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Los Angeles: it has begun. Yesterday, as has been customary for the last few years, Microsoft had the first at-bat hosting an early morning press event to get the Electronic Entertainment Expo ball rolling, while Sony’s PlayStation show closed Day One in the late afternoon. Microsoft’s was at the Galen Center USC while Sony’s was at the LA Coliseum. (Traditionally, Nintendo’s is the next morning, at the Nokia’s LA Live.) Peppered in between the Big Three are third-party giants like EA and Ubisoft. Except that Nintendo (for the second year in a row) opted out of doing a big fancy event.
So really, it all comes down to Xbox versus PlayStation. I was fortunate to attend both, and from where I sat it really wasn’t even close. Despite having some strong games, Microsoft didn’t come to play.
Sony absolutely did.
Here are the ways Sony kept me interested while Microsoft barely could.
1. All About Balance: Sony Knows.
At the start of the Xbox media briefing, the focus for the entire show was laid out: it would be purely focused on games. Naturally, the crowd went nuts. The thing is, that’s the kind of thing that sounds great until you sit through what is basically two hours of videos, each one trying to be louder than the next. Don’t get me wrong: there are some cool games coming to Xbox One, but a “games only” presentation gets old fast. After so many clips, fatigue set in.
Sony knows this (really, ANY big videogame studio should.) So while Sony did preview a ton of game vids they also showed hardware (Sony is at a heart an appliance company, after all). Thankfully, Vita only really came up as part of the whole PlayStation experience with not much time used for Vita games. Even better, Sony pushed forward, beyond games and hardware to discuss new and exciting features for PSN like…
2. PlayStation NOW, Xbox NEVER?
The PlayStation Now service will begin as an open beta July 31st. Of all the cool games shown, that Project Morpheus VR helmet, and much more, Now is potentially, the biggest game-changer. Essentially, you’ll be able to stream PS3 games from your PlayStation devices: PS4, Vita, PS3 and the soon-to-be-released PlayStation TV and Sony Bravia sets the same way you watch movies and TV with Netflix. If Now works as well as Sony is boasting then they’ve pretty much solved the backwards compatibility issue.
Think about that. Not only do you get to re-live past gaming glory on the fly, you can also catch up with titles you’ve never played.
This big question was with so many different DSL/cable modem speeds in various households, how can Uncharted 3 possibly play well as a live-streamed experience? If Sony’s confidence is to be believed, then playing these older games will be a dream come true. Which means the question, er, ‘now’ is why hasn’t Microsoft announced a similar service? Again, by only focusing on games these kind of developments weren’t even addressed at Microsoft’s nearly two-hour presentation.
3. Franchises Are Great and Necessary, but They Can’t All Be Named Halo.
Both events stressed a bunch of IPs that have been around for ages: Uncharted, Halo – heck, even Tomb Raider got a big applause at the Xbox One show – but Sony managed to do two things well where Microsoft could only muster one: making both old franchises and the yet-unheard of ones feel engaging. Again, it’s not just a matter of a cool video – although Sony’s Dead Island 2 trailer was a showstopper – but it’s also about context. Microsoft opened with an impressive look at the next Call of Duty, yet a lot of the other big moments felt less memorable. (Why everyone was so excited about Crackdown coming to Xbox One, I’ll never know.) For every surprise like Rise of the Tomb Raider there were plenty of titles that really wanted to grab me, but left me cold. Sunset Overdrive, with its meta dialogue and extreme-sports motif open world, felt instantly dated.
Plus, if you’ve got an amazingly titled DLC for Dead Rising 3 like Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha, which is also over-the-top, why even bother with yet another inFamous clone? Snoooze.
However, The Master Chief Collection, which bundles Halo 1 – 4 all in 1080p, looks great. Coming this fall, it’s sure to be a system seller for Microsoft, and I’ll be first in line to pick it up. All the content is on one Blu-ray disc, and as such one of the cool new features is the ability to make playlists of the game’s levels. So, yay for not ever having to play the library section ever again! Seriously, though, this is pretty much a slam-dunk, and was arguably Microsoft’s best moment in their press show.
What does that say that their oldest franchise is the one I’m most excited for? Oh, and Halo 5 is coming in 2015, don’tcha know? I think it means that Halo is becoming Mario. Hmmmm…
4. Microsoft Knows Their Demo Too Well.
Speaking of Halo or shooters in general, another thing that makes me cautious about Xbox’s future is that like Nintendo, Microsoft plays up the first person shooter genre whenever possible. Worse, it’s not usually about advancing it. I mean, I like the booster rockets that are seen in the new COD too, and hey, they’ve got a mech just like Titanfall, but these leaps just aren’t big enough. Even if they were, isn’t that pretty much the same deal as getting Mario Kart 8 with those new anti-gravity moments? I love Kart 8, but that’s a 22-year old franchise. Halo is only a little more than half that. The real issue is not about more hang time with Cortana, but about yet another shooter shown amongst several other shooter video clips. It’s repetitive.
Sony has shooters too, but it doesn’t feel as integral to the PlayStation experience. (Maybe it’s a good thing Killzone never reached the levels of success that Halo did?)
5. Oh Yeah, Sony Makes Other Stuff Too. MS Doesn’t.
As mentioned earlier, Sony is an appliance company, so that means they have a vested interest in getting customers to buy more Sony stuff. Sure, it’s a bottom-line mentality, but frankly, I like seeing new devices. Even an Apple TV rip-off like PlayStation TV (priced at $99) gets my brain thinking about how I can use it. I was a little disappointed that no real new info was given about their much-touted virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus, but I am eager to try it out today once the convention doors open. Microsoft has quite simply nothing to show past the Kinect peripheral. A peripheral that is absent from the newly priced $399 Xbox One model.
On the other end, Sony debuts the new glacier white PS4 that comes with a copy of Destiny in September and I’m like this meme…
6. Halo TV Series Might Not Suck, but Powers Might Be Incredible.
Like Netflix and Hulu, Microsoft and Sony want piece of the binge-watching crowd. A Halo series was somewhat tried a few years back, but those were really just webisodes. This new iteration will be on Showtime as well as Xbox One. I’m all for it. Hope it’s good, but man, a television adaption of the comic Powers?! Heck yes.
7. Sony Had Great Surprises Like GTA V! Microsoft had Crackdown.
Rockstar Games rarely show up to the E3 in any capacity so seeing the PS4 version of their megahit GTA V was pretty sweet. Even sweeter was the 2014 release window. To be fair, Xbox One will also be getting GTA V, but they couldn’t announce at the show. Their big closer was Crackdown. ‘Nuff said, except to add that I moved on with Borderlands 2.
Where I do a 180: Impressions of the press events where I think Microsoft did it better…
Dead Rising 3 DLC being available today for free is way better than Sony’s decision to put up new game Entwined and tell us to pay 9.99 for it.
Lots of PSN indie games look good, but none had the wow factor of LIVE’s Play Dead’s follow-up to Limbo, Inside.
Like I said, a Halo TV series could be lame, but oh look, a Ratchet & Clank movie! Said no-one ever.
Previously by Peter Paras: