How Sony Won E3 2013

Game journalists are obsessed with the idea of “winning” E3. We want to be standing in the ring, holding the gloved fist of the champion in the air, as his defeated opponent sulks beside us. Google the terms “E3″ and “win,” and you’ll be inundated with results. Change the search parameters to early June in 2012, 2011, 2010, and you’ll see a similar avalanche of articles.

Maybe it’s because game journalists are also gamers, and we spend a lot of time thinking about “winning” and “losing” things. Maybe declaring a single winner makes us feel powerful. There is, of course, a strange chicken-egg phenomenon — various products “win” E3 simply because people are saying that they won it, not necessarily because they’re objectively great. Games can also win simply by being the best of a pretty mediocre bunch, like Watch Dogs did last year.

This year is different. Microsoft and Sony arrived in L.A. with two new consoles to show off; the narrative of “winning” was in place from the beginning. Two men enter, one man leaves.

But it wasn’t just that. As this week’s news unfolded, Sony really did win. Not only did it win, it won in a blowout, a skunking, a straight-sets obliteration. The reason? Sony was the company that realized it was playing a game.

Microsoft has been self-immolating in slow-motion ever since the first rumors hit that the Xbox One would require an “always-on” internet connection. The big reveal on May 21st generated a firestorm of bad publicity, fueled by weeks of confusion about what the Xbox One actually did and how it did it. When Microsoft got around to addressing, fan concerns, it lead to more embarrassing equivocation about always-on, privacy, and used games.

Sony could have just let this bad press speak for itself. Instead, it went one step further, waiting until the end of its E3 press conference to show slides that explicitly repudiated all of Microsoft’s most controversial practices. In many ways, the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are very similar, especially in terms of the hardware inside. But Sony went out of its way to emphasize all the specific ways that the PS4 was different: more indie games; no always-on; support for used games. Even the price-point was carefully chosen to be $100 less than the $499 Microsoft is charging for the Xbox One. Sony might lose money at first with every device sold, but the initial coup might still be worth it in the long run.

This all made it easy for journalists to craft the winning narrative. Forbes, not necessarily known for its hyperbole, said in a headline that “PS4′s Price And Policies Humiliate Microsoft’s Xbox One.” As this headline and many others attest, Sony won not because the Playstation 4 is a great console (although that might well be true), but because it went out of its way to make the Xbox One look like a worse console — expensive, confusing, and anti-consumer.

The Japanese company even saved its best for last: as soon as the press conference ended, Sony released this video of two high-ranking executives openly mocking the Xbox One’s byzantine used-games policy:

It’s possible that, in the past, one multi-billion dollar corporation has trolled another. Never quite like this. All the talk about hardware, about games, about features, about exclusive titles, about consumer protection — it all boils down to one 22-second video. One slam dunk. One home run. One headshot. Sony made a joke about Microsoft; everyone laughed. To the victor go the spoils.

In case there was any lingering confusion, Microsoft spent the next few days shooting itself in the foot. Someone told a rape joke at the press conference. In an interview with journalist Geoff Keighly, Don Mattrick, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment Business, appeared dangerously out of touch. First, he reduced all the people worried about the Xbox One’s always-on policy to one lame anecdote about a blogger who works on a nuclear submarine. Mattrick got smugger: “Fortunately, we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity — it’s called Xbox 360.” As if on cue, the news broke today that the Xbox One will only be able to play games at launch if you live in certain specific countries. Nuclear submariners may be be out, but so are the Portuguese.

Meanwhile, Sony are making it look easy. A rumor about restrictive used-games policies was cleared up quickly by a call from Game Front to Sony P.R. They told us that the policy was identical to the one already in place on the PS3. The next day, Sony did one better, saying in an interview with Gamasutra that it doesn’t intend to support online pass systems at all.

Still, as Cliffy B’s tweet reminds us, this is a war, not a battle. The overall success of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One will be decided far in the future. But the result of the initial battle can often decide the course of a war, and Sony would know: in 2005, the Xbox 360 was the consensus winner over the Playstation 3, which spent the next eight years playing catch-up (which, it should be pointed out, was largely successful).

This time around, Sony made sure it understood the game. It arrived prepared to win. And it didn’t just win — it was a flawless victory.

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17 Comments on How Sony Won E3 2013


On June 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm

This is why I hate Cliffy B. He thinks he is the only smart man amidst an entire population of idiots. There is A LOT of negativity surrounding the XBone. Enough so even the “GTA, Madden, COD fan” would have heard about it. Secondly, it’s not like GTA, Madden and COD are Microsoft exclusives. He is basically calling your average gamer an in uninformed consumer that has no idea of what they’re buying. Not only that but he is implying that these are the people Microsoft on relying on to make up the difference for those that have decided not to buy it.

The guy is an even bigger condescending meat head than Major Nelson.


On June 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I think Sony was wise to explicitly call out MS’s plans because, unfortunately, Bleszinski is right that there are a lot of people out there who don’t even think about what MS’s policies mean and need it pointed out directly. A lot of people with a 360 just planned on getting the One from the get go and haven’t paid attention to why they might be getting the shaft in exchange for their blind loyalty. At the very least, Sony has made it known why their console is different from MS’s.


On June 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I’ve decided to preform a scientific experiment with regards to Cliffy B’s statements. I simulated the non-existent dude bro idiot by drinking heavily and smashing my head in my head in a car door until I could no longer remember my social security number or the scientific method. Unfortunately, I could still tell the difference between $400 and $500, and read the amazon page that listed CoD ghosts as coming to both 360 and PS3. Therefore I still have no reason to buy an XBone, or if I’m this hypothetical proto-idiot even a PS4.

See, the “core” group that microsoft pissed off are the ones who get worked up about the whole console war thing, Billy McDouchehat who only plays x-box for CoD has no such brand loyalty. He just wants CoD and he doesn’t really care how he gets it. Microsoft is still going to get spanked by this unless they can either win back the “core” gamers or lower the price enough for people who don’t really care as much to buy the xbone over the PS4.


On June 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

you have to sell to those people if you loose the hard core then the people who buy system cause of their friends are gone too. if you dont think that then you dont know this business and you are my friend an fuc*ing idiot


On June 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The first rule of war is to know you are at war.
And to Cliffy’s comment, to those GTA, COD, Madden people are going to go to Best Buy and see two systems that pretty much do the same thing except the PS4 is $100 cheaper and doesn’t have complex rules about what you can do with your games. They may not care about DRM explicitly but combine it with $100 and they do care.


On June 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

gasmaskangel for comment of the week.

Ross Lincoln

On June 13, 2013 at 6:12 pm

The funny thing is, the sales of “GTA, Madden, COD” are explicit rebuttal of Cliffy’s absurd suggestion that the industry is endangered by used game sales.


On June 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm

OMG, is Cliffy really that stupid or is he just on drugs. Either way, he’s looking really bad. Micromoron has been screwing up for quite a while. Windows 8 is a joke. It’s basically windows 7 with more restrictions on devs and hardly any real updates for users. Nope, Microcrotch is going down faster and faster. Good by you pathetic money grubbers.


On June 13, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Anybody else see the similarities between the MS stupidity on Xbone and the MS stupidity on W8? Both cases are variations on the same theme of “You, the consumer, are stupid. You don’t know what’s good for you. The things you think you want are not actually the things you want, so we must educate you properly.” The complete and utter arrogance and condescension is simply staggering.

The company is already repeatedly claiming that W8 is selling poorly because consumers are too dumb to understand how wonderful of an OS it actually is (just in more diplomatic PR speak). I expect similar pronouncements after Sony absolutely stomps MS in sales this coming holiday season.

Some people in Redmond need to have it pounded into their pointy little skulls that companies survive and thrive by providing products that their customers A) want and B) feel add value to their lives. Completely turning the established market status quo on its head with basically no explanation whatsoever of why or how doing so is a good thing that adds value to the consumer is NOT how you go about doing that.

You want to sell a new OS? Fine. Explain to consumers how its features are a significant improvement over the previous OS to the extent that it justifies the financial and time expenditure of an upgrade. A bunch of people dancing around waving tablets in the air for 20 seconds isn’t even in the ballpark of that goal. Seriously, whoever greenlit the W8 marketing campaign should be fired. It’s even worse than the one for Vista, and I didn’t think that was possible.

Same with the Xbone, or as I’m calling it from now on, the Xbox Prism. You can’t just change the entire console game distribution method without first providing a d*mn good explanation as to why it’s a massive improvement over the current status quo. The real problem here for MS is that they CAN’T provide that explanation, because it’s NOT an improvement. It’s an anti-consumer DRM scheme at the core, and there’s no way to sell that honestly. So, the company nibbles around the edges with mostly vague PR speak and hopes that the majority of consumers don’t notice until after they’ve handed over their money.

Unfortunately for MS, Sony got enough press from the E3 fiasco to raise awareness among the overwhelming majority of the core gaming community, most of whom in addition to not buying the Xbox Prism will also actively encourage everyone they know to not purchase it as well. Basic business 101, it’s almost always beneficial to try and keep the customer happy, cause’ a single angry customer can easily cost the company several dozen sales over time. Furthermore, as gasmaskangel rightly pointed out in much greater detail, the rest of the potential consumers might not give a rip about DRM but they sure as h*ll understand a $100 price difference.

This fiasco is going to be talked about as a case study in business classes for years to come.


On June 14, 2013 at 2:59 am

lol. It’s cute when f@gtards like jawa and gasmask try to sound like they know what they’re talking about. I’ll take the opinion of Cliffy over the scattered whines of a few butthurt Sony fanboys any day. Nobody cares about DRM just as nobody cares about Origin. As long as they can play Mass Effect and Call of Duty they don’t give a crap what some 14 year old thinks about Shepard dying or some free DLC map being removed. Real gamers will see through the tantrums and realise Xbox is the superior console in every way possible, hence the relatively small price differential that its target market will easily be able to afford. If you can’t get your moms to stump up the extra $100, go for PS4 then moan again that your gamble didn’t pay off.

The entitlement of gamers today is staggering.


On June 14, 2013 at 3:58 am

I seem to be living in a fantasy land where Journalists have integrity and panache and internet commenters are witty and accurate (except for ‘lol’ of course). Ahhhhh. Gamefront, this is why you’re the best games site on the internet.


On June 14, 2013 at 8:29 am

The stupidity of some trolls today is staggering.

I have been a huge Xbox fan since the first console, and I honestly thought I was gonna love the Xbox One at the beginning of this year. I’ve always picked on my friends who thought PS was better than Xbox (just all jokes of course)… I was ready to defend Xbox as far as I could, but now, because MS’s attitude has been received as, “Screw the consumer, we know what is best for you; Publishers are now openly our first priority and you don’t actually own the game you bought,” I felt so very happy about Sony’s E3 presentation and I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying a PS4 when I purchase a console this next generation.


On June 14, 2013 at 8:39 am

See lol, you’re only here to try and get people ticked off. You want to make people mad, and your statement proves it. If you were truly honest with what you’re saying, you would offer some sort of reasoning behind what you say. At least the articles and people posting give a little(or sometimes a lot) reasoning behind what they say, while you come and spout what ever you can, in as rude a way as you think possible, with out a single reason as to why you are suppose to be right. You are trolling simply to try and be as irritating as possible. Guess what? Everybody here knows has been around long enough to know who and what you are. Only once in awhile do you get any real reaction, and that’s only from someone who doesn’t know you.
The only thing you evoke is ignorance. Yep, the people can see the ignorant nothing that likes to troll, so you’re ignored like a parent ignores a 5 year old throwing a tantrum. Take the Pampers off dude and grow up.


On June 14, 2013 at 10:01 am

Of course that’s what lol is doing. He’s taking fanboyism to an extreme as an example just to stir things up.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just as irritated as the rest of us about some of these things, but he’s more irritated at a lot of the uninformed, unsubstantiated comments that show up and posts accordingly.

Frankly, I treat most of his comments as parody or satire.


On June 14, 2013 at 10:47 am

Watching that press conference was like watching Sony punch Microsoft in the face over and over.

It’s like Ricitello’s EA has shed its skin, and now Microsoft is wearing it like a mantle.