This is it. This is that moment that everyone is going to be talking about forever. When we look back on E3 2013 we’re going to point to this moment as the highlight of the show, the big talking moment.
And who can really say otherwise? I’ve mentioned it on Potaku so many times this week because it’s that important. Listen to the way the crowd cheered when Tretton began announcing the Playstation 4’s stance on DRM and used games, how it builds with every added statement. Heck, I wanted to cheer with them as he kept going and it just got better and better. That’s the moment Sony won E3 in the eyes of many.
But what are we really cheering for? What did Sony really do here?
The answer is: nothing. Sony had to do absolutely nothing to win the crowd over. Microsoft set itself up for the fall and Sony barely had to breathe out to push Microsoft off the cliff.
Let’s look at the precise wording of Tretton’s first statement, the first one that stirred the crowd. ‘Playstation 4 won’t impose any new restrictions on the use of PS4 gaming’. We are literally cheering about the fact that nothing new is happening. It was about sticking to a business model that was working, boosted by their competitor’s poorly received attempt to change things up.
Here’s what we were cheering about in that moment. The Playstation 4 will not require an online connection to play any of its games. Later we learned that third party games may have DRM for online components, but for the most part games on the system are DRM free. You will be able to purchase used games or trade in old games at retailers, and be able to play those used games as you normally would. You can also loan or borrow games with friends and expect the same result.
None of those features are new, though. My Playstation 3 does not require an online connection for singleplayer experiences. Publishers often include online passes in multiplayer games, but outside of that there are no restrictions. I could buy a new or a used copy of The Last of Us and expect it to play normally either way. I can borrow Naruto games off Doc What and not worry about anything.
Sony essentially announced that the Playstation 4 will operate in much the same way as the Playstation 3 (with a Playstation Plus subscription required for online play, though, which was sneakily hidden in Sony’s tongue-in-cheek video about how to share games with friends). And we completely ate it up. Of course it was a response to Microsoft’s more restrictive policies. That moment was like a wave of relief washing over a crowd who had spent weeks expecting the worst, expecting Sony to come out with similar (or worse, more) restrictive policies. But when you boil it down, we’re cheering for nothing. We’re cheering for the same things the Playstation 3 is, just with better graphics and a user interface that’s very focused on social gaming.
It’s not a bad thing. Faced with the alternative I prefer the fact that Sony is keeping things relatively the same for the next generation. There’s a little bit of doubt as to how third party games might handle DRM, how those publishers might be more restrictive, but that blame won’t fall so much to Sony. We can get angry at those publishers in those moments.
It’s so weird to say that the highlight of E3 was the moment we learned one console was going to treat certain services in the same way as it had for the past generation. We look to E3 for innovation, we want these consoles to be something new and exciting, but it was this moment that people are claiming was the defining moment of the event.
At the end of the day we have an audience cheering because they don’t want change, because they want things to stay as they are rather than see them become something else, something unpleasant. They cheered and they cheered and Tretton just ate it all up on stage. Then he announced the $399 price tag and the uproar in that moment said it all.
Sony won E3 by doing nothing. Well played.