All Tech Considered
3:09 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Did Sony Already Win Gaming's Next-Gen Console War?

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 6:20 pm

OK, so it might be a little presumptuous to call a winner considering that neither Sony's nor Microsoft's new console is on the market quite yet.

On Monday, however, on the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where the gaming industry tells consumers what to buy this holiday season, Sony dropped the mic to universal applause, as Digital Trends described it.

The unveiling of Sony's PlayStation 4, which it teased earlier this year, was the first time fans and the industry were able to see both consoles side by side and make their first knee-jerk decision about what they want to see under the tree later this year.

Sony hit the stage with a pitch for the PS4 that seemed tailor-made to respond to concerns gamers had with Microsoft's Xbox One. The company showed off its glossy new graphics and teased PS4 exclusive games and the rest of its launch lineup. But what really blew people away was Sony's support for the used game market — a huge part of the industry — the PS4's ability to be played without an Internet connection, and the price: $399.

Earlier in the day, the pressure was on for Microsoft to recover from what gaming site Kotaku called a disastrous introduction to its new system last month. Microsoft's heavy focus on the system's TV and other non-gaming features left a lot of people scratching their heads.

For its part, Microsoft's E3 presentation was not a disaster. Company representatives hardly mentioned the TV features and focused on what everyone wanted to see: the games. They, too, showcased several Xbox One exclusive titles, including teasing the next version of its flagship Halo series, and dropped a release date and price: $499 and available in November.

The Big Differences

  • Price: Although prices of some consoles can and have dropped within the first year, many of those who want to be the first to get these next-generation systems can be swayed by a lower initial launch price. After all, less money spent on the system leaves more to spend on games. The Xbox One will cost $499 at launch, while the PS4 will be $399. This is a significant drop for Sony, whose previous system, the PS3, debuted with two models that cost $499 and $599. It seems this go-around Sony does not want to run the risk of pricing out potential customers.
  • Internet connection: One aspect of the Xbox One people have been highly critical of is the necessity of having a broadband Internet connection to play the system. While it doesn't need to be constantly connected, the system requires a check-in and authentication every 24 hours in order to keep the system updated, Microsoft says. The PS4 does not require any such authentication, and games can be played offline. It should be noted, however, that Sony will now require membership into its PlayStation Plus online service for online multiplayer games, something it once offered for free. This is the model Microsoft has been using with its Xbox Live Gold service.
  • Used games: The used game market is a huge part of the gaming industry. Retailer GameStop generated $572 million from used game sales in a recent quarter, but in the future it seems some Xbox One games might not be a part of that revenue. For Microsoft-published Xbox One games, you can give them to someone only once, and only if they've been on your Xbox Live friends list for 30 days. So reselling those games will not be possible. "Loaning or renting games won't be available at launch," Microsoft has said. Microsoft is leaving it up to third-party publishers on whether they will allow trading or reselling of their games, with possible extra fees. Sony said the PS4 will not place any restrictions on used games, and even released a tongue-in-cheek video clearly aimed at Microsoft's policy on trading games. Also, the PS4 will not be region locked, an important feature for international sales and gaming trade.

IGN has a more detailed breakdown and comparison of the two systems, and Nintendo's Wii U.

The Nintendo Factor

Speaking of Nintendo, it hit the stage at E3 on Tuesday. While many seem to think the current console war is between just Sony and Microsoft, the company whose name used to be synonymous with video games is in this battle as well.

Nintendo's latest console, the Wii U, was released in November, a full year before its competitors and at a price lower than both, $349. And though it has been met with varied and mixed reviews, the console has sold 3.45 million units worldwide as of March.

The Wii U lacks many of the online features, as well as the ability to play non-game discs of its competitors, however. So it remains unclear how Nintendo will fare this holiday season when those systems hit the market and gamers are looking for a new, shiny box to add to their home entertainment center.

What it does have is a loyal fan base and many exclusive games that are created with its innovative and unique controller in mind, which pushed sales of Nintendo's previous Wii console to nearly 100 million units worldwide.

Though we are still months away from the real heart of the new war to gain your gaming dollars — and Microsoft has plenty of time to readjust and return fire — it seems Sony might have scored a win on the first skirmish.

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