After the severe, Mike Tyson-like beating Sony gave to Microsoft during this year’s E3 conference, the house of Xbox needed to make a serious comeback in the form of this year’s Gamescom, a similar expo that makes the notable exception of allowing consumers as much access to the convention as any other “journalist” with a WordPress account and a pair of sweaty palms.
Microsoft has attempted to make a few amends since the world came crashing down on them. They have removed the patching fees for Xbox Live Arcade games and laid out the core plan for independent self-publishing on Xbox One, attempting to save what little face they may have left.
Too bad Sony has consistently been one step ahead.
If there is one thing we cannot take away from Microsoft regarding staying the course, it is their lineup of games that aim to sell as many copies as is possible on this side of a Call of Duty hoodie. Assassin’s Creed IV, Battlefield 4, Dead Rising 3 and five EA Sports titles whose current-gen cousins will likely boast more features and, in all probability, play better than their newborn Xbox One and PlayStation 4 kin.
Killer Instinct lost my interest when its business model was revealed. Yes, I am an old and grouchy fuck who screams at mobile gamers to get off my lawn and can accept the fact that free-to-play, freemium, etc. is a real thing now and part of the gaming industry. That does not give you or me the requirement to like or support it, and while I realize the current developers at Rare have no way to involve the original creators of KI, it does seem like something of a dick move to include an “emulated” version of the first game only if you are willing to pay for the $40 bundle.
What is left to draw me in to buying an Xbox One? Bullshit like Ryse? Halo: Insert Subtitle Here will not even be available for launch. This leaves the indie category, territory that Microsoft has to reclaim in dividends.
While Microsoft appears to be offering an olive branch to developers when it comes to their Xbox Live store, that picture should tell you everything that you need to know about which platform is the place to be for console development. It’s true that the PS4 will have “only” 15 games available at retail by the end of 2013, that does not take into account the offerings available exclusively through the PlayStation Store.
Knack reminds me of the initial Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank platformers that once thrived on the PlayStation brand. Killzone does not hold my interest in the slightest, but the fact that one can create their own multiplayer scenarios for online plays is commendable. Then, of course, you have the numerous multiplatform releases which will not only be used in my PS4, but some will eventually find their way into your hands for free thanks to PlayStation Plus.
Along with the announcement of a November 15 PS4 release date came the reduction of the PS Vita’s system price by $50. While I would not call this a fix to a dire situation, Sony needed a shot in the arm like this one for its handheld because, let’s face facts, the 3DS is obliterating the Vita not only in sales but quality games. The drop in price should be enough to secure you a decently sized Vita memory card, also the recipient of a price cut and the key to being able to play all of the digital offerings for the system. I would personally like to see more features that involve the Vita and PS4 interacting, much like the way the Game Boy Advance and Gamecube once did while Nintendo was on their latest accessory kick.
Here I sit, coffee steaming, once again writing a column in the middle of the week about how Sony trumped Microsoft and Nintendo seems to be lost in the mix. Is this getting redundant? Should I begin writing about something else topical, like the audacity of a woman’s writing in Dragon Age II earning her and her family death threats? Should I instead shit inside a manilla envelope and express mail it to Microsoft to get their attention? I am running out of ideas to get them to notice myself and the rest of the gaming community who are simply not sold on the Xbox One.
What I think of, right now, is where Microsoft will go from here. Seven or eight years from now when my first game sells a shitload of copies on Steam, the PlayStation Store and Nintendo’s eShop (it will happen, goddammit), Microsoft will announce their next hardware offering, the Xbox…Zero? Square Root? Infinity? They really painted themselves in a corner with this whole naming conundrum. With the continued similarities revealed between PCs and their console counterparts, I feel we will reach a point in the near future where the only distinction between the two will be their logos.
I have always felt that certain games felt “at home” on consoles, the way I can never imagine playing a game with Mario and friends on something that is not a system made by Nintendo. This used to hold true for entire genres like platforming and fighting, but even Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters XIII have now found their way to Steam and are making way for other fighters to finally be enjoyed on a PC. With their independent lineup and unique offerings like Knack, I feel like the PlayStation brand has more of a lasting potential, not simply a mildly different operating system that can be swallowed up by a variation of Windows.
Microsoft has one last chance to give us a reason to buy an Xbox One, and they will be doing it in enemy territory. The Tokyo Game Show is next month, and the East has never been kind to a Microsoft system. It’s their move.