Another year, another E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). It’s obviously a great time to catch up on games like Watch Dogs, Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed IV. However, this year, there’s an extra-large ring at the circus, thanks to this being the year of the next console generation. As I mentioned in my last article, Microsoft had effectively villainised themselves with certain sections of the gaming public, thanks to the restrictive usage policies that they announced for their upcoming Xbox One.
With the villain role being occupied, drama required that someone step up and play the hero. Since Nintendo had effectively targeted casual gamers with the Wii and now with the Wii U, they were ineligible for the part, meaning that everything came down to Sony. They began well, with updates on sequels to Playstation heavy hitters like Killzone and Infamous, upcoming ports like Planetside 2, as well as some new titles like Drive Club. More impressively, they promised to be a hospitable platform for independent games, offering indie developers the opportunity to self-publish their games on the Playstation 4, something which the Xbox does not currently support. This was followed up with a marquee indie title of sorts — Transistor, the new game from Supergiant. It retained just a hint of the stylised ARPG feel of Bastion, their previous game, while adding a new turn-based-combat layer on top of that. Certainly worth a look when it comes out. Square predictably announced a new Final Fantasy title, but news of a third entry into the Kingdom Hearts series was a pleasant surprise. As far as Sony’s exclusives go, the biggest egg in their basket is most probably Destiny, which sounds more poetic than I intended. After all, Microsoft still has the Halo franchise, but Bungie, the original creators of Halo, have teamed up with Call of Duty factory builders Activision for the new Playstation exclusive called Destiny. It claims to offer a seamless single-player/co-op experience, and the gameplay trailer certainly seemed to back that up, so let’s see if it can take on Master Chief at his own game.
It’s ironic that after all this the biggest cheer that Sony received was not for any of its games, but for the announcement that the PS4 would support used games like its predecessors and, more importantly, unlike the new Xbox. The knife was twisted some more when they said the console would not need to connect with the Internet to validate purchases either, and then again upon declaring the console was free of region-locking. As any showman knows, you leave the best for last, and so Sony followed up with their price point of $399, a good 100 USD cheaper than the Xbox, probably because it didn’t come bundled with a motion-sensing input device like the Kinect.
Shortly after Sony’s presentation, Internet message boards and forums were abuzz with declarations that Sony had not just won E3, but the next ‘console war’ itself. I admit, it would have been interesting to see how these two opposing strategies by industry giants played out in the long-term, but it was not to be. Microsoft, no doubt feeling the heat of gamers’ wrath and comparatively lower preorder numbers, announced shortly after that they would be reversing their DRM policies and would now function pretty much the same as before, with the caveat that they could change their minds and begin enforcing DRM at any point in the future if they wanted to.
I guess one should be thankful that there’s competition at the top, even if it’s only a two-horse race, because who knows how bad things would have been if it was a monopoly.