Sony Upstages Microsoft at E3

When the final roundup stories of the 2013 E3 video game show are writ, many will declare Sony the “winner.”  And just as with comedy, timing played a huge role.

Sony came up to bat with its  two-hour press conference last  night a few hours after Microsoft’s  big reveal of games and pricing for its' next generation Xbox One system and revamped Xbox 360.  And for many in the gamer crowd, Sony blew Microsoft out of the water.

Sony’s modern,  pentagram-wedge shaped   PlayStation 4 looks a whole lot more stylish than the boxy Xbox One and  boasts slightly superior on-board processing power.  Better still, Sony’s preview of games revealed far more originals and fewer sequels than the Microsoft camp had shown,  including more third party developer games with an original look and attitude  -  heavy on a “steam punk” mix of past, present and future imagery, technological weapons and mythic creatures to conquer. And we’re not just talking “Mad Max.”

But what provoked the loudest cheers were Sony’s pricing and announced commitments to the rights of the gaming consumer. While PS3 was introduced at $599, the new PS4 will open at $399. And that’s $100 less than Microsoft’s just announced price of $499 for the Xbox One. For sure, system buyers will get more hardware and extra features  with the latter – that  packed-in, compulsory, second-generation  Kinect  sight/sound motion detector with high resolution camera for Skype video calling, worth more than $100 as a stand-alone piece.

 But many die-hard gamers think waving at sensors (instead of wielding a joystick)  to control action is a frivolous or frustrating  pursuit. Nor do they crave (at least now)  the distraction of  video conferencing on the side of the screen when playing a game, or like the prospect that  their system may be spying on them and literally taking their pulse. 

And for sure, today’s  cable cord cutters don’t give a hoot that Xbox One will also find (smartly) and tune in cable TV channels.

What serious E3ers do want is the pure play - a high end, beautifully rendered and quick responding  gaming experience, exactly what Sony is celebrating  with its end-of-year system release (though PS4 will also serve up  movies and subscription music, along with a much more sophisticated than before game streaming service.)  

The other big notes of triumph (and cheering in the crowd) came at last night's event when Sony exec Jack Tretton declared the PS4 would have none of those new restrictions attached to Microsoft’s new game platform. PS4 games will not be registered and limited in use to the original owner. Purchasers  will be free to sell or trade their goods on the used market  without the secondary buyer having to purchase a new license from the game maker.  PS4 titles can be loaned out and used on other PS4 systems without the need to enter the owner’s password. And if you accidentally or intentionally disconnect your PS4 from the internet, the hardware  will still function 24 hours later – unlike in the new connected world order for Xbox One.

Will Microsoft back off from those still-in-formation restrictive policies – which seem intended to court game makers  but are a mixed blessing to new ‘n’ used software sellers like Game Stop?  If Microsoft really wants a merry Christmas for that pricey new system, it may have to.

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