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Daily Reaction: The gamescom Rundown: Sony vs Microsoft, PS4 and Vita

August 20, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

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The first day of gamescom has come to a close, both Sony and Microsoft have shown their hands, and the the PS4 and Vita seem to be getting some love. With that, the Daily Reaction crew of Sebastian Moss and Dan Oravasaari go over some simple questions that people might be wondering about the show.

Ok, easy question – which conference was better, Sony’s or Microsoft’s?

Dan: Comparing both Sony and Microsoft’s conferences does seem a bit one sided, but the drastic difference in quality and scale really does ask the question – Wtf Microsoft?

Just from looking at the location of their shows – Sony booked a hall that mimicked the presentation of what we had seen at this year’s E3, while Microsoft apparently booked a pool hall and stood up on a table. This, of course, isn’t a representation of the quality of the announcements made, but was more of a sign of things to come.

Microsoft’s presentation was quite a bit shorter as well, but even though it did lack almost any form of flash or budget, they did a decent job of focusing on the European market while hitting a few key notes. While they did announce Fable Legends, some timed content like Fighter Within, Cobalt and FIFA 14 Ultimate Team, nothing really seemed to wow the audience.

The biggest announcement seemed to be the fact that each European Xbox One pre-order will come with a free copy of FIFA 14 (while supplies last), and the re-reveal of Microsoft’s self-publishing plan. While both really are great additions to the platform, neither are groundbreaking any more, considering both were leaked earlier.

It is impossible to know just how much the XBO will be able to Trojan horse its way into the European market by giving away a copy of FIFA, but it was a very nice touch by MS.

The Kinect’s ability to digitize someone’s face in Kinect Sports Rivals could have been the best way to show off the camera technology, but sadly it looked worse than than what we have been able to create with existing character creators. This means that while we could be paying an extra $100 for the device, we won’t get anything we haven’t seen on games like TC:Rainbow Six or in cheap iPhone games.

So, ultimately, with Sony making announcement after announcement about not only the PS4 but the Vita, something that fans have been waiting to hear about, it seems like there is once again a clear ‘winner’. Now that may sound like a biased opinion, given that we do have ‘PlayStation’ in our name, but it really is undeniable that Microsoft had almost nothing to show off, and that probably explains why their presentation was only a third as long as Sony’s.

Seb: Absolutely. I think one of the most important things about the presentations is how they are presented. Not only was the setting for Microsoft’s conference weirdly low key, but the fact that they didn’t livestream it, miscommunicated and spread confusion about whether there’d be a show at all and barely invited anyone, was not exactly a good sign. Sony made it a proper show which we could all join in on and get excited about.

Now, Videogamer claims that the fact that FIFA is bundled with Xbox One pre-orders will massively change things for Microsoft, and that it ultimately won them the show. Sadly for Phil Harrison, that’s not true. First off, it’s only on pre-orders and, not only have a lot of people already pre-ordered a PS4, but most sales obviously happen after launch.

But here’s the real clincher – buying a PS4 and FIFA 14 at full price is cheaper than an Xbox One with free FIFA 14. Plus, if you’re a die-hard FIFA fan, you’ll likely buy the PS3/360 version next month while you wait, and with PS3 saves transferable over to PS4, they will stick to the PlayStation platform. To suggest that a bundle will break decades of loyalty to a console and controller is just naive.

And that’s Microsoft’s big problem – even with the PS3’s incredibly troublesome launch, which was even later and pricier in Europe, Sony managed to pull ahead of Microsoft in every region other than the UK.

Microsoft was already fighting an uphill battle with this conference, both because of Europe being so pro-PlayStation, and because of the Xbox One’s troubled reveal. Meanwhile, Sony has been riding a wave of love that they haven’t seen since the PS2. This was always going to be a tough fight for Microsoft, but it didn’t even feel like they tried – which is a real shame, because Sony’s conference lacked any major heavy hitters.

While there were certainly a multitude of game reveals, if we focus only the PS4, for a fair comparison, pretty much every announcement was an indie game. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of indie games, and they should have a place at events, but a big AAA exclusive would have stolen all of the headlines.

I was disappointed that neither brought out any megatons, but if I have to pick a winner, the choice is so obvious I don’t need to say it.

Will this turn things around for the Vita?

Seb: So my gripe with the Vita is pretty much the same as what I had with the conference overall – no big games. With the PS4, just showing indies isn’t the end of the world because of all the major AAA titles coming to it, but the Vita needed a lot more.

Of course, this wasn’t a bad show for the Vita – especially when you compare it to previous events where it was barely mentioned. Borderlands 2 is downright awesome, and I know Dan will go crazy [Dan: Woo!], although the problem is the title’s best sales are behind it.

As a Vita owner, the amount of titles announced was absolutely exhilarating, and I welcome them with open arms. But there’s one title I think could have a chance of being a big hit – Minecraft. The title, while indie, is huge, but the mobile version is awful, gimped and buttonless. With the right marketing, it could be their most important title.

The $50 price cut will also surely entice a few more gamers (although similarly priced sales didn’t set the charts on fire), and the memory stick price cut is what everyone has been asking for (although they’re still way overpriced).

The Vita is also a brilliant add-on for PS4 users, but the price, of course, will still be a turn off for many.

This was a good show for Vita, not a fantastic one. It’ll keep the Vita alive, but it won’t make sales explode… unless Minecraft is handled correctly.

Minecraft themed Vita, anyone?

Dan: I actually don’t completely agree with Seb on this, I really could see this as the first indication of major change in the stance of the Vita. Much like I said in our DR on the Vita, I don’t think it needs AAA to be successful. It needs that to grasp the core PlayStation market, but fighting for that subset of gamers would also put them in competition with the upcoming console cycle, and that isn’t a realistic fight.

During the Sony conference at gamescom, I was astounded with the number of things that will be coming to the Vita and am actually fairly excited by the possibilities. This, of course, has more to do with the growing indie scene, and much like on the PC market, there is a giant audience out there that could absolutely eat something like this up. The only problem will be just how well Sony can get that information out to consumers, and just how much they’re paying attention to the correct games.

Sony’s Shahid Ahmad does a great job of contacting indie developers in hopes of bringing them onto the Vita, and that is exactly what needs to be done. Unlike the console giants of the past, developers have numerous options and outlets: home console, handheld, iOS, Android, Android console, etc… and that means hardware manufactures need to be proactive to secure the hottest games.

This is why I was really excited see Minecraft announced at gamescom for the Vita. It could be considered a tad late for this to get that much heat as it has already had a home on the Xbox 360 for some time, but the ability to have a fully functional (physical controls) version of Minecraft could be a massive allure for the PC market, and make them want to pick up the Vita.

What was your favorite announcement/moment?

Dan: Picking a single announcement or moment is difficult, mainly because there were so many good things shown off, but also because none were that unexpected. Borderlands 2 for the Vita is probably the most exciting thing shown off at gamescom for me and it really could be the AAA title that people have been wanting for the system. Sadly, the game does seem a bit late and has lost most of its hype, but if we are able to import characters between systems, they might have found a perfect way to get people back into the grind.

The price cuts were also among the better moments of the show, as the Vita was in dire need of them, but that drawn out hope for the announcement made me more relieved than excited. This was pretty much the same response I had for the PS4’s release date, as I have been saying that we should expect it around the middle of November 2013 since last year, so I wasn’t exactly surprised.

Realistically, I was just happy to see so many interesting games shown off, and I really don’t need to pick any favorites. But, there was a funny comment that made me wonder just how many people high up on the food chain at Sony read Daily Reaction or listen to Bad Gamers.

Seb: Haha, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and it was probably my favorite moment. Andrew House, head of all of Sony Computer Entertainment, said:

While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining policies and a model that is fair and in tune with consumer desires.

That’s hilarious. If you’re not up to date with all the goings on in gaming (read more DR), then I’ll explain it for you – this was a clear, open jab at Microsoft and how they have 180d on all their massively unpopular business decisions, ultimately coming out with a console that much closer to what the PS4 offers.

At E3, Sony attacked Microsoft for sucking, now they’re attacking them for Microsoft’s desperate attempts to not suck. It’s wonderful to watch, and I hope Microsoft continues to fire back – it sure makes this job more interesting.

Another personal highlight for me was the announcement of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, simply because I had a weird premonition that it would be announced 30 seconds before he did it.

Unfortunately, the whole thing was slightly soured for me because Dan will get the PS4 before me. That really, really sucks.

What was your favorite gamecom moment? Who do you think had the best conference? How does the Vita’s future look now? Isn’t it grand that Seb gets the PS4 after Dan? Let us know in the comments below, email us at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or tweet us your thoughts at Seb and Dan.