The Electronic Entertainment Expo (AKA E3) is the single biggest event on the gaming calendar. Not unrelatedly, Microsoft and Sony both chose to unveil fresh details about their Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles at today's E3, including pricing, release dates and some all-new game announcements. Here's an overview of what we now know, along with the console we think came out on top...
After nearly half a decade of samey sequels and minor hardware tweaks, Microsoft and Sony are finally preparing to launch brand-new video game consoles at the end of this year. We already covered the chief hardware and software info during each console's official unveilings -- you can check out all the details at our PlayStation 4and Xbox One launch postmortems.
Below are the fresh details from E3 2013:
Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are much more than just games consoles -- you can find out more about what each machine does here and here, respectively. That said, the main reason you'll be buying one of these consoles is for the games. Here's a brief overview of what was announced during E3.
One of our criticisms of the Xbox One launch event was the lack of new game announcements -- it often felt like Microsoft was selling a multimedia TV entertainment unit that just happened to play video games. The E3 presentation went some way to rectifying this with a brace of new titles unveiled, some of which were completely unexpected. Some Xbox One games we'll be able to look forward to include Metal Gear Solid 5, Dead Rising 3, a Killer Instinct remake, Sunset Overdrive and Titanfall; the new FPS from the makers of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Considering the number of games that were shown off during the PS4's launch event earlier in the year, it's surprising that Sony had anything new to announce at all. Indeed, most of the games it showcased were cross-platform titles or extended previews of stuff we'd seen before but there were still a few interesting reveals. Rain, a spookily atmospheric adventure that reminded us of the 2D platformer Limbo was particularly intriguing. Other new titles included Final Fantasy XV, The Order: 1886, Kingdom Hearts 3 and an action game set in the Mad Max universe.
What does it look like?
Some people couldn't care less what their video game console looks like while for others it is a major deciding factor. Here's a closeup look at each console (click images to enlarge).
The Xbox One console, which was unveiled during Microsoft's official launch event, appears to be modeled after the Kinect motion sensor peripheral with a bit of PVR thrown in for good measure. As we noted at the time, the design isn't particularly exciting but at least its understated finish should feel at home with your AV gear.
Today's E3 event was the first time the public got to see the Playstation 4 hardware in the flesh. As expected, it's another big, black monolith although the slight similarities to the original PlayStation 2 are kind of surprising. Like the Xbox One, the PS4's industrial-influenced design will be a good match for most home theatre setups.
When is it coming out?
Getting the drop on your competition can work wonders in the console industry -- just look at the dominance of the Xbox 360 throughout 2005-2006 for proof. If you're champing at the bit to get your hands on a brand-new console (and aren't enthused by the Wii-U), here's when each console will be hitting stores near you...
The Xbox One is slated to land sometime in November this year, with Australia confirmed as one of the initial launch territories -- this means we should be getting it at the same time as the US, Europe and other key markets. Hopefully, Microsoft sticks to its word this time. (The release of its last console was delayed in Australia due to manufacturing shortfalls.)
Sony has yet to give hard details on the release date of the PlayStation 4 other than "holidays 2013". This could be anywhere between November and December, although we imagine Sony won't want to give Microsoft much of a head-start. It's entirely possible that both models will hit stores in the same month, which will make this one of the most explosive console wars in history.
Will it support used games?
One of the biggest red flags surrounding the Xbox One involves the infuriatingly vague references to used-game restrictions. Apparently, games will come with unique codes that will limit your ability to off-sell them on the secondhand market. During its E3 presentation, these details were not mentioned once, which is a pretty disingenuous move on Microsoft's part. What this will mean for the used game market remains to be seen, but anything that hampers your ability to sell something you legally own can’t be a good thing.
Sony didn't mince words when it came to pre-owned games, which is going to be one of the PlayStation 4's major trump cards if Microsoft goes ahead with its "used game fee" model. Huzzah!
"When [somebody] buys a Playstation 4 game, we believe they have ownership for that game. They can trade in the game, sell it at retail, give it to a friend or keep it forever," PlayStation's Jack Tretton said at the event. What's more, that PlayStation 4 will not require an online connection to play offline games -- another chief caveat of the Xbox One.
How much is it?
Unless you're rolling in money, the price of a new console is a pretty big deal -- it's one of the reasons the Nintendo Wii was so wildly successful despite being technically inferior to its rivals in 2006.
Australian pricing for the Xbox One will start at $599 when it launches in November this year. (In the US it will cost $US499). This is a surprisingly affordable price point compared to previous console releases -- indeed, most Australian retailers had gone with pre-order estimations of $899. JB Hi-Fi has since revised its pre-order price to $598 -- $1 less than ordering it directly from Microsoft.
In the US, the PlayStation 4 will cost $399 at launch -- a full $100 less than the Xbox One. In Australia however, the PlayStation 4 will sell for $549. So much for the IT Price inquiry. If Microsoft can get the Xbox One price differentiation down to $100 there's really no excuse for such a massive markup. Colour us severely disappointed. That said, the PS4 is still $50 less than the Xbox One so it's not a complete disaster.
The winner -- PlayStation 4
While that Australian RRP does rankle, there's no doubt that the PlayStation 4 left the Xbox One reeling in the aisles at this year's E3. The games it showed off were more intriguing, the price was lower and the lack of restrictions when it comes to online functionality and used games all point towards a clear victor. Microsoft is going to have to pull off something very special if it hopes to claw back ground in the lead-up to both consoles' launch.