This week I’m not going to talk about any games, characters or series. This week I’m going to talk about the ones who spend money to support the games industry, the ones who explore worlds and analyse everything about them, the ones who have a passion for the virtual worlds. I’m talking about us. I’m talking about the gamers.[drop]E3 is kicking off today and with it we’ll finally know exactly what choices we’ll have and what virtual worlds will soon be ours to explore. After E3 we may well each know which console (or consoles) we’ll pledge our money towards and just how much control we’ll have over the devices.
This E3 is the first time that we’ll be dealing with something other than consoles and games. E3 2013 is about what being a consumer means, and the ownership of goods.
Let’s look at our options.
The Xbox One is the console we’ve heard the most about recently, and most of what we’ve heard has been very negative. The reveal didn’t seem to be aimed at gamers (at least not those outside of the US), the PR was confusing and the resulting clarifications sparked outrage across the web.
We now know the console will have to check in every 24 hours or you’ll lose access to your games. We know the ability to rent is not there, second hand sales will be restricted to approved retailers, and lending games to mates is also severely limited.
We also know that the Xbox One is a machine interested in being a full media centre with games being a portion of it, not the main attraction. If they were, then offline single player games might still be accessible even without authentication. Instead it’s only some of the media features that you’ll be able to access if you’re not connected.
Games wise the Xbox One has currently positioned itself as the AAA machine. Microsoft have set up deals for exclusive content with EA for games like FIFA and Activision for Call of Duty, while the leaked Titan Fall by Respawn Entertainment will be entirely exclusive to Microsoft’s consoles. Forza V has also been confirmed and it will be unsurprising if Halo or Gears makes an appearance.
For us, the consumers, we’re presented with a media centre with very restrictive measures. It’ll be likely you’ll need a LIVE account to access the majority of the features like the Cloud and multiplayer.
From our perspective Microsoft have to promise the world to earn trust. E3 is damage control central.
Sony are being quiet. As gamers we’ve positioned them to be the saviours of the next generation and that attitude has been fed by positive reinforcement. We know the PS4 won’t have an online check, so they’ve ticked one box that pleases gamers.
We also know that the support for both the big publishers and the indie developers is there; Sony are courting everyone they can.
Game wise Sony are all over it. They’ve announced that’ll there will be 40 games present for the PS4, PS3 and Vita, so you can expect a variety of genres represented on all three consoles. Killzone: Shadow Fall, DriveClub, Tearaway and a host of other titles will be shown off, as well as who knows what else. It’s an exciting time for fans of all sorts of games.
However, the question with Sony is just why are they being so quiet? What are they hiding? Will there be an online fee present on the PS4? With the likes of Plus and Gaikai being present on the console, will there be a fee to access them? Multiplayer is free this generation but will it be next generation? We don’t know.
The second hand market is also something Sony has been quiet about. All we know is they’ll make the “right choice.” But who for? The gamers who trade or the publishers who would love to see the second hand and rental markets collapse? We don’t know.
So far, Sony have been positioned as the saviours of the next generaton. They’re waiting in the wings to announce a console with no DRM, no always online, no second hand fees. At least that’s what we want, but the truth is we don’t fully know what Sony is planning. We have to be wary. Sony could still introduce these things.
In the furore over the second hand market, backwards compatibility and consumer rights, Nintendo seem to have been forgotten. The Wii U has been out several months now and we have all the facts here.
There are no restrictions on second hand sales, there are no issues with always online and the console has backwards compatibility. The Wii U has been built as a games console first and foremost, with no major extras to detract from that.
While we’ve been concentrating on whether Sony or Microsoft will “win” the next gen, Nintendo is on the brink of making a huge impact too. Imagine if both Sony and Microsoft have some form of restriction on game lending and trading. As gamers we can either live with such restrictions or head to a platform that’s missing those restrictions entirely.
Game wise Nintendo is focusing a lot on first party titles for the Wii U and the 3DS. Third party support is bare, especially for the Wii U.
This E3 Nintendo has the advantage. Play it just right and gamers as well as developers could be attracted to the platform.
The problem is, at the minute the Wii U is in a vicious cycle. It has limited sales because of a lack of third party support, and limited third party support because of a lack of sales. However, Nintendo have the chance to come out of E3 smelling of roses, which could break the cycle.
What It Means For Us
E3 2013 will be exciting, big and important. This is where the very future of the games industry will be decided. How each console maker presents itself this time will determine where we spend our money, and how we own media in the future.
If Microsoft manage to sway the majority of gamers then it’s a future of always online with DRM and the eventual extinction of the second hand trading market.[drop2]Currently, Sony seem poised to “win” E3 2013 but that is all based on our own hopes and perceptions. Yes, Sony are remaining quiet but whether that’s a good or bad thing is yet to be seen. They’ve done everything right up to this point but they can still throw it all away.
Nintendo are the ones we should be watching though. They already have their next gen machine out and it’s free of anything that is concerning us about consumer and ownership rights. Sure games are a bit slow to appear on the Wii U but this is Nintendo’s chance to take away hype from the other two consoles.
E3 2013 will be one of the landmark conferences of the games industry. It’s here that our consumer rights are being tested.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not affected because your internet is solid. Think of the long term consequences, like servers being switched off and losing access to something you paid for. Think of your fellow gamers who may not have excellent internet.
Yes, E3 marks an important time in the industry we love and the fallout following it will determine the path the industry goes down.