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Back in February, we got a glimpse at the PlayStation 4 — not the system itself, mind you, but at what we could expect from the console in terms of games and entertainment. Sony was panned by many (myself included) for not showing the system itself. Before Microsoft had even acknowledged the existence of the Xbox One, much less shown it to the world, many had already considered the company’s next generation console the one to beat.

Boy, what a difference a couple of months can make.

The PlayStation 4 had an impressive showing at E3 last night, not so much for the games, but for what the company didn’t add to its next-generation game console — the restrictions that competitor Microsoft included on its Xbox One console, which is also set to launch later this year.

The Xbox One was first shown last month at event that didn’t share a whole lot on the games front, instead electing to focus on the system’s multimedia capabilities. The game-related takeaways that did make it out of the event weren’t good — possible restrictions on selling and trading used games and an always-online system requirement.

This image pretty much sums up how gamers feel about the Xbox One's restrictions.
This image pretty much sums up how gamers feel about the Xbox One’s restrictions.

Microsoft had the time between that event and E3 to re-think its restrictive game selling/trading system and win back some of the fans it had scared off. But, instead of doing that, Microsoft simply posted some FAQs on the Xbox website that confirmed every gamer’s worst fears: the Xbox One would indeed let publishers decide if a game could be resold, and the console would need to “check in” with Microsoft once per day via the Internet.

And when E3 rolled around, Microsoft showed off games as if nothing was wrong and then flashed a price on screen that would be considered too high for any system, much less a system as locked down as the Xbox One. That price? $499.

With the benefit of hindsight, it looks like Microsoft stepped right onto a Sony mine.

Sony held its own E3 conference last night, just hours after Microsoft’s. There was hype surrounding the fact that gamers would actually get to see the PlayStation 4 console. And they did. But the real winning moments took place when Sony announced that used games would work just like we’ve grown accustomed to — no restrictions. There would also be no required “check-in” over the Internet for the PS4. And price? $399 — one hundred dollars less than Microsoft’s machine.

Where things stand now, Microsoft can’t be feeling all that comfortable. The company just announced the most expensive, locked-down console of this generation — one that, according to many reports, is less powerful than the PlayStation 4, at least on paper. And Sony, which made this mistake last time, seems to have learned its lesson and won’t be making the same mistake twice. The PlayStation 3’s high price cost it significant market share to the Xbox 360 — market share that it never got back.

This time around, it’s looking like Microsoft might have priced itself out of many gamers’ budgets and, worse, might have turned them off completely with its used game system and daily Internet check-ins. Whether it was Sony’s plan all along to leave used games alone or the company took advantage of an opportunity, Sony played its cards right at E3.

In the eyes of gamers, the PlayStation 4 may have already won this generation, and a lot of the thanks has to go to Microsoft.


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