Although I normally write about copyright and entertainment issues, as an avid gamer, I thought I would put my 2 cents about the new console war. I read a lot of reports saying that Sony clearly won the battle of E3. Why? Because the PS4 will 1) not require an internet connection, 2) will allow the sale of used games and 3) cost $100 less than the XBOX One ($399 vs $499). While these are all fine points, let me push back a little on the idea that these reasons alone will cause the PS4 to emerge victorious.
First, one change Sony made that got lost in the shuffle is that they will no longer allow free multiplayer. Instead, consumers will now have to pay $50 a year for a subscription. At least for the first year or so, because there will be so few games available for either system (neither are backwards compatible), gamers will be holding on to their XBOX 360’s and PS3’s to keep playing the games they love. XBOX gamers who want to keep their 360 (to play Halo online) but also get the PS4 will end up paying $110 a year in subscription fees ($60 to Microsoft and $50 to Sony). But if the 360 owner gets the XBOX One instead, he only pays the $60 fee. So, for gamers who are keeping the 360 but getting the PS4, the net saving is only $50 in the first year.
With regard to the internet connection, I think the problem is overblown. Yes, there are people in the military stationed overseas who might have a problem, but I think that Microsoft will work out a fix for them. Moreover, every year internet connections get more and more ubiquitous. No one complains that Netflix streaming or Pandora requires a constant internet connection. While this might be a factor for some, I don’t think it will be so many people that it will be the decisive factor in the console war.
As for the used game situation, Microsoft is not outlawing the sale of used games, but is saying they will leave it up to the publisher. But since Sony is not putting restrictions on used game sales I don’t see how any publisher would be able to sell a PS4 version that can be freely traded and an Xbox version that is locked. Not if they want to be able to sell the two versions for the same price. Companies are able to charge $60 for a new game only because those games can be resold. Speaking from personal experience, I regularly buy new games at full price (The Last of Us is coming today!), play them through, and then sell them on Ebay for $40-$45 a few weeks later when I’m finished. That makes my net cost for the game only about $20-$25 (with fees). That’s pretty much all I want to spend. If publishers think that people will spend $60 on a game that they cannot resell (or even trade with a friend), they will quickly learn that is not the case.
Finally, I think that people will see the 360 as the better value because of the extra things it offers. The Kinect camera is pretty amazing, and the ability to Skype call with your friend while playing multiplayer is a great new feature. The Xbox also has subscription content that Sony does not have, such as HBO Go, MLB and NBA. The ability of the XBOX 360 to integrate with all of your video services and your cable box makes it much more feature-rich then then the PS4 and what I think is a better deal overall. And since the XBOX One will play Blu-Ray discs, Sony lost out on another key advantage.
I have been a two-console household for many years, But except for the few good Playstation exclusives (e.g., Uncharted, God of War), the rest of my games are all Xbox games. I mainly use the Playstation as a Blu-Ray player and for Netflix streaming. But when the XBOX One comes out, the PS3 is probably going up on Ebay. And I think that a lot of people will make the same decision.