The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as the hep cats like to call it, is underway in Lotusland. It is here where game makers flaunt their upcoming wares to industry insiders, and this year the show has a particularly keen edge due to the unveiling of the next generation consoles for Sony and Microsoft that will hit the market later this year. Yesterday, the stage at Sony’s E3 press conference was awash with a series of uncannily wise moves by the company.
It’s exciting for a video game historian to watch as a new generation of game consoles is unveiled, as so many have been before. For sure, we all want to find out about the specs under the hoods, and about the new games that will use all that fancy tech to bring new experiences to our screens. New IPs are marvelled at, and continuations of old favourites are warmly welcomed. Amid endless sturm and drang, systems and games are paraded across giant screens to the accompaniment of driving soundtracks amid flashy stage lighting, all designed to get a rise out of the crowd. The biggest audience reaction, however, came during the Sony E3 conference. For a lot of people, E3 2013 was Sony’s show to lose, after Microsoft had unveiled their new console, the Xbox One, earlier in the day. The reason? Not a lack of hardware specs on the new Xbox’s part. Not a dearth of exciting games.
No, the talk of MS having already fumbled this next video game console cycle comes because of the draconian DRM system for the Xbox One. While video games may not stir passions quite as much as Mel Gibson’s famous speech in Braveheart, the people in the audience watching Sony explain the lack of any extra DRM on their machine, and likely those around the world watching the live stream, were standing and cheering their freedom. The freedom to trade in, buy and play used games without additional fees. Freedom from being denied the ability to play your games, even in single player mode, if you lose your internet connection or otherwise can’t authenticate your honesty with a company’s servers. The freedom to sell or lend your legally bought game to a friend. They may take our free multiplayer, but they’ll never take our FREEDOOOOOOOOM!!!
Even President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Jack Trenton seemed suprised at the visceral reaction of the crowd. The other devastating broadside Sony launched at MS towards the end of the conference, that the PS4 will be $100 cheaper than the Xbox One, was the only other announcement that got a similar response. It goes to show that while gamers want the latest and greatest in games, they also want the ability to play those games. Without onerous restrictions.
In this day and age, with the twisted type of “free market” capitalism we’ve grown accustomed to, where there never seems to be anything approaching a level playing field, there always seems to be fair amount of industrial collusion going on. This time, though, Sony is not playing ball. They came on strong at E3 with a big FU to DRM, and I think Microsoft just got Xboned.
Here is video of Sony’s E3 2013 press conference. The fireworks start at 1:24:24.