Conventional wisdom among the gaming press said that last night was going to be the one where the other foot dropped for Sony. When all the goodwill they had built up by avoiding questions about DRM and used games at their February reveal would dissipate as they announced a licensing policies similar to Microsoft’s and the next generation’s anti-consumer tone would be ubiquitous among the two leading consoles. But man, oh man was the press ever wrong.
The biggest news to come out of last night’s presser was in regards to those policies which Microsoft had stumbled about with during their reveal in May and didn’t do makes any better when they put up a page last Thursday which clarified some issues, but raised others as well. Sony avoided the DRM pitfalls and made clear that the way consumers buy games now will remain the same. Games can be bought, sold and lent without weird restrictions. They even released this video that satirically shows how sharing works on the PlayStation 4:
Sony continued to build on their consumer friendly image by announcing that the PS4 won’t require continuous online checks, with SCE President Jack Tretton specifically mentioning that the player’s ability to game won’t be cut off after a 24 hour period. To top it all off the PlayStation’s 4 price was announced: $399. A full $100 less than Microsoft’s Xbox One. It was a stark contrast to the reveal of the PlayStation 3, when the $599 price tage was accompanied by a suggestion that you should get another job if you can’t afford one with the job you have now.
While these details were important to clarify and definitely continued the goodwill Sony has going for it, they weren’t the only things to make up the conference. Equally important in making any console purchasing decision is the quality of games and Sony showed an important breadth of them.
The event began by doing what all the other ones did: affirm that just because we are moving into a new generation doesn’t mean the old one will be immediately abandoned. Playing trailers for both The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls served to remind everyone that big titles were still on the way for the PS3. Sony talked ever so briefly about the PlayStation Vita, but told folks that 85 new games are scheduled to release this year, which includes some new Walking Dead content. PS4 games were equally varied, with games like Final Fantasy XV (formerly Final Fantasy Versus XIII), Assassin’s Creed IV, and Infamous: Second Son coming along with another entry in the fan favorite Kingdom Hearts series, Kingdom Hearts 3.
As an indie lover, I was much joyed by not only Sony’s eagerness to show off indie games coming to their console, but the fact that Sony will allow them to self-publish. This more inclusive policy will help add to Sony’s game breadth even further, hopefully allowing for exciting and experimental new games to reach those who don’t use PCs for gaming.
While it’s important to note that PS+ is moving to include multiplayer as part of its service and third parties can still create online pass programs as they’ve had through this generation, the enthusiasm Sony has created for the PS4 and the direct responses to Microsoft’s policies made the event one to go down in E3 history. Whether the market will play out that enthusiasm in the long term and whether Sony will be able to keep the games on their platform attractive remains to be seen.