This week at Gamescom in Germany, we got to see the future plans from Sony and Microsoft for the holiday season and beyond. Specifically, we saw the rebirth of some original ideas, and a little bit of copying and finger-pointing from one of the two.
First, let's start off with Microsoft. The Xbox presentation in Cologne was refreshing in that it brought back some vigor within the brand and gave gamers hope that this generation of console truly can be innovative. Games were plentiful, there was a proven commitment to independent developers and we got to see the Xbox One finally come out of the shell it was placed in since E3. No major vision changes and instead the message was around the fact that the Xbox One is trying to go back to what made people excited for it. While we didn't see a console without an optical drive or the original idea to share games with your friends, in true Microsoft fashion, the company announced it has purchased exclusive rights to the upcoming Tomb Raider game, locking it on the Xbox One for a "duration" of time. When pressed, Xbox head Phil Spencer would not give a specific length of time because, "there are certain things (he's) just not going to talk about because it's a business deal between us (Xbox) and them." This exclusivity combined with the dozens of top titles coming to the platform has brought energy back to the Microsoft brand, which has been slacking in terms of sales performance when compared to the PlayStation 4.
Speaking of Sony, the entire conference seemed to be presented with a chip on its figurative shoulder. The message that was repeated was "this is for the players" however it felt like those onstage were doing it for Sony instead. While the games presented were fantastic, as expected, the underlying tone did not change since E3. Sony is still not a master at the art of subtlety, and again Sony is yelling that the PlayStation 4 is the best console, instead of just proving it is through the console's offering itself.
The good news is that Sony announced an idea we thought we'd never have in this current generation of consoles: digital game sharing. The idea that originally came out of the Xbox camp has now made its way over to the PlayStation 4. The difference is in the implementation, though. While the Xbox One was going to allow unlimited sharing of your digital titles to up to five of your friends for an unlimited amount of time, Microsoft failed to properly relay its vision and message to its fans and all they heard was "DRM", causing Microsoft to backtrack on the plan altogether. On the other hand, the PlayStation will allow you to share a game with your friend as many times as you want, but only for an hour each session. Yes, you'll still need an active Internet connection to do it even if Sony didn't say it outright.
And then there's the post-presentation interview. Speaking on exclusivity, Jim Ryan from PlayStation Europe said that Sony doesn't just buy up exclusive rights.
So do we feel the need to go out and buy outright exclusivity? Probably not. You saw last night (at Sony's press conference) that before the media briefing we showed updated videos of games that we had revealed at E3. That's because we wanted to keep the show itself full of new, fresh things. We think that gave us a good, strong, convincing portfolio of exclusive stuff, and we're happy with that.
But Sony buys up games all the time, especially indie games. Immediately after that statement, Ryan went on to say just that.
...the icing on the cake is that we will go out and look at a small number of games and seek to help the developer make those games as successful as they possibly can, and that support can take a whole range of forms. It can take the form of financial support, it can take the form of having Sean Murray from Hello Games on the stage at E3-there are many ways to do it, and we try not to be prescriptive and say 'this is the template you have to follow, this is the path.'
So, Sony is brushing off Xbox's exclusivity as weak when they turn around and do the same thing. Do you think PlayStation is still bitter over losing the exclusive rights to the Metal Gear Solid franchise? All of this is typical of where we are in this current "console war" and none of it should come across as surprising, especially considering the party of which it is coming from. In the meantime, I'll be waiting to play Final Fantasy XIV and Dust 514 on my Xbox One. Oh wait, I can't, because they're PS4 exclusives.