The battle over who becomes the next video game console giant — a contest raging mainly between Sony and Microsoft — may be fought over things other than the games themselves.
On Monday night, Sony introduced its next-generation PlayStation 4 system during its E3 media briefing, and the most lethal shots leveled at Microsoft’s Xbox One were about the latter’s pricing and features, not the upcoming titles that will play on it. E3 is the world’s largest video game trade show, staged annually in Los Angeles.
Price » $499 (includes Kinect camera)
Release » November
Hardware specs » 8-core CPU, 500 gigabyte hard drive, Blu-ray drive, 8 gigabytes of system memory
Online store » Xbox Live Marketplace, an Xbox Live Gold membership costs $59.99 per year, which is required to play multiplayer games
Features » Interactive TV guide, voice commands, multitasking between games and TV, Skype video conferencing
Peripherals » Kinect motion controller and camera, works with tablets such as iPad for “second-screen experience”
No. of exclusive game titles » 13
Exclusive titles » A new “Halo,” fighting game “Killer Instinct,” Roman action title called “Ryse,” “Forza Motorsport 5,” futuristic shooter, “Titanfall”
Restrictions » Must be connected to Internet at least once a day, is not backward compatible with Xbox 360 games, can play used games under a series of restrictions
Price » $399 (does not include peripherals)
Release » In time for holidays
Hardware specs » 8-core CPU, 500 gigabyte hardrive, Blu-ray drive, 8 gigabytes of system memory, system memory faster and more advanced than RAM used in Xbox One
Online store » PlayStation Store, must pay $49.99 per year for PlayStation Plus membership for extra features
Features » Can watch movies and television shows but no interactivity
Peripherals » PlayStation Move motion controller, PlayStation Eye camera system that works much like Xbox Kinect camera (sold separately)
No. of exclusive titles » 40 games with “exclusive” extras
Exclusive titles » Racing game, “Driveclub,” action game “Infamous: Second Son,” futuristic shooter, “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” steampunk action game “The Order: 1886”
Restrictions » Does not require constant Internet connection, can play used games with no restrictions, backward compatible to older PlayStation 3 games only through cloud-based streaming service called Gaikai
The PlayStation 4, or PS4, will retail for $399, $100 less than Microsoft’s next-gen console. Microsoft announced earlier on Monday that the Xbox One would retail for $499, but that includes a new version of the Kinect camera, a bar designed to sit front of a TV that measures a player’s movements and voice.
For the older Xbox 360, the Kinect was a peripheral that was sold separately, and its inclusion in the Xbox One probably is the rationale for the beefed up price.
Sony also made another announcement about the PS4 that was aimed directly at Microsoft’s console. The new PlayStation will play used games without any restrictions, and it will not require a constant connection to the Internet — unlike the Xbox One.
"When a gamer buys a PS4 disc, they have the rights to use that copy of the game. They can trade in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend or keep it forever," said Sony of America President and CEO Jack Tretton.
"If you enjoy playing single-player games offline, PS4 won’t require you to check in online periodically, and it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours," he added, drawing the night’s biggest applause with the news.
Microsoft received widespread criticism when it unveiled the Xbox One last month, stating that its console could play used games bought and sold at retailers such as GameStop — but with a series of restrictions. And the console must be connected to the Internet at least once a day in order to authenticate games, a method to combat piracy but one deemed an inconvenience for those with no broadband connections.
These issues might be some of the deciding factors when gamers choose this holiday season which console to buy, given that the units themselves will be very similar in regard to technology.
Both boxes will yield the same processing power and graphical prowess. Both will be based on the same architecture as today’s fastest and most powerful Intel-based personal computers, and both will use similar graphics chips. They also will be equipped with the same amount of system memory, 8 gigabytes of RAM. And both will have controllers very similar to their previous console incarnations, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but with additional features.
Yet Microsoft is pushing its console more as an all-around entertainment center for the living room that also will be the machine for movies, music and interactive television. Sony’s box will mostly be geared for hardcore gamers (although it, too, will play movies and music).
Games were what Sony stressed in Monday night’s briefing. It said 140 titles were in development for the PS4, 100 of which will be released in its first year.
Some of the titles the company announced included a new version of the "Final Fantasy" role-playing series, the new "Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag," a futuristic action game about secret surveillance called "Watch Dogs," and a new game based on the apocalyptic action movie "Mad Max."
Sony also announced its continued commitment to its PlayStation Vita handheld gaming system, which was released in stores last year. CEO Tretton said 85 new titles will launch for the system despite its lower-than-expected sales its first year.
The E3 trade show continues through Thursday.
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