Why The PS4 Will Defeat The Xbox One (Unless Microsoft Smartens Up)
I'm going to start this piece with a bit of a polarizing statement: unless Nintendo pulls out some pretty fantastic stuff at its press conference this morning, Sony has pretty much already triumphed over E3 (and over this generation of console gaming as a whole). It's not just the properties Sony unveiled, impressive though they are - Microsoft has quite a few gems of its own on the way, as well. So does Nintendo, for that matter.
No, Sony's success lies in how it's managed to connect with the fans.
Sony wasn't always so tactful. Not so long ago, they mishandled the PSN Breach in the worst way possible; a breach which only came about because the studio decided it would be a good idea to try to sic their lawyer-bots on an unfortunate hacker by the name of George Hotz. Not so long ago, they tried to react to the breach and its ensuing lawsuit by changing their terms of service, preventing anyong from filing a class-action lawsuit.
In short, not so long ago, the folks at Sony were essentially blind idiots where relating to their customers was concerned.
That's changed in recent days. Sony has, in essence, rebranded itself. It's extended welcoming arms to independent developers. It's launched Playstation Plus - to date one of the best gaming subscription services I've ever seen. Moreover, it's started speaking to gamers in a way that says it understands them.
Microsoft has gone in the opposite direction. It runs the risk of being blinded by pride.
The warning signs of this shift were truthfully evident even before the Xbox One. Just look at how the Richmond giant handled (or rather, mishandled) Windows 8. Right out the door, people began expressing doubts about the new operating system - Microsoft blatantly ignored them. It ignored the fact that users simply didn't want Windows 8, and pushed it out anyway. The result was an utterly lackluster launch, owing as much to poor PR as to the OS itself. Perhaps more so the former, in truth.
It is repeating that pattern, though perhaps to a lesser degree, with the Xbox One. The console's unveiling was, well...horrendously boring. It focused more on TV than it did on gaming. From the beginning, Microsoft seemingly approached the entire concept of next-gen gaming - both during and outside of the conference - with a sort of self-absorbed arrogance. To its credit, Microsoft has slowly become aware of how it came across. It's been taking steps to correct its blunders- its E3 press conference was actually quite pleasing - but it may well be too little, too late.
You see, there's still the matter of how the Xbox One is dealing with used games: a twenty-four hour authentication system which forces periodic check-ins with Microsoft's servers. As I've said before, it seems like a good idea on paper. However, in practice? It's about as viable as any other form of DRM.
And like it or not, that's what it is.That's what people are going to see it as. That's what people are going to rail against more than anything else on the Xbox One.
What might prove to be the nail in the Xbox One's proverbial coffin is that - coupled with the fact that Sony simply seems better able to excite the fans - the Playstation 4 will not incorporate any form of DRM whatsoever. Borrowing a game? Perfectly okay. Buying used? Acceptable. Sharing a title with friends and family? Yeah, you can do that. Selling a game on your own?
Go right ahead.
"It won't stop working if you haven't authenticated within 24 hours," Jack Tretton, SCE America's CEO, said with a smile. Everyone who's been following the news knew exactly what he was talking about. This, I think, is where the PS4 will truly dominate the Xbox One. Sure, Microsoft's console might attract a few nervous developers...but at the same time, Sony is winning over the player.
And at the end of the day, that's what's really important.
Some people are concerned that this strategy - this approach to game sharing - might hurt Sony in the long run. Somehow, I doubt that. Developers aren't stupid: they go where the players are. And if more players are flocking to the PS4, well...you do the math.
Oh, one more thing - there's also the matter of cost: the Playstation 4 is $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. Somehow it seems kinda important to mention that, too.
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