E3: Japan Sticks Up For Consumer Rights While Microsoft Tries To End Them
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Basement; where if you dun goofed you won't hear the end of it. Folks, let's talk about some controversial stuff shall we? E3 2013 is over and a lot of stuff happened beyond just showcasing the next great games that will deprive us of much needed grocery and laundry money for a long time to come. So let's take a basic look at the 2 biggest press conferences of the event and discuss the Executive Troll Wars going on as a result. Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of gamer satisfaction... OK enough of that.
When Microsoft revealed their next generation console, the Xbox One, last month; the reveal centered almost exclusively on TV, Sports, and Social media apps. This didn't sit so well with gamers so Microsoft promised that they would show nothing but games at E3, and they kept that promise.
Of the 2 conferences, Microsoft showed the least amount of total games but the most amount of exclusive games. Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza 5, World of Tanks, Dead Rising 3, a Halo 5 teaser (or at least what we think is Halo 5), Killer Instinct, Project Spark, and Titanfall rounded out the console exclusive games for the Xbox One (some, like Titanfall for example, are on PC), while games like an updated Minecraft, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, and Below were what Microsoft chose to show of their indie offerings for the Xbox One. Quantum Break also made an appearance but damned if we know what the game is about yet.
From a games perspective, Microsoft really delivered on their promise, but unfortunately their PR after the reveal and up to E3 led to the entire conference aspect of the E3 event to not actually be about games first and foremost. More on that later.
Personally speaking, my top 3 exclusive games of the Microsoft presser were Ryse (though it was far too QTE heavy), Project Spark (insane amount of options and on screen events going on in that game), and Titanfall. I can definitely give it to Microsoft for getting such games on lock for the Xbox One. The aspect in which I feel they failed though is the minimal focus they placed on indie games, and that actually seems to be in keeping with their attitude towards indie games and developers as of late.
Microsoft also completely avoided any discussion on their DRM policies, why it is mandatory to have Kinect always connected to the device (or the benefits of doing so beyond turning the device on or off with your voice), and what, if any, are the benefits of to the consumer of forcing an online check every 24 hours. All-in-all, Microsoft had a decent showing at this year's E3 despite the PR surrounding their event, and this marks probably their best E3 showing in at least 3 years.
For many gamers and journalists across the internet and the world, this year's E3 was Sony's to lose even before the event began. Sony's PS4 reveal in February was tremendously well received and Microsoft's actions leading up to E3 seemed to be doing Sony's marketing job for them.
At the February reveal, Sony talked about how the PS4 was a console made by developers, for gamers. With that philosophy in mind, Sony focused a great deal of both their February reveal, and E3, on games with little to no emphasis on technical specs and a not-too-long discussion about their new Share functions. Sony's E3 presser got off to a slow, and admittedly boring, start by talking about Vita and PS3 games, none of which showed too much appeal in my opinion, especially considering that they talked about Last of Us which comes out tomorrow.
The real meat of Sony's presser was the PS4, in which they showed an onslaught of games. It was game, after game, after game. Surprisingly, Sony and Microsoft seemed to have swapped focus for this year's E3. In years prior, Sony would typically showcase exclusive games and not focus so much on exclusive content for multiplatform games, while Microsoft did the opposite by focusing more on exclusive content for multiplatform games and having less exclusive games to talk about.
This year, Sony's exclusive games were mostly games they had already revealed at their February console reveal only with different gameplay videos. Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club, and inFamous: Second Son all made appearances as the biggest 1st party exclusive offerings. Sony also showcased a plethora of indie game offerings, some which were exclusive to the PS4, showing their commitment to the indie gaming scene. Transistor, Octodad, and an Oddworld game were among the most prominent indie offerings making their way to the PS4.
Sony's conference though was one of big surprises. Starting with a trailer for a new Sony Santa Monica/ReadyAtDawn game called The Order 1886, the gaming surprises were pretty amazing. Square-Enix shocked the world when they showcased Final Fantasy Versus XIII was still alive, with new gameplay and cinematic videos to prove it, only having its name changed to Final Fantasy XV. Square-Enix surprised again with the reveal of Kingdom Hearts 3 and a trailer barely 30 seconds long to say that it's in development. Both games are multiplatform, which displeased many but was to be expected in this age of gaming.
Destiny, the new game by Bungie and Activision, had an exclusive gameplay demo at Sony's conference which seemed to excite many gamers on the internet despite some technical glitches. These rounded off the gaming surprises for Sony's E3, so now we move into the non-gaming surprises. For starters, the PS4 console itself was revealed as to be expected, but that wasn't the biggest surprise.
Jack Tretton, CEO of SCEA, came on stage and announced that Sony and the Playstation 4 would in no way impede the used games market. The Playstation 4 contains no hardware based hook for the prevention of used games playback, nor any software based restrictions for the prevention of the selling, lending, or trading of used games. Jack went on to further state that the PS4 does not require a mandatory check in at all, least of which one every 24 hours, and can be played completely offline.
In terms of Playstation Plus, subscriptions from the PS3 would carry over to the PS4 and all new content would be coming to the subscription. The only downside? Multiplayer is no longer free on the PS4. Although apps such as Netflix can still be accessed without needing PS+, real-time multiplayer can only be achieved by paying for PS+ on the PS4 which shows another way Sony has changed towards utilizing a formerly Microsoft only policy. Sony's reasoning for this is that their numbers show a majority of PS3 gamers had or have existing PS+ accounts, so they are happy to pay for so many perks such as discounts, beta invites, and free games. This aspect is probably the worst aspect of Sony's E3 presser, and to many that isn't really such a bad thing.
Japan Is All For Consumer Rights
Thanks to Microsoft's insistence on DRM, forced network connectivity, the possible trojan horse of always-online single player games due to cloud computing, and a general disdain for current consumer rights; E3's focus was more about those policies and how Microsoft's competition would answer them than it was about games.
Sony attacked Microsoft's policies in force, even going so far as to make what many consider to be a deliberate troll video showing how one can share disc based games on the PS4. After all the trolling and bashing of Microsoft's policies, Don Mattrick, President of Microsoft Interactive Entertainment, responded to Geoff Keighley's question about what options gamers who don't have the network connection necessary to play the Xbox One have by stating "stick with Xbox 360."
Further, Yusuf Medhi, vice president of marketing and strategy, defended Microsoft's policies by saying that no one likes change, and Microsoft is simply moving towards the natural future of the industry stating that virtually everyone either owns a device that is always connected already, or are always connected themselves.
Shortly after Nintendo had their hour long Nintendo Direct conference, Reggie Fils-Aime, President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America, stated support for the used games market and indirectly scoffed at anti-consumer policies restricting the freedoms of gamers to do as they please with their games.
The attitudes of the executives of the Big 3 console development companies shows a stark contrast in philosophy. The two Japanese console companies stand opposed to the American console company's philosophy of restriction and forced connection while standing up for the rights of the consumer, the audience they intend to sell their product too.
It's not a stretch to say that, in the short term PR sense, Nintendo and Sony have the general gaming populace very excited to purchase and support their products, while shunning the Xbox One for restricting and monitoring what gamers can do on the console.
Microsoft has seemingly forgotten that, even if the future progresses to an end road of restriction and monitoring, forcing that progression will be met with fierce opposition. All peoples of the world love to have value and to see benefits in what they spend their money on. Microsoft could have saved themselves a world of hurt if they simply changed their policies to ease into what they consider to be the future.
When we look at who Microsoft seem to be targeting, it's not hard to see the word Apple flash into view. The Xbox One, at this moment, seems to be a console that has no end focus and instead is trying to cater to everyone at the same time, and yet somehow managing to appear to be a console for publishers first, everyone else second.
Microsoft had much to prove going into E3, and they left still with much to prove. How sad, and yet funny, that the small island country of Japan possesses 2 companies with more respect for consumer rights than a much larger company that hails from the "Land of the Free."
Well, that's all for this visit to The Basement folks. Let me know what you think about everything coming out of E3 in the comments below and what has you the most excited. Do you think Microsoft owes Adam Orth an apology, considering they're acting exactly the same way he was? Are you pre-ordering any console? If so, which one(s)? If not, why? Until next time remember, no matter how strong you may think you are, grind grind and grind some more.