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The Sony press conference was a masterclass of misdirection [29]
June 12, 2013 *Featured
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The internet appears to have decided that Sony has won E3, if not this round of the console war, based solely on their press conference. I’m not really disputing the former – “winning” E3 always comes down to what the public thinks won E3, and the internet is as good a barometer of that as you’ll find. As to the latter, well… gamers love to complain and are very bad at boycotting anything. Just look at Left 4 Dead 2‘s Steam-based boycott groups, although $499 is quite an incentive to not buy something. Still, it’ll come down to the mass market rather than those of us who watch E3. Time will tell on that front.

But anyway, the press conferences. Microsoft is championing a box that costs $499 (if you’re lucky enough to live in the States, at least; it’s otherwise closer to $670), will not allow you to trade in games the way you always have, is continually watching you with a terrifying robot eye, and has to phone home via the internet every 24 hours or it packs up its toys and sulks. Presumably, the “One” in Xbox One refers to its mental age.

xbox one

I CAN SEE YOU

Sony, on the other hand, is offering a box (which early reports indicate is perhaps slightly more powerful) for $399 that will allow you to trade in games as per the norm, does not have to be connected to the internet for it to continue working, and does not come with a privacy-invading camera that will watch you while you sleep. On all of the points people consider important this year – price, privacy, trade-ins, a lack of rape jokes – Sony wins. (Although I’d be very surprised if they didn’t primarily push a SKU containing a Move controller, for $499.)

The problem is that this ignores a rather large amount of the Sony conference, as well as a rather large amount of the Microsoft conference, and Sony used this to get away with some rather sneaky shit.

First off, let’s take a look at the games. Sony showed off a Quantic Dream tech demo that may or may not be a real game, but was fairly neat anyway. There was The Order 1866, a shooter with a genuinely interesting Victorian London/steampunk setting. Aaaand… that’s about it.

dark sorcerer

This chap is particularly displeased with Microsoft’s licensing policy.

Pretty much everything else we’d already seen, or has already been released/will be released on other platforms: Infamous: Second Son, Elder Scrolls Online, Don’t Starve, Knack, Destiny, Assassin’s Creed 4, Watch Dogs. Even the championed Squenix offerings of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 have since been confirmed for Xbox One.

Now Microsoft. In terms of exclusive reveals, we have Crimson Dragon, the Panzer Dragoon-alike. There’s Dead Rising 3. Killer Instinct is making a return. Halo will both be turning up in short order. There’s Crytek’s Ryse and Swery’s D4. There’s Titanfall, although that’s also coming out on PC. Indie games are thinner on the ground, but there’s still Below from Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP‘s Capybara Games.

If we’re talking purely game reveals then it looks like Microsoft have the advantage, and that’s speaking as someone who doesn’t play Forza and can’t abide Halo. Sony have certainly got the indie titles down, but their biggest reveals at E3 were games that aren’t even exclusives.

Don't Starve (1)

It’s honestly nice to see Don’t Starve hitting other platforms, and it should work pretty damn well on consoles.

Aha, you cry, but the games aren’t important. Sony’s making sure we can still trade in our games without extra hassle! Aha, I respond. But aren’t you the people who were complaining that Microsoft’s Xbox One announcement was all about TV? Which, funnily enough, was something Sony spent awhile talking about during their conference.

To be fair, though, it’s hard to describe the Microsoft conference as anything other than a complete fucking shambles even with this line-up. The dudebro agenda made me cringe, as did being talked down to by men in suits. The insistence that phoning home every 24 hours is fine, and that the lack of used game trade-ins is fine, is staggeringly arrogant and indicates absolutely no desire to listen to gamers. And then there was the off-the-cuff rape joke. If heads aren’t rolling in Redmond, I’ll be disappointed.

But I was talking about Sony doing sneaky shit, so: a little while after the conference, I went and checked comments threads and Twitter and every other medium I have for gauging the public feeling. What I saw slightly disturbed me, because I saw a lot of comments saying things like “Microsoft only cares about money; Sony cares about gamers.”

If you think that, then I’m sorry, but you’ve been fooled. That’s a rather naïve way of thinking, and Sony are using it against you.

Typical offerings left at an Xbox One shrine.

Typical offerings left at an Xbox One shrine.

Sony don’t care about gamers. Generally speaking, few big corporations do – their first responsibility is to their shareholders. If they can make more money for their shareholders by acting like they care (good customer service, say) then they will absolutely do exactly that. And the end of Sony’s press conference? Whew, but that was a phenomenal piece of manipulation.

The end of Sony’s press conference was a staggering series of bodyblows targeted directly at Microsoft, and Microsoft have no-one to blame for this but themselves. SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton took to the stage and announced that the PlayStation 4 would let you trade in games with no extra fuss. That used games would work, right out. That you could lend games to friends. That the PS4 didn’t have to phone home every 24 hours. And the crowd, with good reason, went fucking wild. And off the back of this, Jack Tretton implied that a PS Plus subscription will be required for online multiplayer.

ps plus bulletpoints

Hiding in plain sight.

Did you notice this? Check it out: when discussing PS Plus, Jack Tretton states: “For less than $5 a month, members will get discounted games, cloud saves, automatic game updates, early access to beta programs, an instant game collection, as well as the ability to fully immerse themselves in the incredible PS4 games with online multiplayer.”

Even the big bulletpoints on the back of the wall said as much. “Immersive multiplayer online on PS4”, right next to the PS Plus logo and “Less than $5 a month.” Still not convinced? Right after this, Tretton adds: “And PS4 gamers that aren’t PS Plus members will be able to enjoy the single-player games for free, and access to all of your media services won’t require PS Plus.” Emphasis mine.

Heavy implication: “If you want to play online multiplayer, you’re going to pay us every month.”

Very few people seemed to notice this. Fewer still seemed to care. This, if you’re championing Sony as a bastion of gamers’ rights, is a problem.

PlayStation Plus

Seriously, PS Plus’ Instant Game Collection is a pretty good deal. If you don’t prefer the PC, anyway.

See, here’s the thing: the PS4 is a hell of a lot more consumer friendly than the Xbox One. I’m not disputing that. PS Plus, particularly its Instant Game Collection, is a fantastic deal. The ability to trade in games and play used games is a big thing for a lot of people.

But it’s less consumer friendly than the PS3. Sony are chipping away at the status quo too, but because they sugarcoated it in “Look, we’re not as awful as the Xbox One”, nobody bloody cared.

One of the big things with the current generation of consoles is that the 360 requires an Xbox LIVE Gold account for online play, while the PS3 lets you play online for free. Whenever anyone mentioned the PS3′s lack of functional cross-game chat, or poor store layout, or download/streaming issues, or the Sony hack that resulted in the personal details of 77 million people getting out into the wild (which was kept silent for a week) as well as the total shutdown of the PlayStation Network for a month, the response was “but we’re not paying £40 a year for it.”

misdirection 1

I’ve run out of relevant pictures, so here: have kittens instead.

Welp, now you are. The PS4 is offering you what has always been the industry standard for used games and privacy, but they’re now charging you for online play. You’re cheering them on as defenders of gamers’ rights while they’re actually offering you a worse multiplayer deal than you got with the PS3.

I can only imagine the relief in the Sony offices when Microsoft made such a Titanic-level gaffe with the used games bullshit. It gave them the perfect opportunity to position themselves as the champions of gamers’ rights by doing exactly what they’d always been doing (and had no plans to change), while simultaneously demanding money from PlayStation gamers for something that had previously been free. I can’t blame them for this – Microsoft painted a target on its own back and handed Sony a knife, and Sony would’ve been stupid not to take the opportunity – but I’m a bit disappointed by how few people actually seemed to notice.

The Sony conference was a phenomenally targeted piece of manipulation that took careful aim at Microsoft and opened fire, and then snuck in a removal of free online play with few people noticing. Those who did notice were so elated by “we can still do the same things we always did” that they didn’t really care about the additional charges being levied. Sony have since added that any additional DRM will be decided on by publishers, so if everyone wants to go with online passes for PS4′s pre-owned games then you’ll be paying extra cash to unlock the ability to play online, and then paying Sony for the privilege every month as well. Champions of consumer licensing, indeed.

misdirection 2

Totally not trying to misdirect you and prevent you from flaming me in the comments, by the way. Just saying. Anyway: look! Kittens!

If you’re still not convinced that this is an issue, then look at it like this: assume that Microsoft’s press conference hasn’t happened, and that we know nothing about the used games/online authentication debacle. Assume that this is months ago, and Sony have gone first, and have tried to sneak past a mention that the PS4′s online multiplayer will require $60 a year. People would’ve gone apeshit. All journalistic eyes and internet fury would be aimed at Sony for trying to rip off gamers. Everyone would be asking Sony “so, this ambiguous wording means that you’re now charging for online multiplayer, yes?” and Sony execs would sweat and squirm and try to get out of making a flat confirmation.

But Microsoft single-handedly offered themselves up as a target, lost E3, lost gamer trust, and helped position their primary competitor as the saviour of games. They took aim at their own foot hoping for a flesh wound, and accidentally blew off both legs.

I’m not arguing that the Xbox One is wonderful. I’m arguing that Sony is only wonderful by comparison, and that taken on its own, Sony – the company that cares, according to the internet – is performing a fantastic bit of misdirection to get their hands on more of your money while making you think they’re on your side. By all means, get a PS4, but don’t fall for this. They’re not the gamers’ champions. They’re just the lesser of two evils.

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"29" Comments
  1. Disenchanted M$ Fan

    So Sony is finally charging for playing online, something Micro$oft has done the entire length of time for the life of the XBox/360. Big effin’ woop. It takes a lot of money to maintain servers, and Sony has been kind enough to keep it for free until now. Get over it.

  2. Disenchanted M$ Fan

    BTW,before the trolls and/or robots come out, I have never owned a PS3, and currently own an XBox 360. I will be getting a PS4 this next console go around. I did hava a PS2, not an XBox, so I guess it’s just time to switch….again.

  3. Infamous won’t be on Xbone you need to change that its misleading.

  4. lolthisisasite?

    Games that were shown in February were shown in a short clip at e3.

    Too bad you missed a few exclusives. GG microsoft fanboy.

  5. Oh plz, everyone knew paying for online was coming for PS4, it was no surprise.

    As for software, Sony won hands down Sorry but it takes more than a new Halo to impress nowadays. Titanfall will most certainly be coming to PS4 and Ryse looks like shit.

  6. Is this entire article a troll post? I’m almost exclusively a PC gamer and I can feel my I.Q. dropping reading this drivel.

    I bookmarked this site last month. My mistake.

    • @Turner, you are right , this is a PC site but looking from the outside in has been interesting and we can put aside any “fanboism” because at the end of the day it effects none of us here. But it’s been interesting to watch how both MS and Sony are trying to woo gamers and how things are being overlooked by potential console customers.

    • Are you, are you really because you sound like a whinger so I’m doubting that very much.

  7. How would it be possible for Sony to continue providing free multi-player online gaming to users without taking a substantial loss? I think most gamers are realistic enough to know services come at a cost.

    Thanks for stating the obvious that Sony is a corporation and is trying to make money. I’m glad you explained that to us Tim. Otherwise most of us would never know.

  8. That’s the thing that actually prevents me from praising them too much. I believe Chris Rock put it best:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0B_ekSrsEk

    So…we’re praising them for things they’re SUPPOSED to do???? I’m sorry, but that’s like a guy congratulating himself for remembering to put on pants. Furthermore, like you illustrated, Sony later backtracked on the DRM stuff AND revealed that multiplayer requires PS+, thus making NINTENDO the only company to have free online play. So it’s almost like we’ve been fooled into thinking that \less bad\ someone equals \good.\ Sony’s praise was entirely dependent on MS. Though oddly enough, most of Sony’s successes have been due to others’ failures. Seriously, they got lucky with the PS1 and looks like they lucked out with the PS4.

    All in all the only presser (and it wasn’t even actually a presser) that was good was Nintendo’s due to showing off a lot of product and a few surprises. It actually disturbs me at how people are NOW suddenly okay with online passes when they would shriek to the high heavens about them. I think 3rd parties still haven’t let go of their war on used games nor do I think they’ve given up on DRM. They’re just going to get smarter about it

  9. that umbrella he placed it under was “multiplatforms OR stuff we knew about beforehand”

  10. I admit, it sucks the ps4 will be charging for online. But honestly, I blame myself and every other xbox gamer who let MS make so much money off it for so long. From a business point of view, it would have been silly for sony not to try it. This kind of behaviour is the reason I can’t support the xbone, because if the console is successful then sony will be inclined to follow suite and before you know it DRM and always online are the new standards.

  11. This is freakin’ hilarious. A fairly neutral article, explaining what both companies are doing wrong, and the comments are still painting sony in a virtuous light.

  12. Not that I don/t see your point, but you need to lighten up man. Stop being so cynical.

  13. @Adam,

    Glad to read a post on the internet with common sense, it’s a rarity to find it these days.

  14. This is why I now have a nice gaming PC… :)

  15. Been playing online games on my PC everyday for years and I don’t have to pay any fees other than the internet connection itself.

    What is so special about consoles that you have to pay a monthly fee to play online?

  16. Some excellent points there, Tim.

    But the only thing we could ever to to change the stance of these companies on such topics as DRM, used games, and paying for online multiplayer, is to stop paying… stop buying their products and services. As you say, there are many a forum poster, Twitter-tweeter, and Steam group boycotter who threaten to ‘never buy Sony/Microsoft ever again’ But the secret is for them to actually stick by what they say, which cleary doesn’t happen.

    But yes, I agree with you… the impending threat of DRM, used games being outlawed, and the consoles’ prices, has made some of us a little ignorant to the fact that we seem to have celebrated something that actually leaves us slightly worse off than we are with the current generation of consoles – is that ok? Should we be satisfied with the lesser of two evils?

    Just think of it 7-10 years from now, or whenever the next generation of consoles is out following the Xbox One and PS4 – will they impose tighter restrictions in other ways then, but we’ll be ok with it because ‘we should expect them to charge for certain services’? Well, Sony have been ok not to charge for online multiplayer up until now, what’s changed?

    I dunno, it’s all made out to be way more serious than it possibly even is… but it’s certainly interesting. Bottom line, don’t like their products? Don’t buy them. End.

  17. Good read.

    Yes, it’s good to not have to become embroiled in the spat between the two new consoles, being a PC gamer. /smug

  18. Excellent article.

    This may sound selfish but I already sub to Playstation Plus, so I don’t care. The implications for the industry are honestly, pretty bad, yes, and I don’t condone what Sony is doing but PS+ is a wonderful service. I’ve spent 29 dollars on my three month sub and have already received over 200 dollars worth of value (Free Game Downloads) and that number will continue to grow as they release more and more free games for the \instant game collection\ as well as set in place the massive discounts that PS+ members already enjoy.

    What I’m trying to say is that while this was a sneaky little tactic, PS+ is honestly an excellent service that is deserving of your money regardless of the implications it has on the future of multiplayer on the PS4.

    Also, just as a side note here: At least they didn’t flat out lie about it. It was in the Press Conference, it was verbally mentioned and visually shown. I’m quite happy to pay 60 dollars a year for thousands of dollars worth of Value. Sony are a business, they’re not our fun uncle. The industry is in a dark place right now, let us have our little moment in the sun.

  19. Just to point out the are two factual inaccuracies in your article. Both Knack and Infamous: Second Son are developed and published by Sony via first party development teams and are exclusive to PS4. You also missed Drive Club which, as you did mention Forza 5, should have been mentioned as it is also exclusive to the PS4. Other than that the article is well written and fair.

  20. A little more fuel for the fire:

    ““Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity,” he said bluntly in an interview with Geoff Keighley, a journalist for GameTrailers. “It’s called Xbox 360.”

    Keighley was taken aback, perhaps not surprisingly, and responded with: “So stick with 360, that’s your message if you don’t like it?”

    “Well if you have zero access to the Internet,” Mattrick continued, “that is an offline device.””
    http://thenextweb.com/gadgets/2013/06/12/microsoft-says-players-should-stick-with-360-if-they-cant-get-an-internet-connection-for-xbox-one/

  21. For the sake of all that is commonsense – it was not a “off-the-cuff rape joke”

    Just because a few morons on Twitter talk utter nonsense about a bit of game banter, and press run with it does not make it a thing.

  22. i never was stupid enough to pay for Xblive and never will, i also hate DRM in general.
    Xbone has lost my interest and the PS4 is now out of my sight since they said \pay for online play\, i was thinking about the PS4 if the games were interesting enough but paying for a connection i already pay for is BS on it’s own.

  23. I read about half of this article, and a few others on this blog site…. completely biased towards Microsoft…. this article didn’t surprise me.

  24. @GreyGhost, don’t be too hard on the site. In my opinion it’s just Tim McDonald that posts crappy pieces.

  25. @Tim McDonald “First off, let’s take a look at the games. Sony showed off a Quantic Dream tech demo that may or may not be a real game,”

    Do you or do you not be it to be a real game or not? If you do not know whether it is a real game or not – to suggest it maybe not a real game is just a cheap shot. Maybe or maybe not you are a real journalist, or maybe it’s maybe true that talking bollocks confuses that facts.

    How about reporting on facts? Rather than making shit up and twisting/blending stuff as fact? Just a thought.

  26. DavidTheSlayer

    \Do you or do you not be it to be a real game or not?\ To be or not to be, that is the question lol. It’s only speculation and an interesting tech demo, no need to turn into a demon about it. I for one do actually like Mircrosoft, but they did cock up with the used games and they didn’t quite listen to their fans, so no wonder they’re being ripped for it. There’s definity some good content but it is E3 and well, you know how all sites get, speculation goes nuts, fans wage wars, trolls come out in full, media explodes, then there is us PC gamers in the middle of it all, still worth a read and it’s interesting to see if a tech demo will ever become a game.

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