The lights are on
We had a lot of questions going into Sony's E3 press conference this year. Many of them were instigated not by what that company's officials have said, but what its chief competitor, Microsoft, has planned. We now have answers to most of the mysteries, and the differences between the two rivals couldn't be more pronounced.We expected that Sony, which had a hardware and game-focused reveal event in February might spend a lot of time on entertainment and services. The "battle for the living room" has been the overriding theme of the past three E3 presentations. We couldn't have been more wrong.Sony did speak briefly about original programming, but the rest of the two hour event was focused exclusively on games for the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation Vita, and the upcoming PlayStation 4. The big announcements came at the end of the show, when CEO Jack Tretton put fears to rest. The PlayStation 4 will not restrict used games in any way. It will not "check in" online for authentication purposes. It will not force users to change the definition of ownership of console games.In other words, those unhappy with Microsoft's Xbox One policies have an alternative. Moreover, that choice comes with a price tag 20 percent lower than the competition. The PlayStation 4 will cost $399 against the Xbox One at $499.There are a couple of major things to note with regard to bottom line cost. Those wishing play online will need a PlayStation Plus account, which costs $50 per year right now. There are still differences between Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus (even though the former has added free games to the mix). Those uninterested in online play will still be able to access media services like Netflix without a subscription.Additionally, the PlayStation spec sheet just released indicates that the Camera, required for some functions like split screen position sensing, will be sold separately. For those that want the full experience at launch, the margins might be significantly narrowed.Of course, the announcements about how consumers will interact with games wouldn't be nearly as important if there hadn't been a significant number of titles shown off. In addition to new looks at The Last of Us, which is out on Friday, and Beyond: Two Souls, Sony introduced a number of new games. You can see the full list in our coverage headquarters, but take some time to check out The Order: 1886, Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy XV (nee Versus XIII), Mad Max, and a host of indie titles that will be premiering on the PlayStation 4.Additionally, Sony announced four first party titles that will be arriving alongside the new hardware. DriveClub (which will also be the first Instant Collection title for PS4), Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and Infamous: Second Sun give are a strong start for the console library. An exclusive The Elder Scrolls Online beta (a title which is also coming to the Xbox One) and additional content for Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag helped round out the evening. Oh, and Quantic Dream's old man from the PlayStation 4 reveal is back, though it's not entirely clear what The Dark Sorceror is. Between exclusive system-sellers like Infamous and Killzone, third-party powerhouses like Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV, the enhanced content offered by Ubisoft for key fall 2013 titles, and a tightly woven fabric of independent titles like Transistor, Oddworld: New n' Tasty, and 17-bit's Galaxy, Sony is off to a running start.The press conference was heavy on content and crystal clear on the issues most important to consumers. The auditorium, filled with those that are loathe to excessivly gush over anything these days, erupted with applause. In an era of lackluster presentations, Sony captured magic long since abandoned.Tonight, Sony is on top. It has won over many skeptics, and has provided a strong case in the form of compettive price, a consumer-friendly approach to ownership, and unlimited offline gaming.The ball is back in Microsoft's court, and we are eager to see how Redmond responds.
Visit our E3 News Headquarters for all the stories from the show.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.