LOS ANGELES -- Thunderous applause greeted Sony Computer Entertainment of America CEO Jack Tretton when he announced that there would be no restrictions on used games for the PlayStation 4.
Tretton smiled and paused, garnering him a second wave of enthusiastic clapping and hollering.
In a battle between two titans of the console gaming industry on the unofficial first day of the E3 video game conference, Sony came out on top on Monday not by showing off a more impressive lineup of games, but by answering a few simple questions the right way.
"We believe in the model that people embrace today with the PlayStation 3," Tretton said.
Microsoft has had a couple of weeks of bad publicity, where it has faced questions about potential restrictions to used games. In response, the company issued a set of complicated guidelines about used games and the requirement for the Xbox One to check online once every 24 hours, putting off people without a reliable Internet source. It also punted on the question of used games, saying it would leave the policy up to publishers, leaving some gamers scratching their heads.
Microsoft held its, but made no mention of its new guidelines. In contrast, Sony was crystal clear about its policies, something that whooped up the fans and less impartial media at its E3 press conference on Monday night.
"We won't impose any restrictions on used games," Tretton said.
"It won't require you to check in online," he said, adding a comment sure to be taken as a potshot at the Xbox One: "It won't stop working if you haven't authenticated within 24 hours."
Andy House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, twisted the knife further.
"The gaming landscape is changing with new business models, but true consumer ownership and consumer trust are central to everything we do," he said. "With each new platform, we will continue to build upon that trust."
On top of that, House said that the PlayStation 4 would sell for $399, a hundred dollars less than the Xbox One. By pricing it more competitively, Sony has shown it has learned its lesson from the PS3, which was initially priced at a premium over the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
Otherwise, Sony had a decent, but not mind-blowing, collection of games to show off. Much of the time was spent updating games that were unveiled at the launch event in February, including another look at Killzone Shadowfall, teases for Final Fantasy 15 and Kingdom Hearts, and a look at a new title in development, an action game called The Order 1886 set in the 1800s but with futuristic weapons. As promising as Order looked, it was largely a collection of cinematic videos, although Sony claims it was running in real time.
Sony also made a big deal of exclusive add-ons, or little touches such as an extra two costumes for Batman in Arkham Asylum, an extra hour of gameplay and another outfit for the main character in Watchdogs, and a special Road Warrior survival kit for the upcoming game version of the classic road rage film "Mad Max." It also showed off the first game play footage for Destiny, from the makers of Halo, but only promised some vague exclusive partnership for future content (Destiny will also be available for the Xbox as well).
Sony said it had a solid pipeline of games in the works, with 140 games in development for the PlayStation 4. Of those games, 100 will be available in the first year, with 40 featuring experiences that are exclusive to the console.
Not leaving out the PlayStation 3, Tretton said the company would launch 300 titles for the system by the end of the year.
Sony is sticking to its gaming roots and double downing on the fact that the PlayStation 4 is a gaming device first, despite talking up its film and music services. Its strategy runs counter to Microsoft, which wants to present the Xbox One as an entertainment hub that appeals to more than just gamers.
It's still unclear which strategy will ultimately win out. But there are likely a lot of folks in the Sony camp who are happy tonight.
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