Thirty minutes. That’s the length of time it took Microsoft to actually bring out a game developer to discuss games during its Xbox One games console reveal. Prior to that point, the manufacturer had gabbled on about television, music, and more. It wasn’t necessarily out of character – the Redmond-based company has been edging ever closer to the all-encompassing media box for several years now – but it wasn’t entirely what we were expecting. We always figured that entertainment would factor heavily, but never to the extent that it did.
And it serves to highlight a growing disparity between Sony and its closest competitor. While the PlayStation 4 unveiling earlier in the year was all about the games, the Windows creator largely glossed over them. It wasn’t until 35 minutes into the organisation’s conference that we got our first glimpse at an actual piece of software – an in-engine technology demonstration from EA Sports. There was then a brief pause for a Forza 5 trailer, some live footage of a new property from Remedy, and before long we were being introduced to a Steven Spielberg directed Halo television show.
Contrast that to the PlayStation Meeting, which opened with a buoyant Mark Cerny – the creator of Marble Madness, no less – bouncing onto stage to the tune of Crash Bandicoot’s soundtrack. The system architect may have warbled on about hardware specifications in the same incoherent manner as Yusuf Medhi did entertainment, but it all came back to one thing: games. And the Japanese giant backed that up with live demonstrations of Killzone: Shadow Fall and Watch Dogs, as well as lengthy footage of DriveClub, inFAMOUS: Second Son, and Knack. It even rolled out indie legend Jonathan Blow, a sign that it’s coveting smaller developers just as closely as the giants.
Microsoft, for its turn, promised 15 exclusives would release on the Xbox One in its first year on the market, eight of which will be brand new franchises. It revealed one of those, Quantum Break, a new game from Alan Wake developer Remedy – but it was hard to get a feel for the title from a live action trailer. Microsoft, of course, has the benefit of E3 being right around the corner, where it will supposedly point the spotlight back on games. But it’s pretty telling that the company opted to largely ignore the core pillar of its platform during the system’s initial unveiling.
In fact, when you look back on the reveal, it’s shocking just how little entertainment of the interactive kind actually factored. Its biggest announcement by a country mile involved some kind of collaboration with the NFL that will result in improved fantasy football features. Not once did someone walk on stage with a controller and play a video game – we’re still not convinced that we could tell you what a title on Microsoft’s new system will actually look like. Even the vaunted first reveal of Call of Duty: Ghosts – a title also coming to the PS4 – spent more time on footage of motion captured dogs than actually showing some solid, traditional gameplay.
Of course, that’s not to say that Microsoft’s new console isn’t going to sell by the bucket load – particularly in its home region. The company delivered a 60 minute case study on North American consumer tastes, with guns, sport, and the most mainstream of entertainment brands all factoring heavily. And yet, nothing it demonstrated necessarily tickled our fancy. Does voice recognition remain an exceptional party trick? Sure. Is instantaneous channel hopping neat? You bet. But none of these things get the gamer inside of us pulsating. Regardless of whether you feel that Sony missed the mark with its own press event, at least the Japanese giant attempted to do that.
And it simply highlights that these companies are moving in drastically different directions. The PS4 is a gaming machine that will function as a media box also, while the Xbox One is a media box that will also function as a gaming machine. It may be the case that both consoles more or less converge once we’ve seen the full picture, but the snapshots that we’ve been offered couldn’t paint a more disparate picture at this point in time. We’re intrinsically biased, that’s transparent for the world to see – but truthfully, we know which philosophy we prefer. How about you?
What were your impressions of the Xbox One reveal? Were you surprised by Microsoft’s overwhelming focus on entertainment? How has it changed your perception of the PS4? Let us know in the comments section below.