Where Hast Mine Passion Gone

E3 2013 - Microsoft Drops The Ball, Sony Drops The Mike

Concerns aplenty abound with the XBox One coming into E3. Their system announcement press conference last month was less than well received by many and it seemed as though people were more than a little concerned with some of the stipulations that Microsoft announced they would be placing on their new console.

According to Microsoft you would be unable to play games unless you connected to the internet once every 24 hours. Huge restrictions would be put into place that would make it very difficult to buy used games and practically impossible to lend or rent them. The machine would come with a Microsoft Kinect that you would be unable to disconnect, and every game you purchased would have to be downloaded onto the hard drive which would be completely non-expandable.

Nonetheless I wanted to withhold judgement until I saw what they had to offer at E3. I thought Sony certainly had the momentum leading into the event, but it was conceivable that Microsoft could claw it's way back.

Microsoft took the stage around noon and gave about as standard an E3 Presser as one would expect. They showcased a handful of games, rolled out some trailers of sequels to some of their major exclusive franchises, announced a $499 price point, and arguably escaped the hour unscathed. They didn't really address any of the major issues people were concerned with after their debacle of a press conference last month, but it also sort of seemed like maybe the whole thing would be temporarily swept under the rug.

When Sony took the stage around eight hours later people expected more of the same from what they saw out of Microsoft, and for most of the presser that is exactly what we got. It was looking like it was basically going to be a wash in terms of software support. Whichever consoles' exclusive content was more suited to your personal tastes was likely the console you were leaving E3 being most stoked about.

And then Jack Tretton took the stage.

Jack Tretton is a man I have been poking fun at for many years. It has been abundantly clear to anyone paying attention that press conferences were never going to be his strong suit. He seemed like a nice enough man, someone who reminded you of a neighbour or a pleasant school teacher, but one that likely shouldn't have been taking the stage during Playstation's biggest moment of the year. Little did I or likely anyone else know that he would take the piss out of Microsoft with such shocking surgical precision.

How did XBox President Don Mattrick respond to this dismantling? Why with this gem of a quote:

"Fortunately we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity, it's called XBox 360... if you have zero access to the internet, that is an offline device."

Sony made a point of highlighting just how absurd a lot of the stipulations surrounding the XBox One really were. If anyone had temporarily forgotten about these issues, they were quickly reminded. Microsoft chose to respond to this with an almost rebellious apathy.

I've written before that Sony struggled mightily with the launch of the PS3 to really capture an identity for itself as well as figuring out a way to connect with it's core fan base. The machine was difficult to program for which led to a weak initial lineup of games. Sony seemed more concerned with people using the PS3 as a Blu Ray Player than a videogame console, and the cost at launch was too high for most people to swallow.

Perhaps they won E3 more by default than anything else, but to me it seemed like a continuation of a matured philosophy that we started to see the remnants of during the PS4 launch presser back in mid February. Sony has taken the appropriate measures to try and recconnect with game designers and consumers. Sony has always suceeded when it's focus has been on gamers and it seems that they have learned from their mistakes.

The same can not be said about Microsoft. E3 could have been an opportunity to clear the air and to get back in the race. Instead their message has been made loud and clear. We do not care what you think. We do not care if you can't connect to the internet. We are going to jerk around the consumer and the retailer.

E3 told the story of two companies going in very different directions. One which seems compelled to do right by it's fan base, and one which barely even seems to be paying attention. One which seems like it spent a lot of time over the last seven years listening, and one which maybe needs to spend a little bit more time outside of it's board rooms.

Jack Tretton's final announcement during his spiel was that the PS4 would launch at $399, a hundred dollars less than the XBox One. The final nail in the coffin to close out the press conference had them showcasing world premier footage of Destiny, Bungie's new first person shooter. To be the first console to show off gameplay footage of a game from a company that used to be owned by Microsoft, and one that had an exclusive relationship with XBox for close to ten years seemed almost cruel. It was the crushing blow, the fatality that really showcased just how far Microsoft had fallen.

Sony knocked Microsoft and the XBox One down on the canvass Monday night, and I'm not sure if they will be able to get back up.

Josh Moore