Prior to E3 2013, I made an entry on how the future of console gaming was looking. To summarize, it was starting to look pretty bleak. Even though it was only a couple of week ago, a lot was different. We had the Wii U already on the market and failing commercially and creatively, the Xbox One was set on controlling all games distributed for it, and the PS4 was still a shadowy figure with unclear motives. E3 2013 was shaping up to be a heavyweight bout between Microsoft and Sony as both looked to generate positive hype for their debuting machines in the fall. Microsoft had a lot to answer for following the announcements regarding the policies surrounding the Xbox One and many wondered if Sony was willing to maintain the status quo or go along with Microsoft. If both companies decided to severely restrict used games then gamers would be forced to accept this new model or give up on console gaming, something that seemed unlikely. It was a strange feeling heading into E3 which is usually all about debuting new titles and consoles but the focus was squarely on one aspect of the PS4 and Xbox One.
Kind of lost in the shuffle was Nintendo, and with good reason. The Wii U has done little to captivate the hardcore crowd and heading into E3 Nintendo chose to announce that it wouldn’t be holding a standard E3 press conference. Nintendo still had a presence, and the company’s diehards were probably content to get a peak at the new Smash Bros. game and a new Mario title for the Wii U. The recently announced A Link to the Past sequel for the 3DS, A Link Between Worlds, was playable and looks good, but there wasn’t much excitement coming from Nintendo. The unique features of the Wii U have been all but ignored by Nintendo itself and third party publishers seem indifferent to the console. I had no idea what Nintendo’s strategy for the Wii U was heading into E3, and yet, I feel like I know even less coming out of it.
Microsoft came out and confirmed what gamers did not want to hear, that sharing and reselling games on the Xbox One was going to be difficult and the console required a dedicated internet connection to play offline games. It really didn’t matter what Microsoft showed for games after that, because people were just plain pissed. The pricing for the console was revealed ($499) and Microsoft showed some games, but the damage was done. Sony’s conference was basically a confirmation that the freedoms gamers have today will be maintained with the PS4. Publishers can still place DRM on their games, but any restrictions beyond that are out. They too showed off some games and even brought a bunch of indie developers out, but it didn’t matter. The biggest cheers were reserved for simple announcement regarding game sharing. It was kind of surreal. The PS4 price was also revealed to be $399, and the console itself was shown for the first time as well (surprise, it’s black!), but gamers were too giddy over the used game policies to notice.
The fallout has been swift and to the point. Microsoft had egg all over its face and videos from Sony mocking the Xbox One’s policies further drove the point home. Microsoft made it incredibly easy for Sony to win gamers over, and the company was forced to suck it up and change its approach to give the Xbox One a fighting chance. Last week Microsoft began to repair the damage that’s been done by basically pushing the reset button on the Xbox One. There will now be no required internet connect, no stupid one-time sharing rules for games, and no used game fees. They’re putting the console back on the same level as Sony’s. Since so much of the emphasis of the Xbox One was placed on the cloud storage feature, it makes me wonder if most games will still require an internet connection, but at least if gamers are getting some benefit out of the feature it may make it more acceptable.
In a way, we’re right back where we started. So much of E3 was dominated by the pricing structure of these new consoles that the games were kind of glossed over. In looking back, there really wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about. I’ll probably get a PS4 at some point, but I’m looking at the games shown by Sony and I’m kind of at a loss as to what it is I really want to play. It was cool to learn that Final Fantasy XV is on the way, as well as Kingdom Hearts 3, but not enough was shown of either to get me excited. I just didn’t see anything, for any of the major consoles, that made me jump up and say “I want to play that!” As the launch dates for the Xbox One and PS4 approach perhaps I’ll find some games to get excited over. At least now I know that if I find some of the launch games to be lacking I can always resell them.