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Published on June 12th, 2013 | by Christian

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E3 2013 – This Means War

I‘ve spent the past two nights after work catching up on E3 press conferences from Microsoft and Sony, as well as the E3 Nintendo Direct.  I was not left indifferent.  Here are my thoughts on each conference and maybe some predictions about how the next gen will play out.  I suppose it’s possible that in 7 or 8 years I’ll be able to come back at this post and laugh about how much of a schmuck I was, but you miss every shot you don’t take so here we go.

Microsoft

Microsoft gave their press conference first, and if the pressure of going first wasn’t enough, they were doing so under the dark cloud of their ill-conceived and also ill-received DRM policies announced just days earlier.  They promised that this press conference would be all about the games and they actually came through on that promise in some notable ways.  Beyond the modern military murder sim(Battlefield 4) and requisite car porn (Forza 5) Microsoft showed some intriguing looking exclusive games.  Project Spark looks to be kind of Microsoft’s version of Little Big Planet, with robust creation tools and what appeared to be a wide range of possible game types.  Crimson Dragon also stood out, but maybe a bit like a sore thumb among  the other games on display.  It was too bad the sound was non-functional during the presentation, since that game has an incredible legacy and deserved better.  The tiny rogue-like action of Below also intrigued, but very little was shown so it’s hard to say what that game will even be.

 

I’m actually really impressed by the games they showed, even though only the few aforementioned exclusives really looked appealing to me.  The other appealing games on display (Dark Souls II and MGS 5) will be on other platforms, which is where I will play them considering Microsoft’s hideous DRM system and the Xbox One’s launch price of $499 dollars.  I can’t help but wonder how much cheaper that thing could have been if they weren’t forcing Kinect 2.0 down everyone’s throats.  There was an audible tension and nervous discomfort before some weak applause when that price was announced, and I expect there to be audible tension and weak applause when this console hits the market, mostly on account of what Sony pulled the next day.  Some might call it a coup, but that would be ignorant of the fact that Sony has actually pulled ahead of the 360 with PS3 sales this generation.

Sony

If Microsoft’s presentation was all about the games, then Sony’s conference was all about the ecosystem.  Jack Tretton drew first blood by announcing Sony’s DRM policy, which is that nothing will change from how game ownership is handled on the PS3.  Once again, because numerous “news” outlets that shall remain un-linked have been misreporting about this policy, nothing will change.  You will still be able to sell, trade, and lend out your disc based games the way you do now on the PS3.   It will be up to the publishers, just as it always has been, to determine what kind of DRM, online passes or authentication will be in place for disc based games on the PS4.  Sony has committed to not doing any of that bullshit with their first party games, so this is the ideal scenario going into next gen.   If that was the first blow, it was a knife in the gut, and that knife got twisted pretty hard when the price for the console price was announced to be $399.

 

In terms of games, Sony didn’t really show many interesting exclusives.  Even though I have affection for the inFAMOUS series, it’s hard to deny that the inFAMOUS Second Son looked really cool, with nice looking action and well acted cut scenes. Sony also showed a lot of indie games in a sizzle reel that included, of all things, Octodad: Dadliest Catch.  This is a game where you play an Octopus who is trying to pass as human and the fail condition is that your family finds you out. Indie game self publishing will apparently be a thing that exists on the platform, and it has attracted a lot of talent including Bastion creators Super Giant Games and their beautiful looking game Transistor, which will be coming to PS4 first before probably heading over to PC.  Like I said, not a lot of exclusive games jumped out at me, but the DRM policies, absence of tacked on motion control nonsense, and price point confirmed that this is where I’ll be playing the cross platform games that interest me next generation.  One thing to note is that PS+ will be required for online play on PS4, similar to how Xbox Live Gold is required for the 360 now.  This sounds bad, but PS+ is an excellent service that is well worth it, and Sony still isn’t requiring online for the PS4.

Nintendo

I think Nintendo came out of this conference as well as could be expected with their Nintendo Direct.  If E3 were a Mario Kart race, Sony would have just cemented the lead by landing a banana peel on Microsoft, inadvertently bumping Nintendo up to second place along the way.  This is a company plagued by software delays for an already outdated console that’s languishing on retailer shelves.  The good news is that Nintendo brought the games in force for this Nintendo Direct.  The bad news is that we’re going to have to keep waiting for them!  The best looking games of the show: Bayonetta 2, X, and Super Smash Bros, won’t be out until some time in 2014.

 

Until then, Wonderful 101 and some solid looking first party games are going to have to suffice.  Of those games, I’m going to have to say that Super Mario 3D World looked the least exciting to me.  They took a great perspective from 3D land and crammed a bunch of crap from other Mario games into it, including New Super Mario Bros’ suspect multiplayer.  On the bright side, Mario Kart 8 looks beautiful and seems to be adding a lot of cool features like bikes, hovering, and underwater racing segments.  Retro has been working on another Donkey Kong Country game, which is totally fine by me.  I know everyone wanted a new Metroid game from them, but their previous DK game was outstanding so I’m going to give this one a pass. These games all look really cool, but the first one (Wonderful 101) isn’t out for a full 3 months.  I’m starting to feel like I’m going to need more than Iwata thanking me for my patience to maintain confidence in the Wii U.  If these games are as good as they look, that would be a start.

So who won?

Sony took this thing, hands down.  They might as well have been the goddamned Batman swinging in to save us from those Jokers over there at Microsoft.  It is true that they didn’t show much that interested me specifically, but the story they’re selling for next-gen is so much more preferable than that of Microsoft’s, and Nintendo isn’t even competing in the same league anymore so that does it.  The PS4’s $400 price point low enough to entice early adoption from more than just the hardcore crowd, so I expect it to outsell the Xbox One this holiday.  By how much, I’m not sure really, because I don’t know if the more casual audience will be turned off by Microsoft’s DRM policies, or how much they’ll be turned on by the Xbox One’s media focus and Kinect 2.0.  There is also still a full 5 months at least before these consoles hit the market, and a lot can change in that time, but assuming nothing much changes I have some predictions.

If I can be conservative, I’ll predict that the PS4 sells 33-50% more than the Xbox One by the end of the year. As for Nintendo, I am expecting a price drop to compete with the new consoles once they hit, but probably only to $300 for the black unit or a bundle , putting the holiday price war at $300, $400, and $500 for the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox One respectively. It has been kind of a public secret that Nintendo won last generation in terms of hardware sales, but they won’t do it this time around with the Wii U.  It’ll continue to be a solid platform for Nintendo fans, but they’ll will just have to take another shot at the crown next time.  If Microsoft’s proposed digital ecosystem starts paying the kind of dividends that PC gamers have been enjoying for years, they could recover from the mess they’re in now.  Unfortunately for them, it’ll be up to the publishers who lobbied so hard for the Xbox One’s DRM policies to make that happen, which seems counter intuitive unless the effect of used games sales is really as bad for their profits as they’ve been saying. I don’t believe it is, though, and expect Sony to take the early lead this holiday and run with it for the foreseeable future.

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