XBOX One, Indies Zero

May 22, 2013

Yesterday’s reveal of the successor to the XBOX 360, named XBOX One, appears to be TV lover’s dream. Toted as an all-in-one home entertainment system, XBOX One uses the latest in Kinect technology to impressively respond to a users’s physical and audible commands. For example, speaking the words “XBOX watch TV” and your XBOX leverages pass-through HDMI to display the signal from your cable box. Microsoft’s hour in the green colored spotlight was focused on television and the living room; with exciting contracts with EA and the NFL for exclusive interactive entertainment. The few titles shown were from the two biggest publishers in the world: Activision and EA. And the games were, well, the usual yearly sports games we all knew were coming. These are not the games two guys in their garage would be working on. No, they aren’t inspired by life experiences or designed with a voice that is unique and captivating. No, they’re built to push console sales. Certainly that makes investors happy, but long term strategists should be cautious: the reign of Indie games is here. And Sony is ahead of the curve.

It sure feels like Microsoft is the big corporate giant and Sony is the little guy that actually cares about gaming.

xbox one

Microsoft will move consoles but Sony will win the people.

Sony is making a strong effort to attract independent game developers to the PS4 and PS Vita. They have already started this process. Back in March they announced 3 indie titles for the PS3: Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, and Frozen Synapse. And recently both Primal Carnage: Genesis and Blacklight: Retribution were confirmed for the PS4. Sony’s method is to effectively get out of the way. They’ve announced waived fees and a simpler certification process. During their reveal back in February, Sony was clear that the PS4 would be all about games. The entire presentation was peppered with developer interviews and commentary. Microsoft may have said “it’s built by gamers, for gamers,” but it is Sony that are proving it.

Truth is, I want the XBOX One to succeed as much as I want the PS4 and Steam Box to succeed. It’s the difference in messaging that concerns me concerned about XBOX One. During the press conference it took at least 20 minutes for a game to be mentioned or shown. And sadly, it was to announce a tight relationship with a huge publisher (EA). They quickly went back to showing off the TV features. Sony, on the other hand, was all about games, accessibility  and why they won’t repeat the mistakes they made with the PS3 and the Cell technology.

We’ll know more during E3 and hopefully we see some exciting exclusives on both machines.