So the hype machine is hard at work building up excitement for a new line of Wii U games, people are taking down their pants and bending over Microsoft for a quick tea bagging, and Sony is being praised heavily for the decision to not completely screw consumers at every given corner in order to make a profit. Just some...but not every corner.
I think it's really easy to forget what kind of position Sony is in right now. They are sitting in a piece of utterly failed new hardware. The last console war was a brutal and bloody one, where they never quite found the decisive victory they were used to having the last two generations, at least in North America. Sony is in no position to be resting on their laurels and offering anything less than a stellar range of big promises for their future consumer base. And in the meantime, Microsoft is shitting money and pissing profits, and has every reason to take the huge risks they are taking with their new piece of alienating, life sucking hardware.
It's really easy, therefore, to jump on the bandwagon and praise Sony as the "winner" of E3, or the hero of the new console generation. But it really isn't so.
When I was watching the E3 footage, and the lame demonstration of how you can physically hand a game to a friend (gasp, what an amazing concept) that was obviously nothing more than a mere REACTIOn to all the negative press Microsoft has been receiving, it made me worry; about the new generation, and about the thought process of the current and future consumer base, and what they will be willing to accept as "progress", when it is really nothing more than pandering.
Sony cannot afford to get screwed again. They are sitting on useless Vita hardware, they are recovering from a difficult console war in the west, and they really need to pull out a big win this time to remain the premiere name in the gaming industry. They are in a VERY good position to do so; both Nintendo and Microsoft have shot themselves in the foot in different ways, and PS4 looks, right now, to be the only "standard" console experience available to the mainstream consumer; no silly gimmicks, no obtrusive DRM in place. Just games again, right?
Well the "pay to play" online service of PS Plus that people are willing to gloss over? Kind of a big deal. It puts an end to two generations of free online play from Sony, and seems to have been overlooked by most people who were just so excited by all of the other information that they failed to see what a change it is. Don't get me wrong; I am not personally against subscription based services. But they are a definite annoyance for me at the same time, since I am somebody who only occasionally games online. PS3 had points in my favor because it was the only console available at the time that offered a solid online experience without forcing me to pay a subscription of some kind. And since the only game I EVER played online was a Call of Duty game, and only for a couple of months, it is comforting to know I didn't lose out on anything in the end.
Now, the online experience is pretty much part and parcel with console gamers these days. But the fact is, it's no longer free, and that's a sad change to witness. Nintendo has gone the free route, and stuck their, but anyone claiming that their systems are anything but archaic, draconic, and non-user friendly are kidding themselves. I think things have improved with Wii U, but the problem now is that their is so little 3rd party support for the console, that the "core gamers" everyone is trying to cater to have little to no interest in picking up a Wii U; it simply isn't going to give them the games they want to play. So when it comes to online gaming in general, Sony has put themselves on equal grounds with Microsoft, when they could have had a clear upper hand.
I think the main thing to look out for is how the consoles evolve over the next couple of years. Microsoft and Sony both will only be as consumer friendly as their wallets allow them to be. If Microsoft finds their tactics aren't working out and they aren't selling SKU's, you can be sure they will change things around. They will introduce another "arcade" style console that allows for offline play, or implement some change in their general policy to ensure that they don't fall behind. And if Sony finds that they are running ahead in the race, what will be stopping them from doing the same, but in an opposite direction? All in the name of "progress", and of the bottom line; the mighty mighty dollar.
It's nice to see that the entire generation won't be saturated with snake-cult tactics, that their will be an early alternative to the bullshit Microsoft is pressing upon the industry, but I would say this; don't get too excited. We really don't know what the future is going to bring, and the best position to take right now in my opinion is a fairly neutral one.