Now that the explosion that was gamescom 2013 has finally settled, it's time to get down and dirty! I've watched both conferences in detail, considered the playable demos, and chosen who I believe to be the victor of this year's conference! Read the results here!
Now that the explosion that was gamescom 2013 has finally settled, it's time to get down and dirty! I've watched both conferences in detail, considered the playable demos, and chosen who I believe to be the victor of this year's conference!
Category 1: Message Conveyed To the Audience
When you're presenting a product on a large stage in front of the world, sometimes the message you convey is just as important as the demos you decide to show. After all, consumers tend to buy into a brand that reflects a sense of trust and likability. At gamescom, both sides vied to get our attention, but they did so in markedly different ways. On Sony's end, I'd like to say their thesis was "we are an indie-touting, gamer-loving, family of products." They strengthened this idea by showering us with a metaphorical avalanche of intriguing indie titles to play across all three major PS platforms. In that sense, Sony reaffirmed the message that they simply love and live for games. After all, they gave consumers tons of them to think about.
Microsoft also tried to focus their conference on games large and small, but they did so with other methods in mind. As far as indies are concerned, they outlined a plan to lure the scene into their development chain. Including two free devkits is a great idea, but telling the audience about your updated polices pales in comparison to showing the full list of indie hits that would be PS-bound. In total, the Xbox show only made suggestion to about nine different titles, They had lots of demos for journalists to try, but as a watcher at home, those aspects simply don't transfer.
On the next page, we'll consider the specific games that were shown. Despite having less on its plate, can Microsoft redeem themselves?
Category 2: The Games
As I said on the previous page, Microsoft made mention to less than ten titles over the course of their forty minutes on stage. As far as exclusivity is concerned, only six of those had some kind of timed or full exclusivity deal on Xbox. These of course included Cobalt, Fighter Within, Kinect Sports Rivals, and Fable Legends. The last of which was probably gamescom's biggest game announcement made to buttress One's library. It's true that quality does sometimes outweigh quantity, but I still felt a little empty once the closing montage started to roll. Especially considering Microsoft won't have a huge Tokyo Game Show presence, I feel like they should have brought more to the table.
With regards to Sony, they showed a lot more than nine exclusive titles. In fact, if I consult the Complete QJ Recap, it looks like about twenty different titles were suggested in a little over an hour. All of which we were either full or partially exclusive to a PlayStation platform. That being said, there was very little to be seen in terms of triple-A titles. I believe only four of those twenty came from major studios. Is that a bad thing? That's going to depend on who you talk to. While much of the internet praised Sony for their massive indie showcase, a lot of the casual folks may not be too excited by it. I personally think that group might be missing out on some truly unique experiences, but who knows. That small audience divide makes this category a closer call than it probably should be, but I still have to go with Sony again.
We've touched on it already, but both sides have offered their own messages related to indie support. Let's hash out the battle lines on the next page!
Category 3: Indie Support
I hate to keep going back to points I've already made, but indie presentation was such a huge part of gamescom that I thought it deserved its own category. As I've said, the majority of Sony's conference was about announcing some of the latest and greatest small team titles making exclusive PlayStation debuts. You can see the full list here, but its highlights include Hotline Miami 2, Rebirth, Wasteland Kings, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. All in all, Sony's goal was to give some well-deserve spotlight to independent groups that don't typically receive it. If I'm an indie developer, that's the kind of stuff I want to see: realizations of mainstream support from one of the biggest tech companies in the world. No matter how you slice it, every small-time dev dreams of Minecraft-level stardom. That prospect alone seems to have sent indies flocking to Sony's corner.
Microsoft was more or less left to atone for their own mistakes in this area. Initially, Xbox One's creators claimed that self-publishing would not be a part of the system's DNA. However, they have since amended their policy to include that, as well as two free devkits, a full SDK, and a range of discoverability options. It was also mentioned that eventually there are hopes that all retail Xbox One consoles can be used for development. Essentially, rather than showing games, Microsoft made an appeal to attract more indie content. This was a far less exciting strategy, but I think their new roadmap will pay off big in the end. However, because I can't guarantee their success, I have to go with what I already know: Sony seems to love indies, and developers have responded with a seemingly massive level of support.
Sony has taken a huge lead so far, but there may be a chance for Microsoft in our last section. See the final page for that possibility.
Category 4: Launch Prospects
As we near closer and closer to November, both parties did share a little bit about their launch plans. Microsoft announced its full Day One lineup that includes a mostly triple-A list of 23 games. Of most importance to MS fans, probably the biggest names include Call of Duty: Ghosts, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse: Son of Rome. Apart from those, the ever-infamous Titanfall is probably the most talked-about next-gen game on any platform, despite the fact that it's also coming to Xbox 360 and PC. However, that is only scheduled as a "launch window" game for Xbox One and might eventually come to the likes of PS4.
Speaking of which, the PS4 launch lists bests Xbox One by including 26 games. However, I think it should be noted that since many of these items are smaller-scale indie creations, that advantage does seem to fade just a little bit. As far as the big names we all want to know more about, Killzone Shadow Fall, Knack, Driveclub, and even Resogun look to be the biggest standouts. The last two will have free PlayStation Plus iterations I might add. As far as launch window releases are concerned, inFAMOUS Second Son is hotly anticipated as well.
All in all however, I still think Xbox has the better launch prospects so far. The Sony brand still needs to find a truly must-have exclusive that sends people in droves to buy their systems. In short, they need a title with the ubiquitousness of Halo. Titanfall alone has already seemingly achieved that status, and for now we can only officially confirm that its on Microsoft hardware. Toss in Dead Rising, and I find the Xbox Day One purchase decision to be far more difficult. Much of the Sony crowd will probably get Killzone at launch, but for many it will probably be their first time trying the series. It's a narrow win, but I think I'll give Microsoft just this one.
So what's my final word? I'm sure you can already guess, but I'll still summarize it on the last page!
The Final Word
What we saw at gamescom 2013 were two very different yet similar presentations. Microsoft came out in usual force with a string of suits and a concise, three-pronged message of great games, FIFA support, and a new indie policy. As far as games are concerned, they actually didn't advertise too many to the show's worldwide viewers. Yet somehow they manage to walk away with what I think is a slightly more appealing launch library. Unfortunately I think the TV-focused Xbox One reveal event forced the company into a position where they had to show so much more of their deck at E3 to save face. This left a lot less new discoveries to be found at gamescom. In fact, I was shocked when I awoke the morning of the conference to see almost no coverage of the Xbox event at all. Maybe the oodles of press demos just wasn't enough.
Funnily enough, I think Sony has also run out of major announcements since E3. However they did give up a PS4 release date for North America and Europe which made massive headlines. Even though they were quiet on major first-party releases, the fact that so many indie games showed up to play made it seem like the hardware maker truly had their act together. Instead of letting the press play the games, the PlayStation show was filled with trailers and name drops that the public at home could get excited about. They had no mistakes to revise, and the brand's momentum has continued to shift in a positive direction. Microsoft has finally ironed out most of their kinks, but they still seemed to be playing catch up during gamescom,
Overall Winner: Sony
Who do you guys think won gamescom? Let me know in the comments section below!