Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hard and Fast: Discussion on some of latest PS4 and XB1 news

After news on the next generation Playstation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One (XB) releases started to slow following the onslaught of the respective launch events and E3, this past week saw a flurry of relatively exciting news surrounding Gamescom (at least for those who don't find excitement in the profound technical differences between DDR3 and DDR5 ram; we get it - bigger numbers are better). In the space of a few days, the public has been privy to some interesting launch bundles for the XB, enticing PS3 to PS4 software upgrade pricing, the official release date for the PS4, and, biggest of all, the launch lineups for both systems. Today I will tackle each of these stories and provide my personal take on how I think they mix things up a bit in the months leading to launch.

Xbox One to launch with latest Fifa or Call of Duty bundled (if you pre-order)

Depending on which news outlet you read, the story is reported a little differently. It seems that either the consumer will get to choose one of Fifa or Call of Duty if they pre-order an XB. The choice of game might be region or outlet restricted but the bottom line is that, if you pre-order an XB, you are going to get one of the two biggest launch titles for free. There is no denying that the XB has been lagging behind the PS4 in court of public opinion and this is one of the first solid blows that XB has landed in weeks (if not months). One of the points that the XB has been hammered on is that it is a full $100 dollars more then the PS4 with the price difference being justified by the inclusion of the non-optional Kinect peripheral. By offering a huge title for free, a title most people would have bought anyways, this somewhat offsets the increased cost of the console. While this is probably not enough to entice a majority of on the fence gamers to side with the XB, especially those that don't see value in the Kinect, it will bring in a few extra pre-orders and help drive momentum at the launch of the new cycle.

PS Software Upgrade Pricing

While specifics are few and far between, it was announced that gamers who purchase a PS3 copy of a game will be offered steep discounts to purchase a PS4 copy of the same title. Activision has gone on record stating that the upgrade cost for latest Call of Duty will be about $10. This pricing seems reasonable and the whole scheme is actually pretty brilliant. This offer ensures that players won't feel compelled to wait for the PS4 version instead of buying the PS3 version which should help smooth sales during the console launch. Additionally, the PS4 version will come in digital format which will help reduce the amount of used titles on the market at launch and thus help out sales numbers a bit (we will probably see a bunch of PS3 stuff on the used market but I suspect that this is inevitable as people dump the old hardware for new). This is solid win for publishers and developers without the consumer feeling like they should have brought lubrication. I doubt this will tip the market very much but it does provide a bit of mostly positive news which can't hurt.

Official Release Date for PS4

Yep, its November 15, same month that the XB will release; no real surprise (oh my god, it's being released on a Friday!!!). While I feel this information is newsworthy in that people want to know release dates, it is more the timing of the announcement that interests me. This information came out pretty much right after the XB released its launch title news (see below). The result of this timing is that the XB article was pushed to second on many news tickers and the PS4 got to steal a bit of the thunder. This is solid strategy but unlikely to make any sort of tangible dent long-term. The date itself will have negligible impact given that the XB is releasing right about the same time; it just means we will get a pretty good head-to-head match of sales which should make for some fun score keeping.

Official Launch Titles

Okay, to the biggest news of the week by far: the launch titles for each platform. While XB will have slightly more titles available on day one (23 vs 21) the PS4 is slated to have more released by the end of 2013 (33 vs 29). For me, the difference on both counts is insignificant as title quality will be much more important. If every game is of mediocre 'Kameo: Elements of Power' calibre, then it definitely doesn't matter. Mitigating this number difference further is that most of the biggest titles (Fifa, Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed) are available on both systems so neither side is getting an edge in top tier triple-A titles. Another handful of titles on both sides are digital arcade fare that, while potentially amazing, generally do not account for a truck load of sales or momentum. Even further on this, the XB boasts the larger selection of launch exclusives but some of these titles (Zoo Tycoon, Peggle 2) are not exactly going to push the limits of the next generation and are doubtful to seriously drive day-one console sales. Unless one of the new intellectual properties being launched alongside the system is a superstar, I think that early sales trends are unlikely to be bucked. That said, for my money, Crytek's Ryse: Son of Rome (XB exclusive), has the biggest chance of exploding sales and is worth watching as it could seriously be a factor for the undecided.

Bonus Story: New WiiU 32gb coming bundled with Wind Waker

In a bid to try and stay relevant, Nintendo announced that a larger capacity WiiU bundled with Zelda: Wind Waker will be available soon (almost certainly in competition for XB and PS4 launch dollars). I think this an okay move on Nintendo's part as they have to do something to try and bolster sales before they are annihilated by the competition. For months analysts have been saying that the biggest knock against the WiiU is its small catalogue of games. Unfortunately, long-term, nothing seems to indicate that this will be improving as more and more developers are overtly stating that they are not currently making anything for the WiiU; prospects for the system do not look good. In any case, whatever sales the new WiiU model steals will certainly be equal opportunity and shouldn't spell disaster for either the PS4 or XB.

In the end we all know that peanut butter will beat chocolate come launch day. The uptick in news has been fun, and I don't expect things to slow down much from this point on, but only the Fifa/CoD XB bundling has really carried much weight (with most of that weight simply being baggage of a higher console price point). I, like many gamers, am exciting for the next generation but I doubt many people's minds were changed by the news of the past week.