With Xbox One Gaining Momentum, Sony Still Has Confidence

With Xbox One Gaining Momentum, Sony Still Has Confidence

The most remarkable thing about Sony's Gamescom press conference today wasn't the big game announcements (Sony still loves indie games) or the PS4 feature demonstrations (the new menu looks like a video game console menu). It was Sony's overarching, at times infectious confidence.

While the event didn't have the same razzle-dazzle of their PS4 reveal event or their megaton E3 showing, Sony's confidence remained evident at every moment of their blue-hued stage show. Well... OK, not every moment; the cameraperson might have had a few too many cups of coffee:

With Xbox One Gaining Momentum, Sony Still Has Confidence

Sony mostly treated today's press conference as an expected waypoint on the way to the PS4's release, and as an opportunity to flesh out the broader infrastructure atop which it will sit. Specifically their Vita handheld, which now makes more sense than it ever has, both as a clearinghouse for cheap-to-publish, terrific indie games and as a fantastic-looking accessory for the PS4. (I truly hope the Vita's off-TV remote play works as well as it did in that demonstration. I've been wanting to do that on my Vita ever since remote play was announced — but sporadically implemented — for the PS3.)

In between the indie game onslaught, the welcome focus on the Vita, the granular PS4 reveals and the release-date announcement was a relaxed, calm assuredness that Sony clearly hopes will continue to set them apart from their biggest competitor, Microsoft.

Sony managed to maintain a measured on-stage attitude that didn't quite edge over into swagger... for the most part, anyway, as Sony's Andrew House couldn't resist taking a shot at Microsoft's inconsistent Xbox One messaging.

"While others have shifted their message and changed their story," House said, briefly interrupted by hoots and applause from the audience, "we were consistent in maintaining policies and a model that is fair and in tune with consumer desires."

The potshot at Microsoft made for good console-wars theatre, but it's also worth noting that it was one of the only shots Sony has left to take. Sure, it's been amusing watching Microsoft futzabout like The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight, but they've also managed to turn around their most unpopular Xbox One policies and come up with a console that is, in terms of features, very similar to the PS4.

There are differences: The Vita is a distinct asset for the PS4, albeit an expensive one. Kinect is a distinct asset for the Xbox One, albeit one that reasonable gamers have a lot of doubts about, and one that might not wind up being all that different from Sony's sold-separately PS4 camera. As Sony's Shuhei Yoshida snarkily pointed out on Twitter shortly after today's event, the PS4 will be launching in 32 countries, significantly more than the Xbox One's 13. And each console will have its own passel of exclusive games, any combination of which could theoretically tip the scales one way or the other. But when you strip things down to the big black box, the consoles are more alike now than they've yet been.

Back at E3, Sony used their evening press conference to loudly, publicly declare their differences from Microsoft. It was the sort of high drama that we rarely get to see anymore, a real "Genesis does what Nintendon't" moment.

But back then — oh, to refer to something that happened a couple months ago as "back then!" — Microsoft was making it easy for Sony. Microsoft's unpopular Xbox One DRM and Internet-requirement set their console apart in an obvious, negative way. All Sony had to do was mention those differences and their work was done.

Since then, Microsoft has significantly changed course, dropping the Xbox One's Internet requirement and used games DRM and levelling the playing field in a way that's good for everyone. (At least, that was my take: There were plenty of people who were disappointed that Microsoft changed course.) And just earlier today, they finally outlined their indie games publishing strategy, [email protected], which should lead to all kinds of interesting indie games getting published on Xbox One. (While some have described this as "another 180" for Microsoft, that seems like a stretch. It's not a huge surprise to see them supporting indies, given how ahead-of-the-curve Microsoft was in many ways with their imperfect but groundbreaking Xbox Live Indies program.)

At this point, the most notable thing left setting Sony and the PS4 apart from Microsoft and the Xbox One is Sony's confidence and consistency, so it makes sense to see them leaning on it a bit. By outward appearances, they are the better-run, more clear-eyed competitor in this fight, and while Microsoft has managed to adjust their product in a way that matches Sony's in terms of features, everyone at Sony is hoping you remember who had more of their shit together, earlier.

While others have shifted their message and stories we have been consistent #PS4 #PlayStationGC — PlayStation Europe (@PlayStationEU) August 20, 2013

It's all good rhetoric, but there are a number of things to keep in mind: My gut says that when it comes down to it, most gamers care less about the consistency of marketing leading up to a console release and more about the actual console itself. Furthermore, a number of the ideas that Microsoft has cut from the Xbox One could still return in some form, and a few of them sound interesting and, more importantly, distinct from the PS4. It could well be that in the not-so-distant future, the things setting Microsoft's console apart from Sony's will make the Xbox One seem more desirable, not less.

We're attracted to confidence; it's something we look for in business associates, bosses, romantic partners, and, yes, the people who sell us things. But all of this pre-release fighting won't matter all that much once the consoles are on the market and ready to be played. And while it's been fun to watch Sony cruise toward November with a grin and a wave, time will tell whether their confidence will actually translate to a better experience with the PS4.


    Wow another potshot at Microsoft........how trollish of them

      Labelling Andrew House's comment as trolling doesn't change the simple fact that Microsoft has changed course repeatedly. It also doesn't change the likelihood that Microsoft will continue vacillate on its policies and messaging.

    why not? and it was just one sentence. audience liked it.

    Anyone who looks, and pretty much acts, like Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish shouldn't be trusted.

      Next Gen Consoles aren't a pit, they are a ladder, many who tried climbing it fail, and never get to try again, the fall breaks them... and some are given a chance to climb but they refuse, they cling to The Realm, or the gods, or love; illusions. Only the ladder is real... The climb is all there is.

        haha +1 to both of you :)

    I think a lot of people's minds were made a few months ago which is Microsoft's problem. They might've convinced a few people who would've traditionally have had Xboxes rather than Playstations under their TV to reconsider the Xbox One, but a fair few people (judging by internet comments and forums, ever reliable the internet is) have put their money down on the PS4. Over time things will level out once more.

    Strangely though I'm most excited about how similar the machines are to each other and to PCs. This will make it a lot easier for developers to create cross-platform games rather than having to write code for two different architectures which leads to Fallout/Elder Scrolls style crashes and bugs, as well as PC ports hopefully being up to scratch.

      I think the key difference thqt not too many people are picking up on is that Microsoft has a clear long term goal for the Xbox One. where as Sony is focusing on what is now.

        Sony also have a long term plan, hence something like Gaikai for streaming games and digital downloads of games, music and movies amogst other things, they're just not being as vocal about it as Microsoft. Where Microsoft failed a few months ago was focusing more on the future than what gamers want and need now but they've since learned from that. You need to focus on now, but hint at the future like Sony did

        Essentially, both machines are quite similar in hardware but also in the services they will provide.

        What is that long-term goal, other than the walled garden across all platforms? I'm being genuine, because if their long-term goal is the TV stuff, their living ten years ago.

      I know mine is, i'm wondering whether or not to pick up a PS4 or just stick with my pc for the next generation. XBone isn't even a consideration.

      I'm in the same boat, hopefully we'll go back to a time where games are developed on pc then scaled for console rather then the crappy ports we've struggled to enjoy for the last generation. The other thing i'd really like to see is cross platform multiplayer. I should be able to race my friend on playstation in NFS from my pc.

    To me, it seems that Sony are simply attempting to shine a light on what seems to be a fairly successful attempt by their direct competitor to whitewash and PR-spin over massively anti-consumer policies that were core to their entire vision barely a few months ago.

    MS are getting a lot of good press recently about removing the always-on aspect of the Kinect, for removing it entirely as a necessary plug-in, for finally starting to provide an Indie platform taht doesn't shunt them off and have massively unfair publishing requirements.

    There are a lot of positive steps being taken - which is great. However, simply fixing massive flaws that you **built into your core concept and wanted people to applaud** doesn't, and shouldn't, balance the fact you built them in the first place.

    Saying something along the lines of "Great, glad to see you join us up here in the orphanage after spending all your time voluntarily murdering children" is important, and valid.

      It's important to note that using terms like 'built' and 'voluntarily murdering children' is silly because the console hasn't even been released, and isn't even close. It was still 4 months away at the times of these announcements and they changed in a matter of weeks.

        Exactly, what matters is what ends up on the shelves.

        And let's not forget that Sony has made the same mistakes in the past (the boomerang controller, the insane number of outputs promised on the PS3), and no-one seems to care about that anymore.

        It's also important to note that he said it was "built into your core concept"... and is irrelevant to whether the console has been released or not. It was their INTENTION. Intention is a big thing... you can go to jail if you have the wrong intention... like the gamer that posted the satirical thing about eating the hearts of kids. Using the "voluntarily murdering children" example is hyperbole; exaggeration to illustrate a point.

        Here's a less exaggerated example:

        Imagine two supermarkets are being announced to open. One of them announces that they're going to weigh all customers briefly upon entering and leaving to make sure that there is no shoplifting(online DRM). The same store also announces that there will be trolleys available to every customer; in fact you need to take a trolley and won't be permitted to walk around without one(Kinect). The other store doesn't. Some customers won't care about being weighed(like an airport frisk; but then a lot of people do), or that they have to take a trolley(as they would anyway). And then you have people that are crying that they don't get to be weighed and that they're not forced to push trolleys and somehow their shopping experience is suddenly worst and not "next-gen" because the store has had a change of policy to be like the other store.

        It's something that shouldn't have occurred in the first place. Just like the Xbox One's restrictive concepts. Basically getting rid of negatives should not be toted as a positive, however it's a step in the right direction.

          and you havnt mentioned an analogy to the good bits like sharing with 10 friends. If i could get my shopping done for 10 people and only pay for one at the cost of getting weighed once a day and use a trolly ......hell yeah sign me up!

          Last edited 21/08/13 11:59 pm

            I can't believe anyone would think that Microsoft after all they were doing with DRM was seriously going to let 10 copies of a game be shared unrestricted for the price of one copy. Please.

              Remember that used games were going to be a thing of the past in this scenario.

              Yeah I too thought it was hard to believe, but I guess we will never now.....i was excited about having to very different consoles....now there's really no point owning both.....well except for a few exclusives in each camp :'(

            Okay here's that analogy:

            The supermarket also has a deal going on. For every consumable item sold, up to 10 friends may also take the same item from the store. However, while you may keep your item indefinitely(or until the store closes down, whichever comes first), your friends must return all of their items without modification to the store within 1 hour.

            Last edited 22/08/13 5:01 pm

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