Sony made a huge splash on Wednesday night when it finally revealed the first details on its PlayStation 4 console at a press event in New York City. There were some things that we think Sony did very well during the event and other things that Sony probably should not have included in its first presentation.
Now the ball is firmly in Microsoft's court. It's been over seven years since the Xbox 360 hit store shelves and with a "holiday 2013" time frame planned for the PS4 launch, Microsoft pretty much has to announce what it has planned for the "next Xbox" sometime in 2013. After watching the PS4 reveal event, and reading some comments made by Sony executives afterwards, we think Microsoft would do well to take some lessons from Sony's good and bad decisions.
Show the "next Xbox" console during your reveal event: Sony may think that, "A console is just a box", but Microsoft should know better than anyone that the design of a game console is very important. The look of the original Xbox was, well, a big black case with little style. The first design for the Xbox 360 was a step in the right direction and the Xbox 360 "Slim" case in 2010 was an even better look.
We hope that when Microsoft has a "next Xbox" reveal event, it makes the decision to actually show a real working prototype of the console on stage. Is it a minor thing for a "first look" press conference? Maybe, but we think that gamers want to be able to see what they are going to buy in a few months.
Have some awesome first party "next Xbox" game titles to show off: The very best part of the PS4 presentation was the first look at four first party games that Sony plans to release for the console, and quite frankly all of them look pretty cool at this stage. Killzone: Shadow Fall looks like a fun and graphically rich sci-fi shooter, and Knack is shaping up to be an entertaining action-adventure title with a main robot character that can add or subtract parts from himself.
Sucker Punch is looking to bring back its cool inFamous game series with Second Son, but the game we were most impressed with was DriveClub from Evolution Studios. It looks like its going to be a mix of Need for Speed with Gran Turismo, but with the most detailed graphics we have ever seen in a racing game.
Microsoft better have some great looking and playing "next Xbox" games from its own studios to show off for its reveal. We are confident they will do so, but at the moment, we are pretty excited about playing these PS4 games.
Don't bother with showing third party games that have already been announced: As good as Sony's new first party PS4 games looked on Wednesday, we were a bit let down by the third party game presentations from other publishers. The only one that showed off a game that we had not seen before was Capcom with Deep Down (which looked pretty cool, by the way). Ubisoft did show new gameplay footage from Watch Dogs, but we saw that game at E3 2012 in June. Bungie showed off new Destiny video at the event but that game had gotten its own big press reveal just a few days ago.
Blizzard also announced that Diablo III would be coming to the PS4 and the PS3, but they didn't even bother to show footage of the console ports. Square Enix showed a demo, not an actual game, during the PS4 press conference, and teased us with a Final Fantasy announcement for later at E3 2013.
So basically, we got just one cool new game from a third party publisher during the PS4 reveal event. That's not even close to being enough. Microsoft would be advised to off some new third party games during its first "next Xbox" reveal.
Show that the "next Xbox" supports indie gaming: Jonathan Blow's acclaimed indie game Braid made its debut on the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade service in 2008. So it was a surprise to learn on Wednesday that his next game, the open world puzzle title The Witness, would be making its console debut on the PS4. We are not sure how Microsoft let that one slip by.
In any case, Microsoft has to show that the "next Xbox" will be open to new and even experimental games from small independent developers and it needs to make that clear during the "next Xbox" reveal.
Go easy on the graphical demos: Demos are cool to look at for a few seconds to show off the graphical capabilities of a new next-gen console, but Sony went a little overboard on Wednesday night with the demos for the PS4. Quantic Dream showed a detailed human face running on the PS4 hardware and tried to use it as a way to showcase how the console allows developers to not worry anymore about hardware limitations.
However, the demo was, in a word, boring. Modeling a detailed human face is great, but we honestly care more about gameplay and wanted to see that face mapped on a character in a real game title and have him do cool stuff.
Media Molecule's PS4 demo involved shaping virtual characters and objects with the PlayStation Move controller. However, how all of this would work in an actual game was never made clear at all. Just how does the player use the Move to shape the virtual object? We don't have a clue based on the video. The final sequence, where two people with Move controllers are seen manipulating two characters on the screen, never talks about all of this is accomplished. It was confusing and really should have been left out of the PS4 reveal event.
If Microsoft wants to show some quick graphical demo clips for its "next Xbox" reveal, that's great. They should not, however, devote tons of time to graphical demos that don't represent actual gameplay. The console reveal should have a laser focus on games; real games that are in development and are coming out for the console.
Images via Sony