So we’ve had the reveals of both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 now… and I wanted to take some time to talk about the announcements and my perception of the two right now…. or rather, what little we know about them both.
Each console creator had their time in the spotlight… and to be completely honest, neither one of them really took full advantage of this time.
Sony had a conference focused on games, but with very little gameplay footage or concrete facts. They spent a lot of time talking ‘shop’ and giving a ton of high level concepts they’d like to do. A LOT of time talking about these things – things that are entirely unverified. This left a bad taste in a lot of peoples’ mouth for good reason, but they did give us some things to be excited for as gamers. First, Sony showed a dedication to the cultivation of the indie game movement. Their self-publishing and self-pricing options leaves the Sony as the clear forerunner in the console market(ie. excluding the pc) for people who are interested in these smaller experiences. After seeing Journey… this is something I’m incredibly interested to see.
Secondly, Sony actually spent the majority of the time talking about games. Let’s be honest here, the people who are going to watch these events, who are going to buy the console day one, and who are going to bother to read the details about the consoles reveal…. are gamers. Gamers don’t care about stuff that isn’t games, for the most part. And the people who like the other stuff are unlikely to be the ones rushing out to buy a new console in the first week or two. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, Sony shared a message with us – gave us a glimpse into their vision for the console. This vision – this message – was simple: We want to be your number one source for gaming content, so we’re going to work very hard to ensure the people who make you the games you love, big or small, are interested in working with us.
We’re still left wondering so much about the console: how will these features work, which of the features will actually make it to the console, which will be available at launch, will developers even try to make use of them, what games will be available at launch, what non-gaming features will it have, what will games look like on it… hell, what does the CONSOLE even look like? These questions are important, and the fact that so many of them are unanswered even this long after the reveal is not encouraging. Especially since the only real opportunity they’re going to have to talk to everyone is E3, which has to be focused on games or they’ll be laughed off the stage… so they aren’t really going to be able to spend much time talking about what the console will be like at launch…
Especially since they have to compete with Microsoft… who have left themselves a very interesting opportunity. They got everything that could possibly stand between people and the games out of the way this week which leaves them open to just spend the entirety of E3 on games. Their conference barely even mentioned the existence of games… which, in addition to the aforementioned opportunity, also leaves them in a very bad place: Gamers are not happy with them. Gamers have 3 whole weeks to be pissed off at them, to let their anger permeate the internet and develop grudges and predispositions.
You see… Microsoft’s presentation seemed to be focused entirely on alienating gamers. Obviously that wasn’t their primary purpose… but that was the effect it had. They started off with the message “Most people who turn on their tv watch tv” and continued into a presentation that almost completely ignored the fact that the device could play games. That isn’t to say that their presentation had no content… they showed off a number of really fascinating innovations. Improvements to Kinect work in conjunction with a new triad of tandem Operating Systems to create a very futuristic-looking control scheme that appears to work very well. Of course, it was quite likely a staged demo rather than the ‘live control’ it appeared to be, but it definitely showed well during the presentation.
The strange thing was the fact that this presentation was positioned in such a way that really the only people who would have been paying attention to it are either the core xbox fanbase or gamers. During the day, your average NBA fan isn’t checking tech pages – he’s following the NBA website. The people who would be reading polygon, the verge, or the xbox website during the middle of the day are going to be gamers, analysts, or game journalists… so why did they cater this presentation so much to the other side of the population? It just doesn’t make sense, and I think it’s really given Microsoft a lot of negative press and put them in a really bad position going into E3, but they do also have the ‘next word’ so to speak since they have the first chance to present at E3. We’ll just have to wait and see.