Sony hammers Xbox over price, used games

Posted at 10:15 AM, Jun 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-11 14:58:55-04
By Doug Gross


(CNN) — At a coming-out party for its upcoming PlayStation 4 console, Sony doubled up by leveling its guns on rival Microsoft’s Xbox One device and firing until the chambers were empty.

During a press event Monday night at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Sony hammered home key points about its new gaming system: Sharing games will be free. If people want to sell used games, that’s fine. And a near-constant Internet connection, meant to monitor game usage, won’t be required.

In other words, the PS4 will do many things the new XBox apparently cannot. Oh, and the PlayStation 4 will sell for $399 — $100 less than the Xbox One. Both consoles are expected this fall in time for the holiday shopping season.

A big point of contention among gamers is that Microsoft’s new Xbox will require an online check-in every 24 hours (less than the “always-on” mode gamers expected) and will only allow games to be resold at selected retailers. Games may be shared only among a limited number of friends and family members.

Microsoft’s daily check-in is designed, in part, to make sure users haven’t resold, traded in or given away a game they’ve already downloaded on their consoles. The idea is to prevent more than one person from effectively owning a game that was purchased only once.

After rolling out a list of new games, Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, essentially went down a laundry list of complaints about the new Xbox, which had been showcased earlier Monday, and promised the opposite.

“In addition to creating an amazing library of new titles on PlayStation 4, we’re equally focused on delivering what gamers want most without imposing restrictions or devaluing their PS4 purchases,” Tretton said. “For instance, PlayStation 4 won’t impose any new restrictions on the use of pre-owned games.”

That announcement got a loud and sustained round of applause from an E3 crowd not always easy to impress.

“I guess that’s a good thing,” a smiling Tretton replied.

In game-console terms, digital-rights management is a code that allows users to access a game’s content. It’s designed to assure developers and publishers that only the person who paid for the game, and close family and friends, can play it.

Sony and Microsoft aren’t the ones that would benefit from DRM, or used-game restrictions. Game publishers want to make sure they are getting paid for their work, and that includes the secondhand market.

In the weeks leading up to E3, Microsoft had sought to calm gamers’ concerns with a series of blog posts that some felt nibbled around the edges of rights-management issues but never offered definitive answers.

Sony then was conspicuously quiet in what, now, appears to have been an orchestrated effort to lower the boom at E3.

Witness the “Official PlayStation Used Game Instructional Video” released shortly after the presentation. It’s 22 seconds long and features only “Step 1,” a man handing a disc to another man.

That cheeky video had racked up more than 1.5 million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours.

Microsoft did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request seeking comment. But online pundits were quick to praise Sony for landing some blows against its rival.

“As crude as it is to declare a company the ‘winner’ of E3, it’s hard to see Sony’s presentation today as anything but a PR coup … ,” Kyle Orland, senior gaming editor at CNN content partner Ars Technica, wrote Monday.

“Among some of the most influential and hardest-to-please gamers on the Internet, Sony is now the savior company that can do no wrong. They should enjoy the ride, which will last just as long as it takes for them to do something wrong.”

Writing for Time, Jared Newman takes a longer view. Sony’s move is meant to preserve the future of disc-based games, at least for now, while Microsoft stands ready to kill discs entirely, moving to an almost entirely digital model, he said.

Playing to what’s already comfortable for gamers was clearly part of Sony’s strategy, Newman said.

“Sony is just betting that the good will of gamers will be enough to cut Microsoft’s ambitions short,” he wrote. “And Microsoft has some big ambitions, not just to be the best game console, but to serve as the central hub of all living room entertainment.

“It’s a gambit on Sony’s part, one that’s going to make the console wars even fiercer.”

Freelance writer Larry Frum contributed to this report.

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