We've all seen the Xbox One reveal or heard or read about it from our trusted news sources. How it went depends on your view of converging entertainment media. It's the aftermath that I'm concerned with here.
In interviews, tweets and statements after the reveal, Microsoft has shown it can't get a clear message out on two of the biggest concerns for gamers: always-on, Internet-based DRM and use of pre-owned games.
In addition, Microsoft has been very clear on two further points: independent developers won't be able to self-publish on Xbox Live and there will never be any attempts at backwards compatibility on Xbox One.
If Sony is wise and quick, it can take advantage of the confusion on the first two points and the firmness on the second two to gain the upper hand over Microsoft in the upcoming battle for gamers' wallets.
On the matter of Internet-based DRM, Sony has quite firmly stated that the PS4 will not require an Internet connection to function. Microsoft has wavered, talking variously about being better when connected, cloud-based processing, daily check-ins and online verification of purchases.
Microsoft's Din Mattrick taken entirely out of context in this image.
Neither Microsoft nor Sony has adequately outlined their stance on pre-owned games. This is probably because it is a very contentious issue and they're trying to balance the concerns of their publishing partners and of gamers.
However, Sony hand-waved the issue by implying that it wouldn't impose a regime, but would allow, if not enable, publishers to implement their own policies. Microsoft was much more vague and even contradictory; you may have to pay to re-validate a pre-owned game, you may not. You may have to pay to validate a borrowed game. There are various scenarios and we don't know.
Sony's stance on indies and backwards compatibility is firm. It will do everything it can to encourage indies and backwards compatibility isn't in the hardware, but can be implemented using Gaikai streaming.
Now how can the PlayStation team at Sony take advantage of the current situation?
They need to clarify where Microsoft has confused and they need to step into the spaces Microsoft has vacated. It's all possible with the will from management and some hard work from the engineering and marketing departments.
First, they need to very firmly state their positions on Internet-based DRM, indie publishing and, most importantly, pre-owned games. They need to do this now, before E3, while Microsoft is still reeling from the Internet backlash, and they need to leave no confusion.
In my opinion, the statement should leave the pre-owned question to the publishers, but state outright that Sony's first party games will not be limited or charged for in any way. That sets a tone for the platform, but leaves the door open for publishers and developers to try and get a cut of what they rightly see as their pie.
Secondly, they need to have Gaikai working day and night to get as many PS3 games as possible playable via streaming for the launch of the PS4. This needs to be implemented so that putting a PS3 game disk into the PS4 or having a purchase from the PS Store against your account will act as a key to play the game for free.
Thirdly, they need to announce their firm intention to do the same for PS2 and PS1 games and state that PS+ members will get unlimited access to the whole system. This is a perfect announcement to make at E3 and would generate plenty of good will from the Internet press and their followers.
Lastly, and most importantly, they need to make sure they don't mess up the launch. Have enough hardware to launch in at least Europe and the US, have a good price, have useful accessories in the box and give everybody three months of PS+ to get them started.
The ball is now in Sony's court and it's possible to take advantage of the situation.
Microsoft has greatly missed the message with its reveal, it has failed to take account of the worries that gamers had before the announcement and to ease them. It has not had a coherent message at all on two of the biggest worries and has jumped the wrong way on two others.
There has already been an overwhelming change of mood on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and news site forums with regards to the next Xbox. From overwhelming excitement and anticipation before the reveal, to despair and even hatred afterwards.
I've seen loads of die-hard Xbox fans claim they will switch to PlayStation over the pre-owned debacle alone. No matter if those claims are believable, Sony needs to jump on this and welcome them before Microsoft can clarify its position and win them back.
The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.
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