Feature – Industy Impact E3 2013 And Microsoft Policy Change Discussion

E3-2013-Staff-Discussion

E3 2013 may have been the most anticipated trade show of this century, even though Sony and Microsoft‘s hardware reveals were both executed prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The games industry retained heavy anticipation as to what software would be on display, and where Sony would land on the hot button issues that had plagued Microsoft since it’s Xbox One reveal. Needless to say there were a ton of loose ends heading into the Los Angeles Convention Center. Our staff took a moment to have a round table discussion on the ups and downs of E3, as well as Microsoft’s subsequent policy changes after the conference wrapped up. Sit back, relax, and ready your gas soaked cloths and lighters. Odds are that we’ll see some flames before this things wraps up. As you may notice some of our writers aren’t involved in the discussion, rest assured they’re alive and well, this simply means they didn’t devote a week to E3 like some of us did. Even though the full staff wasn’t completely up to speed, we still have our Xbox 360 Reviewer (Nick), the Editor of Entertainment (Kyle), our News Editor (Nate), our Late to the Party Reviewer (Dale), and yours truly Chief Editor (Dylan) on hand to discuss E3 2013 and the subsequent fallout afterward.

Just a quick note – Dale’s answers will pick up at question #4.

1. Did E3 2013 live up to the hype, what were you expecting heading in?

Nate: It certainly did for me. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary for the first E3 of a new generation to be honest. New IPs, stellar visual fidelity, and surprise announcements were the norm and I was anticipating that from the start.

Kyle: Erm, yes? It’s about what I expected so I suppose that’s living up to the hype, yes?

Nick: I’m more of a comic book and science fiction fan when it comes to conventions. As such, I really don’t pay much attention to gaming conventions, E3 included. Heck, I barely read the news about the Cauliflower Alley Club convention, and I write the site’s wrestling column. As such, I didn’t really have many expectations, save for the fact that this would not be the typical convention with panels, because the name “Expo” is in the title. Basically, I expected the whole thing to be an extended commercial of the latest and greatest games. That being said, E3 definitely lived up to expectations, since it was the first E3 in a long time to have two new consoles. There were plenty of games on display, both major consoles got their showcases, and we basically got to see what’s in store for most of the upcoming year.

Dylan: I’d say so. The console reveals were out of the way prior to E3, so I was expecting a ton of software, and that’s exactly what I got.

2. What was the biggest surprise announcement?

Nate: Definitely the $400 price tag for the PS4. I knew Sony was striving to make sure everyone knew they were serious about bringing their A game, but this totally took me by surprise, especially after witnessing the $500 bomb drop at Microsoft’s conference.

Kyle: It was more of a non-announcement than anything but Sony not following suit with Microsoft on the features they’ve since back off on. I didn’t really expect them to but at the same time, the fact that they didn’t was surprising if for no other reason than because it showed them as the clear victor.

Nick: Well, for me, it was the fact that we’re getting another Dragon Age game. There was absolutely NO indication before E3 that that was going to happen, and the fact that it was announced at the start of the E3 panel instead of the Ubisoft panel was all kinds of jarring.

Dylan: That would be Sony’s Jack Tretton and his interpretation of a mic drop

Trettondrop

3. What game won best in show?

Nate: Metal Gear Solid V. I’ve always been a big Metal Gear fan, but just seeing what was being shown on screen for the first time really got my hype meter into overdrive. Realtime day/night cycles and weather, coupled with tackling missions in a multitude of ways, all of which in an open world with the visuals that I saw? Sign me up. SIGN ME UP!

Kyle: Definitely Watch Dogs. The trailer shown at E3 was ridiculous and the plot just seems like a lot of fun.

Nick: For me, it’s between Batman: Arkham Origins and Forza Motorsport 5. I admit that I may be a little biased on the latter because YOU CAN DRIVE A MCLAREN MODEL OF WHICH ONLY TWO EXIST! (Yes, that was shouting very loudly.) Need For Speed may have McLaren vehicles, but when you have a vehicle exclusive like that, one has to think that there are other exclusives for the game. As for Arkham Origins, I will always be a Batman fan. I wish that they had chosen a different voice actor for the titular character – Bruce Greenwood did a great job as the Darkknight Detective in Batman: Under The Red Hood and would have been my pick if they didn’t go with Kevin Conroy – but the man that voiced Ezio Auditore da Firenze in the Assassin’s Creed series at least has video game voice acting under his belt.

Dylan: For me it was Tom Clancy’s The Division. I felt like this title came out of nowhere the same way that Watch Dogs did last year. Only this time an impressive gameplay trailer was on hand.

4. Which hardware manufacturer (Sony or MS) won best in show?

Nate: I have to give it to Sony. The PS4 is a downright gorgeous piece of tech. Their press conference hit all the right notes at just the right times. Beautiful console, beautiful controller, affordable price, and not least of all bringing some great games at launch.

Kyle: I think it’s quite obviously Sony.

Nick: For the actual event, I am going to go with Sony. Microsoft made a good presentation, don’t get me wrong. But in spite of the convention’s name, E3 is about gaming, and the PlayStation made it quite clear from the get-go that, whatever gimmicks the console may have, those gimmicks are specifically for gaming. Even when Microsoft tried to focus on the games, they couldn’t help but repeatedly go back to the connect and to cloud computing. The XOne (I almost typed X-Wing in there) may be the best entertainment setup money can buy (provided you have $650 – or more, depending on how much sales tax your area charges – to spare), but barring Forza, most of the console exclusives were nice, if underwhelming. I felt like Sony tried to give people new things outside of the original announcement press conference, whereas Microsoft gave us a variation on their previous announcement conference.

Dale: Sony blew Microsoft out of the water. They were the toast of E3.

Dylan: Sony and the Playstation 4, hands down.

5. Anything you were severely disappointed by?

Nate: Super Mario 3D World. I love Nintendo, I’ve owned almost all their consoles since the NES bar one (Wii) and also own the Wii U, and I’ve always held their franchises dear to my heart since I was a kid. But I was expecting much more from what I saw of the game. Some as evolutionary as SM64 to Sunshine, and from Sunshine to the Galaxy games. While it looks fun and visually appealing, it just seems to retread old ground of Super Mario 3D Land of the 3DS.

Kyle: I guess the design of the PS4. I don’t really care about what it looks like but I can’t really say that it looks particularly good. Though, I think it’s pretty telling how things went that my biggest disappointment is what the console looks like.

Nick: Nintendo basically let the games panels be their presence for the event. I know that this was something about which everybody knew, but when you have a system that runs at a lower price than the rest, and a hand held console that has technology that nobody else seems to be using, you really feel like they could have done more. How is having Deus Ex and Bayonetta 2 coming to the Wii U not bigger news for the system? What about some of the great 3DS titles? With all the game announcements, it felt like they could have put together a panel if they wanted to, and chose to just step back from the fray. Sure, the Wii U doesn’t have the insanely powerful hardware specs of its two competitors, but the Wii was running a single-core 700+ MHz processor against tri-core 3 GHz machines, and still managed a decent market share. More to the point, Nintendo had some sort of conference at E3 for all the years the Wii was out. I don’t know why, but I feel like not having a showcase for the Wii U does the console a disservice.

Dale: Xbox One. The news about their policies completely overshadowed anything they were trying to do at E3. They wasted their biggest opportunity to gain business before release.

Dylan: I don’t think it was a severe disappointment, but I was really hoping to see a few more Sony first party titles.

6. What console did you want to buy after June 10ths media briefings had wrapped up?

Nate: Have my PS4 preordered and ready to go. Sony just came out and said all the things I wanted to hear, and bare in mind this was before Microsoft’s DRM reversal. No used games block, no online required, $400, and overall just showing a position of humility for the consumer jived well with me.

Kyle: Easily the PS4.

Nick: Strangely, I actually felt inclined to (eventually – planning on being a broke college student again sometime soon) get an Xbox One. It might be that I don’t like trolling, it might be that so many people were saying Sony struck a knock-out blow when, let’s face it, it was more like a grazing shot to the knee, but there was this visceral reaction that made me go, “Well, Sony lost my business.” If you’ve read my wrestling articles, you know how I feel about Sheamus’ recent actions. Sony made me feel the same way. It wasn’t enough for them to build up the best points of their system while ignoring the other console, like Microsoft did. They dragged out every single negative point about the One and thumbed their noses with their tongues in their cheeks. Actually, Dylan can back me up on this – what I actually said immediately after the figurative smoke had cleared was something along the lines of, “Forget this, I’m getting a Wii U.” Part of me still feels the same way, especially since I have a gigantic external hard drive and would love to stop needing to dig out my N64 any time I’m feeling old school.

Dale: PS4 is the only logical answer. They did everything right. Microsoft did everything wrong.

Dylan: Playstation 4 hands down.

7. Microsoft has (for the time being) abandoned it’s entire strategy for the Xbox One. What kind of impression does their back peddle on policies leave you with? Does it make the Xbox One more or less appealing?

Nate: It makes it a hundred times more appealing to me. Despite my enthusiasm for both the PS4 as well as my love for all things Nintendo, I’ve also been a large Xbox fan since the original, and I was there day 1, walking home console in one hand and Halo CE in the other. I really wanted to own the Xbox One, but it previously didn’t appeal to me as a large percentage of the games I buy are used. It’s how I can afford all the games I do. So going back on all of it, I’m actually super excited to be able to own one now, as I thoroughly enjoy the Xbox exclusives like Halo, Forza, Gears, and others.

Kyle: For me, it doesn’t change a whole lot. I think I’ve already made it clear that I’m a Sony guy because of the issues I’ve had with Xbox products in the past so I’m inherently distrustful of their products to begin with. The fact that they did abandon the features is good PR but overall, I think the damage was already done. Oddly enough, less appealing because there isn’t enough difference between it and the PS4 for me to even really toy with the idea of getting the Xbone if I already get a PS4, especially with the latter being $100 cheaper.

Nick: Well, you can’t say that Microsoft doesn’t listen to customer feedback. They’ve been touting themselves as the company that listens to customers ever since they came out with Windows 7. Remember those commercials where the average person said, “My name is __________, and I made Windows 7.”? It feels like that’s kind of what happened here. I still don’t think I’m going to get either console, but I do feel inclined to buy an Xbox One instead of PS4 if I ever manage to have enough money to make the purchase.

Dale: I’m not really looking to buy a new console for probably a year after they’re both out, so the policy change will be a distant memory by the time I choose a system. The one thing I will say is that the mandatory Kinect attachment still bugs me – it’s useless for someone like me and adds $100 to the price. I’m still leaning toward PS4 simply because of this.

Dylan: Microsoft jumped the gun with the Xbox One. The approach that was taken on the Xbox One won’t work for another ten years when it comes to home consoles, maybe even longer. MS changing their policies this soon wasn’t something I saw coming. After E3 it looked pretty clear they were in it for the long haul, but numbers don’t lie. I’m not sure how I feel about the flip flop, I mean, who can blame them? They were sure to fail if they’d stuck to their guns, but I feel like they were trying to force gamers into something they didn’t want, and they shouldn’t get a clean slate because they chose to fold under the pressure. It sure does make the Xbox One a much more attractive system, but I’m still not in the market for one.

8. Is Microsoft reacting to less than stellar sales figures, or do they really have gamers best interests at heart?

Nate: I’m not sure what exactly they’re reacting to, but one thing is for sure, they know consumers win everything. Sure, they probably have seen terrible preorder figures, but what did that tell them? That told them that gamers are voting with their wallet, and chose the other company’s angle over theirs. They felt the vicegrip, and in the end they ultimately had to listen to the consumer.

Kyle: It’s quite clearly the sales figures because if they truly had the best interests at heart then they never would’ve introduced the features in the first place.

Nick: It’s probably a little bit of both. I feel the need to once again bring up Windows 7. When Windows XP came out, it was quite possibly the best and most widely-adopted (and kept) Microsoft OS since Windows 3.1 In spite of all of its problems, it actually was (and still is) popular enough to receive a gigantic amount of software upgrades throughout the years. This included multiple overhauls called Service Packs. However, when Microsoft decided to go to their next operating system, Windows Vista, users retreated in droves. People would actually by systems with Vista on them, and then attempt to downgrade their OS. Honestly, I think that customer feedback, coupled with sales figures that barely put them at the same income level (but not the same profit margin) as Sony, has Microsoft fearing that the 360 is XP, and if they’re not careful, the One will be the console version of Vista. While that would be quite amusing – people getting the One, and then turning around and getting a 360 instead – I don’t think that’s what Microsoft wants. At the end of the day, Microsoft is a profit-driven corporation. Gamers getting a good deal because of sound economics is just a bonus.

Dale: Microsoft got their asses handed to them at E3 and the backlash has done nothing but gain more momentum since then. Backtracking was the only way for them to save face. If they would’ve held their original course, they would have been digging their own grave. It was a self preservation move.

Dylan: Clearly they weren’t seeing the pre-order numbers they wanted. E3 week is when a ton of pre-sales take place, and they were surely falling under what the company was expecting. If they were ‘listening to feedback’ they’d have adjusted their policies on used games and console connectivity prior to E3. The collective outcry against Microsoft’s policies happened after the Xbox One reveal, not E3.

9. Has Microsoft found a way to slowly pepper their abandoned features in AFTER getting the console into homes?

Nate: I’m not so sure they’ll bring it all back to be honest. They saw the pouring out of fury from both gamers and gaming media alike, and were forced to retreat in the face of the onslaught with their tail between their legs. They would have to be really, really gutsy to have the gall to implement it all back after this. So really I doubt they’ll bring it all back, but the generation after the Xbox One, that’s a whole other story.

Kyle: Not sure but I’m not really willing to find out because they definitely left the door open for that to happen.

Nick: I seriously doubt that they would really pull a sawbuck switch (give you a $10 and say it’s a $20). We’ve recently seen how a basic firmware update from Sony basically fried a decent chunk of PS3s on the PlayStation Network. Suddenly activating DRM and an always-on requirement on the console would require a huge firmware and software update. There are still PS3 users that have Linux on their consoles because they didn’t download the upgrade. I seriously doubt that Microsoft would risk losing a huge chunk of Gold subscribers just to go back to their original plans. The no-DRM, one-time connection setup is probably what they’re going to keep, because it’s a feature from the previous console about which everybody can agree. Does that mean that game developers won’t be able to program their games to work off of the DRM, always-on architecture that still exists? I doubt it. But Microsoft probably won’t be the ones actively engaging in such practices.

Dale: I don’t think it’s any more likely than Sony doing the same thing with the PS4. People will be buying these systems for years, not just at release. Going back to the failed policies after feeling the backlash would be dumb.

Dylan: Well I think they could shoehorn some of the features in at a later date. Take a look at the user experience on the 360 at launch, and what it is today. I’m pretty sure ads weren’t part of my dashboard when I first bought my 360.

There you have it! Our previous discussion about the Xbox One’s reveal was decidedly more fragmented. It seems like E3 2013 has provided the information we all needed to make a decision on which console we want this holiday season. Almost all of us thought that Microsoft wasn’t reacting to traditional ‘consumer feedback’, and that it was more likely that consumer wallets changed their minds. The one place we were all over the board was the best in show question. Every one of us answered that question differently, and that goes to show that no two gamers are exactly alike. Thanks for joining us!
Follow Meh

Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
Follow Meh