LOS ANGELES -- Marc Whitten thinks the Xbox One provides an overall better value than the competition.
"I believe we're delivering an immense value," he explained to me at a meeting within Microsoft's booth at E3 2013. The Microsoft corporate vice president and chief product officer for Xbox believes that when you consider everything Xbox One is offering -- with its lineup of exclusive titles and ambitious live TV integration -- there's enough justification for spending the extra $100 come this holiday season.
The company's direct console gaming competitor, Sony, undercut Xbox One by $100,when it, too, is released this holiday season.
"I feel good about our price," Whitten said. Bringing more value to the table was the first consideration after the decision was made to go ahead with a next-generation console. But the consensus here at E3 is that Sony is leading on the value front.
But why? A lot of it has to do with the way Xbox One is treating game licensing and the reselling and purchasing of used games. Only first-party Xbox One games are guaranteed to be resellable (only one time) and it's up to other publishers to decide whether or not to allow that for their third-party games.
As if a few weeks of bad press wasn't enough, Sony took the opportunity at its press conference to make it abundantly clear: there will be.
I asked Whitten about whether Xbox One could adopt a fluctuating pricing model that emulated real-world depreciation of software, to which he responded, "I don't know about that specific scenario...but we'll have to see how that plays out."
It's something they'll need to consider if they want to stay competitive. If gamers are given the choice to buy a third-party game on either Xbox One or PlayStation 4, it seems like a no-brainer to choose the latter if there's no restriction headaches on what they can do with their used game.
So where does Microsoft plan on making up the price difference between Xbox One and PlayStation 4? Exclusive titles is one way. Microsoft has been able to tie up a number of games including the next title from former Infinity Ward developers. The new studio, Respawn, will have its first game, Titanfall, launch solely on Xbox One. Microsoft also landed Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Quantum Break, Crimson Dragon, Ryse: Son of Rome, and others. But while they may have just narrowly made the impression of offering more blockbuster exclusives out of the gate, Microsoft will have a difficult time positioning Xbox One as more friendly to independent developers. In that department Sony simply makes a more compelling argument.
Whitten also says he believes that we've seen only the tip of the iceberg for what's possible with Kinect integrated into games. "I like to think of it as the third joystick."
Then there's the notion of cloud computing, something Microsoft is heavily banking on, perhaps more so than Sony. Whitten maintains that the architecture is much more accessible on Xbox One thanks to its 300,000 servers that are at the disposal of developers. "I think you'll see it [cloud computing functionality] by far more on Xbox One," he said.
An impressive asteroid-tracking demo showed me just how much of a boost cloud computing can provide. My colleague.
The center of the living room
Microsoft wants Xbox One to be the first thing you activate when you sit on your living room couch. "I believe strongly that that screen [your TV] is going to be redefined in our living rooms and we believe Xbox One is something that can unlock its potential," he said. "Live TV is a complicated problem."
Most would agree that live TV is the most natural experience in the living room. Microsoft needed to find a way to get in front of that -- literally. The solution is an HDMI-in and -out that works as a live TV pass-through that the console can wrap the Xbox interface around. Combined with a Kinect and SmartGlass ecosystem, Xbox One looks to provide an all-in-one interactive experience that includes using your mobile phone or voice as a universal remote control for all of your living room devices.
I'm not sure I've ever seen an E3 before with such dramatics and fanfare. Lines have been drawn in the sand and sides have been taken. But underneath the fanboy circus there lies an interesting story of two console manufacturers that have considerably different views on how the industry is evolving.
"We're making a continued investment in not just Xbox Live but also making sure we're delivering something that's amazing on day one," Whitten saidd. But if the buzz at E3 2013 is any indication, they'll need to do so trailing Sony's momentum.
E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, highlights the latest in interactive games for computers, consoles, handhelds, and more.
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