Preamble: There are no Canadian prices for any of this stuff, but Canadian pricing has closely followed US in the past and the Loonie remains strong throughout first half of 2013. Although I do not foresee an increase, it is not improbable that Canadians will get the short end of the stick when launch prices are revealed.
Let’s talk about Microsoft first because their press conference was earlier in the day. Xbox One will release in November at $499 in the US. Sony’s press conference was in the evening. PlayStation 4 will be released for the holiday season at $399. It is a coy play on the date, probably depends on how the supply chain moves along. Sony’s bundle also does not include PlayStation Move, which is a combination of the PlayStation Eye and any compatible accessories, including the new DualShock 4 controller. The PlayStation Eye itself will retail at $59. Existing PlayStation Move accessories remain compatible.
Multiplayer and subscriptions
Transactions on Xbox One will not be using Microsoft Points. It is unclear if Microsoft will also begin using real currency for Xbox 360’s marketplace but it is likely that this is a platform-wide change that affects Xbox Live as a whole, thus implying it including Xbox 360. Xbox Live Gold membership is still $59 per year and is still required if you only wanted to use Netflix. Microsoft will now match Sony and include free games as part of the Xbox Live Gold membership.
Sony will now require PlayStation Plus subscription for multiplayer. PlayStation Plus subscription is priced at $49 per year and existing PlayStation 3 subscribers will simply carry over. You will instantly receive all of the free games that Sony has been adding to their Instant Game Collection, though as of today all of these titles are for the PlayStation 3, Portable and Vita. Sony will not require PlayStation Plus for Netflix.
Games, used, trades, lending, backwards compatibility, and launch titles
There is a solid list of exclusives confirmed for both platforms but not all of them are available at launch. Notably Halo 5 (Xbox One) will be due in 2014, no confirmation on the specific date. Microsoft has reconfirmed its commitment to allow publishers charge a fee associated with used games, while Sony vowed to not have any restrictions. Microsoft requires a dedicated Xbox 360 for any games from the previous generation. Sony has also confirmed select PlayStation 3 titles would be supported via Gaikai’s cloud streaming addition to PlayStation Network in 2014.
I have attempted to make a list of the current known exclusives and multiplatform titles at launch; these are in the order of appearance for both press conferences.
Known exclusives for Microsoft Xbox One: Ryse (Kinect), Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Titanfall, Halo (2014), Quantum Break, Project Spark, Sunset Overdrive, Below, Crimson Dragon, D4, Killer Instinct (Digital).
Microsoft has previously mentioned that it is working with a lot of exclusive content that are coming to Xbox One, they certainly delivered. But not all of these titles are going to be available at launch. Most notably missing are many independent games, besides Minecraft.
Known exclusives for Sony PlayStation 4: inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub, Killzone: Shadow Fall, The Order: 1886, Transistor (Digital), Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Digital), Don’t Starve (Digital), Outlast (Digital), Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New N’ Tasty (Digital).
While it may seem that Sony has announced less exclusives. Jack Tretton, head of SCE Worldwide Studios has confirmed 30 games being developed in-house, 12 of which are new intellectual properties, and 20 will be released in PlayStation 4’s first 12 months. Sony has also revealed that the number of PlayStation developers has increased from 126 to 505 since February’s reveal event; all of the independent developers seem to have signed on and moved from Microsoft.
Known multi-platform titles: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, The Witcher 3, Destiny, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Elder Scrolls Online, Mad Max, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III. Full list can be found on many popular video game blogs.
The big news out of E3 is that some perceived exclusive franchises are no longer pledging allegiance to one system or another. Metal Gear Solid is now a timed exclusive for Microsoft. Final Fantasy XV follows XIII and is scheduled for simultaneous release on both systems. Kingdom Hearts III is the first game in the franchise to not be an exclusive.
Perhaps it is better that nobody wins. The market is a better place for consumers when there is ample competition from big companies. News shortly followed that Microsoft’s Asian launch plans are not well prepared and that it may be pushed into 2014. Tacking on the controversial DRM scheme, requiring 24-hr Internet connection to authenticate, and being $100 more due to Kinect, some consumers may not be too keen on the Xbox One.
The promise of integrating live TV in the US may be Microsoft’s ticket to massive sales. Sony is still lacking in terms of integrating with other devices and services. In terms of native music and video stores, Sony is just as good as Microsoft with its Music and Video Unlimited services.
It remains to be seen how the holiday sales stack up. We will just have to wait.