from small-scale developers, and whoever can court the most talent will have a massive advantage. It seems only Sony understands this at this point, and this alone is enough to make the conference a good, if not underwhelming one.

Tell me this doesn’t look great

Next we got to the third party big developers. Sony seems to have worked a deal with all sorts of games whether it’s DLC for Arkham Origins, or an exclusive first Beta for The Elder Scrolls Online. These announcements weren’t exciting, but they will often lead to the PS4 being picked over the One, much in the same way that Microsoft is banking on their Call of Duty and Battlefield DLC paying off. The biggest announcement for third parties was Final Fantasy Versus XIII-turned XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 from Square-Enix. Neither of these games were branded as exclusive, but they were impressive none-the-less. It was especially amazing to see gameplay footage from both of them, even if it was only for a couple of seconds with Kingdom Hearts. Hopefully we don’t spend another decade waiting for them. Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand will be exclusive and it will be interesting if Square can pull themselves back on that one.

One of the best announcements this year.

Then we got to the point of the conference where Sony broke Microsoft. Nothing Microsoft did or could have done mattered when Sony announced that it would have zero restrictions for used games and it wouldn’t ever require you to connect to the internet in order to play. This was a massive victory for consumer rights and Sony should be praised for it. Sony then had the balls to come out with their price point which is $100 less than Microsoft’s. To put this into perspective: the PS4 is more powerful, more consumer friendly AND cheaper. It was confirmed that Playstation Plus was necessary for multiplayer now, but that’s hardly a shock and Playstation Plus is an amazing deal anyway. It will not be necessary for services such as Netflix, however, unlike Microsoft, which forces you to pay for Gold if you want to use any online services short of the shop. Finally, Sony pulled the same tactic Microsoft played at the beginning of their conference. They showed off Destiny, a game made by Bungie, which many know as the studio that invented Halo. It was a show of force and the game is looking great.

Burn!

Microsoft brought the games and Sony backed gamers. It was a really great day, and both companies did a wonderful job at showing you why you should buy their product. There was a lot new at Microsoft’s conference, but not many games I would consider must haves (Killer Instinct Free-to-Play? Boo), maybe only Titanfall and it’s not exclusive. Sony on the other hand didn’t show off much that was new in terms of AAA games. On the other hand, their commitment towards indie developers and towards consumer rights as a whole made their conference. At this point, I cannot see myself even considering to support Microsoft merely because their success will lead to more wide-ranging DRM. Sony won yesterday, and I hope they are able to leverage this success into a wonderful launch. Microsoft is hardly down for the count, but I hope their approach to gaming ends with them.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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