Day one of E3 week 2013 just ended, and there is one question that's been on everyone's mind: who will some out ahead between Microsoft and Sony? Well after watching the Sony press conference, the dust has settled enough to answer that question.
Sony. The answer is undoubtedly Sony. Their press conference kicked off at 9PM EST, following the Microsoft conference which started at a much earlier 12:30PM EST. Microsoft put forth a decent showing, giving us new, interesting intellectual properties like Ryse: Sons of Rome, Crimson Dragon, and Quantum Break. also included was the return of fan favorites like Halo, Killer Instinct, and Dead Rising 3. They avoided hot button issues entirely. Microsoft stumbled, however, as even non-gaming press organizations reported on the possible rape joke made during the demonstration of Killer Instinct.
There wasn't a single mention or attempt to save face regarding the always online requirements, the always-listening Kinect, or their convoluted policies regarding used games.
Silence worked in their favor. Gamers saw what they were hoping for, and at least for the early part of the day the conversation was focused on the Xbox One titles and graphics instead of their anti-consumer policies. Their strategy seemed to be working up until Sony's announcements came along.
Sony came out guns blazing. They introduced their lineup, giving gamers even more of what they wanted. We saw new Final Fantasy titles as well as the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3. Both properties were introduced with exciting gameplay footage to boot. We also saw more Watch Dogs, The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Knack, and a big surprise, The Division. There was also an excellent portion of the press conference devoted to indie games which already put the PlayStation 4 ahead of the curve.
The killing blows came close to the end of the conference. It was just a series of obvious and direct attacks on Microsoft that had the Twitterverse erupting in praise for Sony. Sony computer Entertainment of America CEO, Jack Tretton, walked on stage and announced no restrictions on used games and no always online requirements. He even announced a price point $100 cheaper than Microsoft's. The PlayStation 4 will only cost $399 compared to the Xbox One's $499. Not only that, but we saw gameplay from the PS4 exclusive from the paring of Activision with former Microsoft darling, Bungie: Destiny. Jack Tretton then promptly said "Sony out," dropped his mic and skipped off the stage to gleefully roll in a pool of money.
Okay, that didn't happen, but to many that's exactly how it felt. Sony won the day. Gamers and press are legitimately excited for the PS4 now. Sony came out as more consumer friendly, showed not only interesting AAA games, but also great Indie titles, and they didn't make any jokes on stage that came across as "rape-y".
A lot of gamers have stated the console wars are won. Sony is on top. That's incredibly generous at best, and completely disingenuous at worst. The console wars have only just begun and Sony happened to win the first battle. It's incredibly likely Sony will win the launch battle as well, but considering console cycles are likely to last six to ten years we can't for sure know who will come out as the victor in the new generation.
Sony's press conference wasn't without its flaws, and there is certainly enough to criticize. In order to play games online players must subscribe for PlayStation Plus. Granted, the cost is only $5/month, but it's still more than we must pay now. Further, there were enough slow downs and glitches in the games demonstrated that gamers may be pardoned for being legitimately worried. PlayStation 3 as a console was also notoriously difficult to code for on a cross-platform basis as demonstrated by Skyrim's bugs that to the best of my knowledge haven't been entirely patched yet. Sony will hopefully make the hardware easier to access for the developers and the code base easier to program for otherwise the race will be closer than people are making it out to be.
Let's not forget issues like brand loyalty and market visibility. Microsoft still has Halo and the yearly titles like Call of Duty to help tide it over. According to Amazon, the Xbox One launches November 30, 2013: just in time for the holiday rush. That's also a full month ahead of the PlayStation 3 which launches December 31: just in time for gamers to spend their gift certificates.
Microsoft also has until November to change any of their plans regarding firmware. It's entirely possible they will recognize the bad press they are getting and seek to remedy it next month with an announcement on how they intend to change how used games are handled or their heavily criticized broadband internet requirement.
Then again, Sony absolutely seems to have the upper hand now. They also have amazingly snappy videos like their tutorial on how to share a PS4 game.
Microsoft: Take cold water and apply directly to the burn.