December 2018
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Metamorphosis

xboneBy now you undoubtedly know the big story of this year’s E3.  Just in case I’ll summarize it for you.  Microsoft had their press conference first, showing a ton of games and wrapped it up by announcing the price – $499.  This was more than most people were expecting.  To make matters worse, they didn’t address the growing controversy that they had created a few weeks ago when they announced how their DRM system would work.  A system that effectively means that games you buy from the store can’t be loaned out, sold or traded – unless the publisher allows you to trade them, and then only at select stores that are equipped to de-authorize the game from your account.  In other words, it’s a very restrictive system that dictates what you can & can’t do with the games you buy.  Gamers didn’t like this, to put it lightly.

Sony-Used-GamesA few hours later Sony took the stage.  They started by taking some light shots at Microsoft.  They filled the stage at one point with indie developers and their games, taking the opportunity to not-so-subtly mention the fact that they allow developers to self publish their games (unlike Microsoft).  As the show continued, the jabs got more obvious – and more brutal.  This all culminated in Jack Tretton re-taking the stage to spell out in no uncertain terms how they were not following down the same path as Microsoft with the way they handle retail games.  Standing under the most welcome Powerpoint slide ever displayed at a Sony event, he went down the list bullet point by bullet point, assuring the crowd that they would be able to do with their games as they pleased, just as they always had.  The crowd, as they say, went wild.  Shortly after this, Sony announced their own system price – $399.  The final blow had been struck, and they walked away the undisputed winners of the day.

Since then, I’ve seen it mentioned in a few different places how Sony didn’t really do anything differently than they normally do – it was just a case of Microsoft messing up so badly that they looked like heroes in comparison.  This is partly true.  Microsoft clearly dug their own hole with their draconian DRM system, and Sony simply chose not to follow them in.  But the true story of this E3 starts back in 2006, when Sony put on a very different press conference announcing the launch details of the PS3.  That was a completely different Sony than the one we have today – the Sony of 2006 was arrogant.  They assumed people would pay the $599 price tag they announced for the system based simply on the success of the PS2.  They didn’t take Microsoft seriously as competition.  They didn’t feel like they needed a ton of launch titles because they thought it would sell on name alone.  They built the system on an overly complex and difficult to program for architecture because developers would just have to suck it up and figure it out.  And they were taking no notes from the online service Microsoft had had in place for a year before the PS3 launched.

Sony-PS4-Indie-GamesThe Sony of today comes off as being downright humble in comparison.  They constantly talk about respecting their fans and developers – developers they have been working to build better relationships with.  It has been said repeatedly that the PS4 was built with developers in mind, taking notes from them to make the system easier to develop for.  They’re proudly growing relationships in particular with indie developers.  While many of the biggest indie games of the past 6 years were released on the 360 first, now Sony is lining up big names in the indie scene who are releasing their titles on the Ps4 first.  Sony is also putting a big focus on their customers, the gamers.  They have shown that they are unwilling to repeat past mistakes – announcing a very reasonable price while showing a very impressive lineup of launch window titles.  They are also showing that they respect their customers by maintaining the policies that are expected when buying a retail game.  In short, the tables have turned – Microsoft appears to be arrogantly assuming that their success with the 360 will carry them forward no matter what, while Sony is showing that they are actively listening to what their customers are saying.

So to say Sony “stayed the same” is simply untrue.  Sony’s transformation to a company dedicated to video games and the people that play them has been a gradual one over the past 7 years.  Monday’s showing was just the culmination of that, and it stood in stark contrast to their competition.  And gamers have taken notice.

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