As an avid video game player for both Xbox and PlayStation consoles for many years, I tend to obsessively watch the E3 conference coverage as it rolls around every summer. Once an invigorating and exciting experience, I've found that a part of the E3 show has lost some of its luster in the past few years. This feeling might stem from the fact that Microsoft and Sony routinely showcase their upcoming games for the next year, while players pledge their loyalty for their preferred console without giving it much thought. What's worse is that it seems like competition between these two console giants at E3 has been at a standstill for a long time.
Same old, same old for this year's E3. Or so I thought.
Anyone who has been closely following the coverage for both of these companies discovered yesterday that this wasn't the same old story that we've seen with past E3 shows. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Sony effectively one-upped Microsoft at this year's E3 conference.
First off, let me start off by saying that Microsoft led a fairly successful keynote at E3 yesterday. It looks like there's a ton of promising games that are coming to Xbox One, including Halo 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, just to name a few. But it seems like Microsoft took a few wrong turns for its product strategy, which ultimately resulted in Sony outshining their rival during the company's keynote yesterday. With that said, let me explain my reasoning and what Microsoft needs to do to remain competitive for its Xbox One console.
Bring Indie Developers to the Xbox One
What I really enjoyed during Sony's keynote is the fact that the company had taken the time to develop relationships with several indie developers to bring their games onto the PS4 platform. This type of strategy that's adopted by Sony can be thought of something that's similar to the embracing open source technologies. Sony has taken a very proactive strategy by clearly capitalizing on users' wants and needs to create great games and providing them an unrestrictive process for publishing their games on the PS4 platform.
Although we've seen that Microsoft's starting to embrace open source with some of the company's development platforms, we haven't really seen Microsoft trying to branch out and embrace the indie space fully yet. Granted, Microsoft's Project Spark game is a step in the right direction, but the company really needs to go further than that. As we've seen with the OUYA console that entirely relies on an indie development model, users want to create great games, and they will create those games regardless of whether they are presented with an opportunity to publish their game on a particular platform. I hope Microsoft will see that they need to take a risk and embrace these creators or they'll be forgoing a great opportunity to cultivate relationships with new blood.
Ease Restrictive Policies for Used Games
What I consider one of the most detrimental decisions to Microsoft's Xbox One strategy is the fact is that there are restrictive policies for used games. The gist of the restrictive policy is that if you pass a game onto a friend, then that friend will have to pay an associated unlock fee to play it. What's worse is that Microsoft was mum on the subject during their keynote, in addition to the fact that there's no information on how much that fee might entail.
Sony really took advantage of this information and seemingly tried to ruffle Microsoft's feathers on the subject. "PlayStation 4 won't impose any new restrictions on used games. This is a good thing," said Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA). "When a gamer buys a PS4 disc, they have rights to that copy of the game."
After hearing this news, the audience responded with thunderous applause—something that's typically saved for the announcement of a beloved game on a preferred platform. Consequently, I think Microsoft needs to seriously reconsider its decision on used games or at least provide more information on how much the fee will cost for users.
Lower the Xbox One Price to Remain Competitive
Toward the end of Microsoft's keynote, the company also announced that the console will cost $499, making the console $100 more expensive than its competitor. It seems like the companies have switched roles as the Xbox has traditionally been revered for its affordability back when Sony released the PS3 for $599, which was seen as somewhat of a disaster. Of course, that doesn't seem to be the case now. In addition, this news also came as somewhat of a surprise to analysts and tech journalists as many predicted that it would cost $399 at most—and even that prediction might be a little too steep.
What's most interesting is that Microsoft has been pitching the Xbox as the need-to-have, all-in-one home entertainment system prior to the E3 show. Because of the Xbox One's high price, Microsoft has alienated its casual gamer audience, and the company will have to rely on its hardcore gamer audience to be successful. Unfortunately, Microsoft's decision on price alone could potentially be a detrimental factor to the console's success.
Competition is Good for the Video Game Industry
Okay, so where's the light at the end of the tunnel? Admittedly, I'm pretty excited about the news that came out of E3 yesterday. It's a first time in a long time where we're actually seeing some serious competition transpire between these two companies. And competition is good! Although it might not have been the best day for Microsoft yesterday, I think this provides a surplus of opportunity to listen to gamers and learn what they really want. I'm excited to see how Microsoft will decide to fight the good fight!