Sony insisted Tuesday that the game console war is far from won, despite its PR launch triumph over Microsoft this week, as gamers scrambled to get their hands on the next generation devices.
Developers and fans swarmed onto the Japanese and US giants’ stands at the E3 gaming industry mega-conference in Los Angeles, a day after Sony’s Playstation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox One were unveiled in public for the first time.
In the grand tradition of pent-up frenzy surrounding new tech product launches, many waited in line for hours before the E3 doors opened at noon, even though the products themselves will not go on sale until at least November.
There was palpably more excitement in the blue-themed Sony area, where fans waited for up to half an hour to have a three-minute go on the PS4, while Microsoft battled to highlight the advantages of its new console.
“It’s brilliant, beautiful,” said Japanese gamer Kazuki Hosokawa of Sega America after his turn on the PS4 playing Blacklight Retribution, an adrenaline pumping first person shooter (FPS) based in a futuristic urban warzone.
Asked why he preferred the Sony console to its rivals he said simply, in halting English: “Price is low” — referring to the gap between the Xbox One’s $499 and the PS4’s $399 sticker price, announced in eve-of-E3 presentations.
At back-to-back presentations Monday, the Japanese and US titans showcased blockbuster games, but Sony triggered cheers with assurances it would not interfere with sales of used titles or require Internet connections for play.
The points were in sharp contrast to Microsoft, which designed Xbox One consoles to check-in on the Internet once every 24 hours for games to work, and set conditions on used games.
In an interview Tuesday as E3 opened, Sony Computer Entertainment of America chief Jack Tretton welcomed the reception — but cautioned that as a 27-year industry veteran he took nothing for granted.
“It’s certainly nice to get out in front early on,” Tretton, who fronted Monday’s pre-E3 presentation, told AFP in a downtown LA hotel, while warning: “I’ve always said this is a marathon not a sprint.”
Microsoft focused on its core audience of gamers at the E3 presentation of a box designed to become a hub for films, television shows, music and other home entertainment streamed from the Internet.
“Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device,” said Microsoft president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick.
The beefed-up hardware is powered by software allowing instant switching between games, TV and Internet browsing. Kinect motion and sound sensors recognize users; respond to spoken commands and even detect a person’s pulse.
The Kinect wizardry was on display at E3 on Tuesday, with conference-goers invited to grab a handset and have their movements, facial expressions and heart-rate displayed on a big screen behind them in real time.
But some journalists grumbled that, while they could video such demonstrations from a distance, recording of more hands-on exploration of the hardware was restricted.
“I don’t think it’s a battle any more,” said tech reporter Vince Ingenito. “As far as I’m concerned unless Microsoft can somehow re-design their system and change all the deals they’ve made .. they’re stuck,” he told AFP.
Microsoft has sold some 77 million Xbox 360 consoles since they hit the market in late 2005. Sony has sold about the same number of PlayStation 3 consoles, which was introduced a year later.
Nintendo sold nearly 100 million Wii consoles, which became hits due to innovative motion-sensing controls after their debut in 2006 — but demand for Nintendo’s recently released Wii U consoles has been disappointing.
The crowds were notably thinner at the Nintendo E3 stand Tuesday. But Sony executive Tretton said his company’s Japanese rival should never be underestimated.
“I think Nintendo has had a very loyal following for a very long time, so never count them out.”