AT PRESENT, Microsoft and Sony have started rolling out the big guns, readying gamers for the upcoming releases of their next-gen consoles – the Xbox One and PlayStation Four, respectively.
While Nintendo, as ever, follows its own typically idiosyncratic path with the WiiU, battle has already started between the One and the PS4 – and Sony appear to be bludgeoning Microsoft in the battle for gamers’ interest, given the poorly-handled One launch, ahead of its future roll-out.
The recent quip about Microsoft earning Sony’s Employee of the Month title is ringing a little truer lately, with Microsoft’s heavy focus on the One as an all-in entertainment hub (rather than, y’know, a games console) spooking many gamers, with websites aflame with criticism.
Despite its excellent platform-exclusive franchises and some fantastic-looking new games announced for the One, it’s an unfortunate step for the company to have alarmed many Xbox gamers.
While nobody doubts the quality of the console itself, or the great games it will have, the focus on the One as an entertainment hub curries no favour with European markets, which, similiarly to Apple’s licensing deals in America, still have a greatly reduced media selection to watch via consoles over here – not to mention patchy internet/broadband infrastructures.
And, in the meantime, Sony is continuing to throw hard-hitting jabs into the fray, pointing out that the PS4 will be notably cheaper than its main rival, doesn’t need to connect online to play games, is region-unlocked to play games from anywhere, will easily allow people to swap games with friends, and so on.
Indeed, a particular bone of contention for many gamers has been the widely denounced point that the One has to connect to the internet at least once a day, to play games – an irritating point for many who may not connect online, or who may have a shoddy internet service – or none.
At the time of writing, Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business division president, Don Mattrick, has poured fuel on the fire by saying in an interview with Game-Trailers: “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360”.
Not quite a motivational incitement to get the One, I think you’ll agree.
Of course, this is all par for the course with the launch of new tech – someone always comes out on top, with a winner and a loser in the initial PR battles before the long-term war starts.
However, even these months before either console hits the street, Microsoft has already created a needless skirmish (with many aggrieved gamers) that it shouldn’t have had to face, let alone win.
For the many – suddenly wary – Xbox fans that the company will now have to fight to reclaim or retain, to misquote The Bard: “Now is the summer of our discontent …”