‘Our journey together has just begun.. As the green-tinted lights dimmed at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, that was perhaps one of the main messages to take away from the reveal of the Xbox One. The industry giant showcased the sleek, chrome black console today and re-iterated their desire to provide consumers with an all-in-one system that will harmonise the traditional gaming experience with interactive entertainment. With the E3 press conference casting a long shadow over the video game industry – in fact, the Expo is less than three weeks away – Microsoft’s revealing of the Xbox One was a preliminary, yet essential keynote.
In truth, we didn’t see a lot of games – crucially, we saw even less gameplay. But Microsoft was quick to showcase their new console before meandering into their ambition to takeover our living room. This will not only result in switching between applications instantaneously, it will mark the company’s venture into live action television in the form of a Halo TV series – produced by none other than Steven Spielberg. However, with Microsoft trailblazing a wholly new path into the next generation with their Xbox One, when you consider Sony’s Playstation 4 conference back in February, the respective driving force set out by each company couldn’t be more different. For every multimedia function that Microsoft presented, Sony flexed their first party support. The two industry titans are careering along opposite trajectories and it presents a fascinating dichotomy on the brink of E3 2013.
Undoubtedly, the Xbox One is Microsoft’s ambitious attempt to reach the broadest audience possible. The company’s third home console represents the most multi-purpose machine yet – a technological Swiss army knife, if you will – and when it launches this holiday season, it won’t just be orientated to the average gamer. Significantly, it will be built with a mainstream appeal in mind, which is a type of architecture that comes with consequences. As a global business, Microsoft is experiencing trouble with the PC market and the Windows Phone clutches to a meagre portion of the market share in comparison to its competitors, hence; the Xbox One is poised to become the company’s flag bearer in not just the gaming sector, but also the entertainment market as whole. Added features including the picture-in-picture attribute a la Microsoft’s Surface tablet and Skype functionality are ultimately bells and whistles with the goal of extending the audience threshold.
To put things into perspective, barring a brief mention about a next-gen Forza – which later turned out to be Forza 5 – it was a full thirty minutes before Andrew Wilson of EA stepped onto the stage to talk about actual games. Up to that point, the primary focus of the Xbox One was entertainment. In comparison, Sony opened their Playstation 4 conference with a visceral sizzle reel teasing future games. The disparity between the two gaming companies is almost palpable. And, from Sony’s perspective, that isn’t a bad thing.
My initial reaction to today’s event has been disappointment. As a press conference, the constant shift in focus from entertainment content and Kinect functionality with rare sprinkling of games for good measure made the entire event feel rather uneven. As though Microsoft extended their reach so far they forgot who queues up for their new consoles on the day of release: the core gamer. Of course, the Xbox One has been unveiled on the company’s self-constructed platform in Redmond allowing them to dictate exactly what to unveil, but for E3, it’s an entirely different story.
With Microsoft and Sony both holding their conferences on June 10th – though the former will take the stage first – the industry titans will go toe-to-toe for the lion’s share of the next-gen audience. This is unquestionably the most important E3 for both Sony and Microsoft in quite some time, and with the latter controversially adjusting today’s conference for the mainstream American market, Sony is in a prime position to steal back the next generational thunder.
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A point to note: Sony’s stocks increased by 9% in the wake of the Xbox One conference. It’s food for thought, really, and highlights the seemingly widespread belief that the Japanese juggernaut still retains the momentum in the lead-up to E3. Though Microsoft promised that they will provide no less than 15 exclusive titles in the first of launch for the Xbox One – 8 of which are brand new IPs – the company showcased only a few of their studios’ next-gen offerings. Instead, by channelling all their time in advertising the console as a jack-of-all-trades, actual games seem to fall by the wayside.
Other than Quantum Break and Forza 5, all the games that Microsoft teased will be available on the Playstation 4 – though FIFA 14 and Call of Duty: Ghosts will receive exclusive content on the Xbox One. Although it’s in this exact area that Sony hold the most clout. Their unparalleled roster of first-party studios – 12, in total – is the Playstation 4’s ace card and, at this moment in time, 8 of these fully-owned developers are working on as-yet-unknown projects, which is a tantalising prospect ahead of E3 and one that will surely oppose today’s drought of titles.
Granted, E3 is traditionally where the new software is unveiled and Microsoft has still concealed their established franchises – namely Gears of War, Fable and Halo (barring the announcement of the live-action series). However, in building a ubiquitous, all-purpose console, the company have considerably distanced themselves from the core gamer, which has inadvertently carved out a potential opening for Sony to capitalise on. In fostering relationships with independent developers and integrating their own Playstation Vita – itself a dedicated, hardcore handheld – into the Playstation 4, the Japanese giant has garnered considerable momentum going into E3.
Coming onto the stage in New York three months ago with titles such as Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, DriveClub and Infamous: Second Sons effectively issued a bold mission statement and while these aren’t exactly console-selling games, it’s important to remember that Sony still have the likes of Uncharted, God of War and LittleBigPlanet in their armoury to stoke the excitement for the Playstation 4. Admittedly, while these aforementioned franchises won’t emulate the commercial success of say, Halo, it’s still worth noting the firepower lurking in Sony’s clandestine arsenal.
Ultimately, today’s conference and the Playstation 4 reveal in February were for entirely separate audiences. Not only does it highlight the changing gaming landscape, it conveys just how Microsoft is gravitating towards an entirely new form of revenue. Subscription fees and a partnership with NFL were all caveats that, for me personally, somewhat overshadowed the reveal of the Xbox One itself. The American gaming giant seem to lack focus on the very thing a console is designed for: games. Mind you, this is only the first glimpse of a machine that will surely exist in the gaming sphere for at least six or seven years – and considering that Microsoft will host their annual Build developers conference in late June following E3, you’d have to imagine the heavy-hitting games are just around the corner.
With Nintendo taking a rain check on this year’s E3, the stage is set for Sony and Microsoft to delve into the minutia regarding their respective consoles. One would expect a specific release date to be confirmed alongside potential pricing for both the Xbox One and Playstation 4. We know for sure that the Xbox One will be released later this year, and, perhaps more importantly, after positioning itself as a primary entertainment device, Microsoft has diverged from Sony’s initial core gaming mission statement back in February. It’s a discrepancy that will most likely evolve over the course of E3 and, right now, both are battling fiercely for the next-gen mindshare. The two industry giants will step into the ring on June 10th, the only question is: which corner will you champion? The blue or the green?
Let us know your knee-jerk reaction to today’s reveal of the Xbox One in the comments below and tell us which company you think holds the majority of excitement ahead of E3, too.Previous