Now that the stage is set, it’s time to rate the players. Three months ago, Sony spent 124 minutes showing off their new console, the PlayStation 4. Today, Microsoft spent half that time unveiling their third Xbox console, the Xbox One. So now that we’ve seen them both and still have an incredibly large amount of questions regarding them, how well do they fare?
Where They Were Similar: The hardware for both consoles, top to bottom, is virtually identical. Sure, minor allocations will be different here and there, but you still wind up with two black boxes with 8-core AMD x86-based SoCs (System on a Chip, which is the CPU and GPU on the same die) with 8GB of RAM and at least half a terabyte of hard drive storage. (Well, Sony didn’t actually mention hard drive storage, but you know it’s coming.) They both announced social sharing options for game footage and their console would define entertainment for a generation to come.
Where Sony Was Different: Sony spent their conference touching briefly on hardware – failing to reveal the hardware, which seems like such a moot point now – and allowed their story to be about games. Whether it was the crazy stuff that Media Molecule was doing, Evolution Studios’ Drive Club, or Killzone: Shadow Falls, they spent a lot of time laying out their first-party efforts. They got tons of developers on-stage or in video to describe their experience with the PlayStation 4 and the new experiences it would allow, which would no doubt bleed over to their efforts developing games on the Xbox One since they share so many of the same features. Sony will spend their E3 chatting up details on their hardware. I wouldn’t be surprised if they unveil more specifics about how the hardware will be introduced at retail. Prices, however, will stay hush-hush.
Where Microsoft Was Different: Microsoft had let everyone know that this was a “features” presentation and not a “games” show. To that effect, they brought us the hardware right up front, showed us a new controller that appears to be just as modified from its predecessor as the PS4’s was and showed off the console’s interface and fast app-switching abilities. They hyperbolized and generalized and Electronic Arts came on stage to talk up some heady ideas, but Microsoft really explained the point of their Kinect, which appears to be a major mandatory feature of the system, as opposed to Sony’s camera, which seemed like a frilly Eye-like add-on. Sadly, they showed off few games with most of their eyes on dedicated to EA Sports releases (blech) and the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, which could’ve been saved for another first-party exclusive beyond Remedy’s Quantum Break and Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 5. At E3, they’ll show more games and, hopefully, bring up indie developers in the process, rather than leaving the stage for the AAA-bangers.
Did either win? For the first time ever, we’re going to see hardware released at the same time with roughly the same hardware, which will force Sony and Microsoft to differentiate their offerings in key areas, namely, their services and their games. Sony’s had a scattershot/everything-and-the-kitchen-sink philosophy to services and Microsoft didn’t display the diverse lineup last generation that Sony did, despite selling millions more units at retail. It’s going to be hardscrabble times for the fanboys.
Sony’s conference was a much more subjective plate. You either liked the games or you didn’t and I didn’t particularly care for a lot of what they were showing. Microsoft’s was more objective: they showed off technology and how it can be used in gaming. Whether you think it’s useful or not is irrelevant, it’s still pretty technical. I’m a Microsoft fanboy, so it seems like me favoring them was a foregone conclusion, but I’m also more excited to see Sony’s offerings than ever before.
The winner is the gamer.