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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sony Wins E3, Microsoft Has A Sad

Let's count the ways that Sony just pantsed Microsoft in front of everyone at E3.
1) Microsoft is offering the XBox One at $499.

Is that a crazy price? First of all, while it's a high price, it's not a historically high price. The way I check to see if a console price is reasonable is by comparing it to the NES (one of the most successful consoles of all time) and adjusting for inflation.

In 1985, Nintendo sold the NES for $199. That would be approximately $417 in today's money.

The XBox One works out to about $237 in 1985 money. Still a little high, but not excessive. Sony is offering the PS4 at $399. That's $189 in 1985 money. I know, I know, "Wow, $399 is less than $499? Who would have thought!"

That's not the point, though. My point is that the X1 isn't as outrageously priced as it would appear on the surface.

That being said, Sony wins this battle emphatically. Getting consumers to pay $100 more for a system that appears similar is going to be a tough sell.

2) Sony's games look better.

Sony's development studios are just plain better than Microsoft's. Microsoft took great pains to point out the first-party games they were releasing on the X1, and they even pointed out that they made overtures to other smaller developers. Project Spark is certainly an interesting concept, and Halo 5 will sell piles of copies. Titanfall will also be a hit.

Once again, though, Sony's development studios have demonstrated time and again that they beat Microsoft's on quality and consistency. Their games are more plentiful and, in my opinion, just plain better. Your mileage may vary.

3) Used games are allowed on the PS4.

This is the key that's sending lots of goodwill in Sony's direction. Now Microsoft has to explain a convoluted used game process, along with family plans, accounts and activation fees. Sony just has to say, "Buy the game. It'll worked, used or not."

This is a big, big deal. All it takes are a few misinformed customers who try and resell their X1 games to Gamestop to make them swear off of Microsoft forever.

Microsoft's response is that it's up to each publisher to decide if they want to allow used games, and that's even worse. So, if EA allows reselling but Activision doesn't, now the consumer has to know that up front. If they don't, they're in for a rude awakening. Confusion is never, ever, ever a good thing.

Sony learned this lesson with the PSPGo. They learned that if a DRM system is not in the consumer's best interests, the consumer will reject it. Wisely, they jettisoned it and never went back. Microsoft watched the PSPGo happening and said, "We want in on that."

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So now we have to revise the ceiling for the PS4. The sky is absolutely the limit. It has the price, the simplicity and the games to soundly defeat the X1. The basement is PS1-level, which is still mighty good.

Microsoft's ceiling is probably the same as the original XBox: A system that has a dedicated following, but wasn't as successful as it could have been. It's basement? PSPGo-level failure with a hasty redesign and price drop.