Sony E3 conference reaction – why Sony’s ‘for you the fans’ attitude to PS4 will win it the console war
Last night’s E3 conference saw Sony unveil the PS4 price (£350) and deliver big news regarding both DRM and online connectivity. OPM editor Ben Wilson argues that this ‘for you the fans’ attitude is what will win them the console war.
PS4 price and used games policies win out
During Simon Jordan’s infamous spell as Crystal Palace FC chairman in the early 2000s, the cocksure former phone salesman became notorious for attaching the phrase ‘for you the fans’ (his bad grammar, not mine) to every decision he made. When a player was signed, it was ‘for you the fans’. When 10-year season tickets were offered at knockdown prices, it was ‘for you the fans’. When his side avoided relegation with 180 seconds of the season to spare in 2001, it was ‘for you the fans’.
Yet more often than not, all the ‘for you the fans’ vows were merely a cover-up for season after season of mediocrity. More bad players were signing than good. That last day miracle masked 45 games and 87 minutes of dross. ‘For you the fans’ came to mean, “Sure, I’ve failed – but I did it for you guys!” The phrase became so synonymous with disappointment and self-pity that I, like most fellow fans of the South London side, began to fear the next instance of Jordan dropping it, knowing only sadness would follow.
Which is why, for all the hope they offered, many of the glorious noises that Sony president Jack Tretton made at last night’s Sony conference initially caused my stomach to perform somersaults, with my brain having little say in the matter. Although he never used the exact term, each and every one screamed ‘for you the fans’ – words I’ve come to associate with an unshakable sense of doom – in the same comma-less tone as Jordan. Thanks, football.
No DRM, for you the fans. A console that’s £80 cheaper than its rival, for you the fans. Partnerships with the best indie developers in the world, for you the fans. The ability to play without ever having to check in online, for you the fans.
They’re big, exciting promises to make, and a night of broken sleep (plus a river of Pepto-Bismol being tossed down my gullet) have me fully on board with Captain Jack. For starters, I have to believe that Tretton is made of sterner stuff than Jordan’s bravado, Brylcreem and bullshit.
More pertinently, Sony has to deliver on its ‘for you the fans’ promises or risk losing its audience. Jordan got away with his guff because no football fan will switch allegiance over a chairman failing to follow through on his promises. Sony can’t take the same gamble.
Gamers are fickle. A great number of PS2 owners switched to Xbox 360 for their next-gen kicks in 2005 without a second thought, simply because Microsoft got its console out first at a more agreeable price. That’s the audience Sony is looking to win back, and last night was the first step towards doing so. As proven by the whoops and hollers which at one point greeted the end of every Tretton sentence – when the crowd started chanting ‘Sony, Sony’ to the same tune as ‘Rocky, Rocky’, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was Dwayne Johnson up there cutting a promo as opposed to a videogaming exec.
I was liveblogging the event on our site and Twitter, and the reaction on the internets was similarly emphatic. The terms ‘Xbowned’ and ‘Xbox, off’, popped up repeatedly, from neutral journalists and committed fanboys alike. To many, nailing the price and used games policies collectively gave Sony an empty net to which it simply had to roll the ball goalwards. Instead, after some intricate build up play by seasoned internationals House and Yoshida, Tretton smashed it home emphatically.
The obvious counterpoint some will make is that based purely on the games, Microsoft had a better conference. And, ounce for ounce, it’s not a view I’d necessarily disagree with. But quite honestly, it’s an irrelevance.
Why? Because ultimately both consoles will be supported by a strong line-up of games within their first year on sale. Sony didn’t reveal anything of what Naughty Dog is up to post The Last Of Us, but if you think the studio currently has its feet on desks while smoking Victor Sullivan-branded cigars, think again. It has to be making a PS4 game. I don’t know this as fact, but it’s probably Uncharted 4. And I’d wager that, just like outings 2 and 3 of that series on PS3, it’ll be streets ahead of any full-priced game on rival consoles and here within a year to 18 months. (Again, a prediction rather than insider knowledge.)
The games, made by the Hennigs and the Cages and eventually the Levines, will come soon enough. For now the fact is that even among the highly targeted early adopters, no one of sane mind is paying £429 for a console solely to play Dead Rising 3. Possibly Titanfall, if they’re the type who likes to wrap up on a cold November night in a COD 4 slanket. But, cub scout’s honour, I genuinely thought Destiny looked the better game anyway.
This was a show in which the games, however impressive, were always going to be secondary to three major questions surrounding each format holder’s respective hardware. How pricey would it be? Could it play used games? And can could we sit down to play without having to faff around with the internet on a daily basis? Microsoft’s answers were ‘expensive, with difficulty, no’. Sony’s were ‘affordable, yes, yes’. And they won them the show, all thanks to that mantra of ‘for you the fans’.
As of last night, that phrase holds no fears for me whatsover any more.