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First impressions of a home entertainment console can make or break first-adopter perception: Will I buy this console day one? Will I pre-order it before I know enough about it? Are the prospects in line of what I want out of a media entertainment device? Well, we look at these and more in this brief breakdown between Sony's reveal of the PlayStation 4 from back in February and Microsoft's unveil of the Xbox One.
Sony's Pre-E3 Conference
Going into the PS4's reveal back in February, there were a few things that had gamers bothered: Would it be always-on? Sony quickly dispelled that rumor before the conference and then later reiterated that the PS4 would not be always-on. Would it play used games? Sony made it apparent that the PS4 would play used games. Most importantly, would the PS4 be suitable for playing games? Now here is where Sony's conference kicked it into high gear: The entire thing was about game design, games from AAA developers and games from indie developers; Sony made it clear that they were out to win over gamers and from start to finish they centered everything – including social integration – around the gaming experience. They then quickly followed this up by announcing fee waivers and a stripped down certification process to allow more games, more games and even more games to appear on the PS4. Sony was all about open arms toward the gaming community, including both gamer and developers. It was truly a teary-eyed moment for gamers as it felt like a big company was going out of their way to be both development friendly and consumer friendly.
Microsoft's Pre-E3 Conference
Microsoft had a couple of months to sort themselves out. Arriving after Sony but before E3 gave MS the perfect opportunity to one-up their rival. With a whole lot of negative momentum going into their pre-E3 conference many gamers were afraid about an always-on DRM system that blocked used games. There is still a used games barrier that will most certainly play a role in the long run success of the system but on the upside Microsoft at least abolished the always-on DRM rumors. However, Microsoft's biggest roadblock was overcoming the belief that they had become Casual Kinect Company 3.0. Heading into the conference many core gamers were expecting to see games and we did not. We saw a CG rendered showcase from EA's Sports division, a brief CG clip from Forza Motorsport 5 and some actual gameplay from Call of Duty: Ghosts. That was it. From there Microsoft focused on the media hub technology, the upgraded Kinect functionality, and some of the system specs. We learned that there is exclusive television content on the way provided only on Xbox Live, as well as deals made with the NFL and ESPN to provide users with up-to-date access to sports information and streaming technology, all at the whim of voice-activated technology with gesture-sensitive integration. In other words, you won't need to use your remote or controller to watch TV, movies, listen to music or play games.
Sony's Pre-E3 Pros & Cons
Heading into E3 the biggest gripe most people could conjure up against Sony is that they have yet to reveal the actual console, in addition to a lack of 1:1 backwards compatibility support. The console will, however, allow you to stream older games from Gaikai. Unfortunately, due to the complex architecture of the Cell Processor and Sony having moved on toward an x86 setup, actual backwards compatibility via disc is not possible. But that's about as far as it goes on the Negative Nate side of things. On to brighter pastures we see that Sony has repeatedly made it clear that the PS4 will be about gaming. Yes, you can stream TV, watch movies and engage in social networking, which is an unquestionable given.
However, the real meat is that Sony has ties with Ustream and YouTube, allowing gamers to easily and conveniently network and manage streaming gaming sessions, which means the PS4 will be primed and ready for lots of monetary-ready “Let's Play” sessions. Sony actually showing a line-up of games – whether people thought they were lackluster or not is beside the point – showcasing that the company is committed to content and they have an actual stake in retaining and growing the core community of games. Easier development tools, a strong focus on indie and emerging sectors as well as a focus on mixed price points and PC ports means variety and actual video games will be available for the PS4 in great abundance.
Microsoft's Pre-E3 Pros & Cons
As mentioned, there were a lot of bad tempered rumors with nothing but brand damaging intentions circulating throughout the gaming sphere (and part of mainstream media) heading into Microsoft's pre-E3 conference. The company, unfortunately, did little to dispel ill will and instead ignored it, focusing on many of the various content expectations most core gamers dreaded: Social connectivity, Kinect and Windows 8 tablet-style OS integration. The entire pre-E3 conference centered around features that had nothing whatsoever to do with video games. While it's nice the company is branching out with media expansion, the Xbox brand was built on video games and that was the one thing we really didn't see at all during their conference. In fact, Microsoft made no mention about game technology at all. Will it be more or less efficient designing for Xbox One? Are the cores, RAM and GPU convenient for high-end and low-fi gaming? Will this new Kinect functionality impede with couch co-op? We don't know and Microsoft didn't say. This left many core gamers out in the cold.
On the upside, Microsoft at least has a very sleek OS running at the heart of the Xbox One and the exclusive Halo television series could be a huge breakthrough for the company. A basic overview of the specs also helped assuage fears of an underpowered console. The specs stack up nicely to the PS4. Having more than a dozen exclusive games on the horizon with more than half being brand new IP will also be a big boost for the console. Being able to transfer over your Xbox Live GamerTag from the 360 to the One is a nice touch and most importantly, they've kept the perfect design of the Xbox 360 controller. I love that controller so much.
Heading into E3
Both consoles still have a lot to prove before we get a pricepoint and start drooling over their holiday release windows. At E3 we can expect to see more from both consoles, but it's clear to say that Sony has a lot less to prove than Microsoft. We still know very little about the Xbox One despite seeing the actual, physical console. Also, there were so few games talked about for the console that it's hard to get excited. In fact, it's almost a nail-biting experience trying to figure if Microsoft will actually follow through with anything for core gamers or if that ship has sailed. For Sony, all they have to do is keep doing what they're doing and give us more gameplay for their upcoming titles as well as a first look at the actual console.
As it stands, Sony definitely has the ball in their court and if Nintendo can just get a few good exclusives it might turn into a Sony and Nintendo war, assuming Microsoft doesn't do something big to win core gamers back.