Joystick: Microsoft, Sony have unveiled their next-gen machines, so who won?

Published 11:17 am Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sony fans should rejoice at the news coming out of this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), as the PlayStation maker is walking away as the big winner. How did they do it? They remembered the regular gamer’s wants and needs.

Sony has single-handedly stopped much of Microsoft’s momentum with the Xbox One by announcing gamer-friendly PlayStation 4 features like no used-game digital rights management, a prominent Xbox One feature which could prevent gamers from sharing their disc-based games with other gamers.

The PS4 will also have no online requirement, the opposite of the Xbox One’s schematics, which requires a gamer’s Xbox One to verify an online connection once every 24 hours in order to work.

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This seems somewhat foolhardy to point out. Those PS4 features are already standard on current consoles. But they became important features after Microsoft announced their futuristic plans for a one-console-fits-all entertainment system, hoping to corner the market with families the way Nintendo did with the Wii.

Microsoft’s futuristic dreams seemed doomed from the start, however. Despite trying to create a console for the average household, Microsoft forgot about the average gamer, and the average gamer’s Internet connection.

Bells and whistles on a console may seem like a great idea, but one in five American adults still don’t use the Internet, according to a 2012 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and 20 percent of U.S. households still don’t have ready Internet access, let alone the broadband or wireless access necessary to comfortably use Xbox One’s features to the fullest extent.

That will change in a few years, as even the most remote locations in the U.S. will likely have some form of broadband access heading into 2020. That doesn’t mean Microsoft has created a winning system, however.

Even if Microsoft is looking long-term, the Xbox One’s controlled policies have chilled its momentum early, specifically because they didn’t think about ease of access for the regular gamer. By having Internet-controlled features, Microsoft has already limited gamers who can barely get online on “Call of Duty.” That’s why Sony looks so good coming out of E3: They’re keeping things largely the same, with a few improvements and only minor drawbacks.

Any speculation on which system will win the next console wars is foolish, at this point. The PS4’s $400 price tag looks incredible compared to the $500 Xbox One, but the holidays are a long ways away.

Still, there hasn’t been this much fervor about upcoming consoles before, and never has the console picture looked so lopsided in favor of one system.

If Microsoft expects to do well with the Xbox One, it needs to take away the lessons regular gamers gave at E3.