The feud between Microsoft and Sony in the run up to the release of their next-gen consoles has been waging since Sony openly criticized Microsoft in spectacular fashion at their E3 press conference. While the former has been particularly loud about their criticisms of the Xbox One, the latter has mostly kept quiet in calling out the competition. Microsoft has instead focused inwards to try and make a console that gamers trust again by taking away their controversial DRM policies, the always-on Kinect requirement and giving gamers further incentives to choose their system such as a free copy of FIFA 14 for European pre-orders and timed exclusivity on digital content.
A their Gamescom conference, Sony took a fairly unsubtle swipe at Microsoft’s backtracking and last-minute policy changes, choosing to use Microsoft’s uncertain stances on all-things console gaming as a way to position themselves as “consistently” representing what gamers are looking for.
Sony worldwide president Andrew House speaking during Sony Gamescom conference:
“While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining a message that is fair and in tune with consumer desires.”
That being said, Sony reportedly may have adjusted their strategies in response to the reactions of the May unveiling of the Xbox One. In an interview with Eurogamer, when asked for a response to the jab, Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer claimed, “Other people will do and say what they’re going to say. Fine. We’re running our program. That’s a strength of who we are.” He continued by reiterating that these ‘180’s were implemented because of their ‘two-way conversation’ with consumers. “That two-way conversation with gamers has to be core to who we are as a platform.” Spencer is adamant that these reversals show a strength, rather than than a weakness, showcasing that they are willing to listen to consumers and change their product in their favor.
Back to Sony, The Guardian spoke with House about their seemingly aggressive approach towards Microsoft. When referencing the Xbox One’s DRM and physical media policies, House explained why they’re sending this sort of messaging while promoting the PS4.
“We constructed our E3 presentation because there was somehow a suspicion that the policies and approaches taken by our competition would create an industry trend in that direction. The reason we made such a strong statement at E3, and continue to do so, is because we were surprised by that.”
It seems that the E3 press conference was less about shaming Microsoft’s policies directly and was more about Sony as a company defining the PlayStation brand and their position on the matter. With some industry analysts predicting the PlayStation 4 would echo the Xbox One’s policies, Sony used their presentation to set things straight.
“We thought perhaps slightly naively that the current model worked quite well and was consumer friendly — and our goal was to be consistent on that. But given the speculation that was happening there, it apparently became necessary for us to make a statement and say what our intent was.”
The Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4 debate is at a fever pitch now and it will continue to be raged well into both console’s life-cycles. If the vocal minorities online are of any indication, an objective observer would perceive that Sony has had a clear upper hand in the court of public opinion since E3 but the gap is rightfully closing as the days go on. Pre-orders sold out across most retailers during the summer. Does Microsoft opening a dialogue with consumers rebuild the trust some felt they had lost? Which console will sell more units over the key holiday season?