How to win at E3: Sony savages Microsoft on pricing, DRM, used games, and then adds insult to injury
Sony's press conference was a hot, long-winded, and often awkward affair. They brought out a Sony executive to make vague promises about movies and music coming to the PlayStation 4. There was little Vita news and, even worse, some of the big-name demos suffered from stutters or freezes. The Assassin's Creed 4 demo was cut short, with the player on stage shrugging apologetically.
Then Jack Tretton got up in front of the crowd, and Sony began to play the Rains of Castemere.
This is what it looks like when someone knows they have their rivals dead to rights. Sony beat this drum relentlessly: You can loan games to your friends. You can do whatever you want with your discs. The system will not ask you to check in every 24 hours. If you want to play your single-player games without an Internet connection, do so.
The crowd went wild as Tretton listed feature after feature that we're used to having, things that should not be news, but that now seem like brave moves after Microsoft's crusade to control how and when we game using the Xbox One.
The news was so welcome that many didn't notice that Sony slipped in a quick change to the PlayStation Plus service: You'll now need to sign up and pay for the ability to play games online. Sony is allowing gamers to play their games in the way we've been accustomed this entire generation, but they'll begin to charge for online play, and to gamers this seems like an incredible deal. It's hard to imagine Sony being any happier with the hand that has been dealt them by Microsoft's actions.
Sony has savaged Microsoft since both systems were announced. Where Microsoft struggled to explain even basic details about the Xbox One to the press, Sony simply stressed that they had a system for gamers, where smaller devs were welcome. Where Microsoft had to create a multi-page document explaining how often you'd need to connect to play your games, Sony simply shrugs and says you can play wherever and whenever you'd like. Microsoft requires you to be “friends” with someone for 30 days before you can “give” them a game, and Sony creates funny videos mocking the practice and allows you to just hand someone a disc.
This isn't a PR fight, it's straight up murder.
Then Sony drops one last bomb: The PlayStation 4 will be $399.99, a full $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. It's a system that costs significantly less, that doesn't saddle you with invasive DRM, and puts the focus squarely on games. None of this should be news, but Microsoft has moved the goalposts so far, so successfully, that Sony now looks like the hero for not giving in the temptations of DRM.
Oh, and the PlayStation 4 won't be region locked. Because why should it? Have fun with your Japanese games!
The rest of the week will be awkward for Microsoft, as they have to justify their price, and talk about policies that Sony won't be mirroring, and that many gamers find abhorrent. For Sony, it's time for a victory lap. They came, they saw, they conquered, and all they had to do was stay in the same place.