E3 2014: Sony and Microsoft Are Two Sides of The Same Coin

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This year's E3 didn't have a ton of earth shattering news (EXCEPT A REMAKE OF GRIM FANDANGO WOOOOO), but it did showcase some interesting games. Among all the hubbub of games we already knew about being re-debuted, Sony an Microsoft talked a bit about the "future" of their consoles. Microsoft took a page from Sony and talked "all about the games." Sony took a page from Microsoft and introduced PlayStation TV (even though it launched in Japan last year). Why fewer outlets are commenting on the hilarious switcheroo they pulled off this year, I'll never know. But that isn't my subject today.

What I really want to bring to the page here is an issue I've had with the way these two conduct business. Microsoft and Xbox Live has a more fluid and intuitive framework for multiplayer gaming. With a couple buttons I can start private party chat, drop into a game and invite whoever I want to each. Every attempt we've made at accomplishing the same task through PSN have been met with serious frustration. Generally two players in the same room can't log in to their own PSN accounts, let alone set up party chat in game. These have been addressed somewhat with the PS4, but Sony has missed a serious opportunity to streamline the service and make it more accessible

Xbox. Xbox, Xbox Xbox, change forever Xbox.
When it comes to the Xbox, Microsoft is lacking in a couple areas. Their newest machine has yet to best the PS4 in graphical quality. While most of the differences are negligible, some games have demonstrated frame rate drops and increased texture pop-ins. Sony has one more ace up it's sleeve though, and it was constantly dripping from the mouths of their presenters. Sony has maintained a bevy of exclusive content for games released on multiple platforms. Ubisoft has been a big contributor to this, but it seems more and more deals have been made to bring more exclusive content to the PS4. Some of that content does eventually trickle down to other consoles, but a fair amount stays exclusive to the PlayStation editions.

So we end up with a predicament. The average consumer is forced to choose between a unified multiplayer experience and game content. Note, I don't include the performance issues in this decision as they are, for the most part, negligible differences. This is not a choice that anyone should have to make. I already have issues with day one DLC and the general piecemealing of games these days, to exacerbate that trend feel criminal. Sony is dangling a carrot in front of gamers by saying that the games they want are more complete on PS4.

I could make a joke involving a song by Eiffel 65, but I'm better than that.
Let's not forget the issues with multiplayer. For all they tout their interconnected community, actually communicating with that community is still needlessly complex. Streamlining the service further could only
help create a more fluid experience. There is no need to name a party, and while multiple accounts can now be signed in simultaneously,  there should not be any issue with running parallel permissions for games and other content. Oh, and only saving that cooperative game progress and trophies for PS+ members? That's a dick move, Sony.

Microsoft has had a great deal of trouble with the additional content offered by the exclusives on PSN. Add the benefits of PS+ to the mix, and Microsoft has to start every conversation by justifying the costs of Xbox Live. With the 360 it was pretty easy to justify the subscription as the cost of maintaining a better multiplayer experience. That isn't enough for most gamers anymore. We rightfully expect to be able to connect with our friends and teammates easily, and it isn't something that should cost as much as they seem to advertise. If they really want to make Xbox Live Gold something worth the cost, include new games DLC in the deal. Simply put, if a Gold subscriber buys a new game, give them any season pass DLC for that game at no additional cost. It's a move that builds value and makes a statement about piecemeal game DLC

Sony and Microsoft are always looking to get more people on their hardware. They are entrenched in their market strategies, each one betting that their focus will attract more gamers. Like two sides of a coin, each company is missing the whole picture. It's time for Sony and Microsoft to stop betting everything on their side.