E3: All the thrills, spills, and subscription bills

e3 2013 shock header

If you’ve only just woken up from a coma or arrived home after being stranded on a remote Pacific island for the last 15 years, you might not have heard about last night’s E3 pre-show conferences – or, more exactly, Microsoft, Sony, and the opening skirmishes of the next-next-gen console war. Not to worry, though, because I’ve got all the most important talking points for you right here, presented with clichéd military metaphors and puns for your convenience.

Up first, Microsoft’s conference was mostly an ordnance checklist of Xbox One games, although the announcement of a $499 pricetag for the console was a bit of a morale downer. Keep in mind that the Xbox One has a rather restrictive, over-complicated policy about DRM and used games, and requires a connection to the Internet every 24 hours or it stops working. Like its predecessor, the console is also region-locked and due to the change in hardware and system architecture, it will not be backwards-compatible with Xbox 360 games.

More happily, from now until November, Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers will be getting two free games each month to keep forever and ever, starting with Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2. A version of the free-to-play PC game World of Tanks was also announced for the Xbox 360.

The Xbox One is scheduled to deploy in the US and Europe in November this year, but isn’t expected to be available locally until the second or third quarter of 2014. So much for that Xmas care package.

Exclusive Xbox One titles revealed thus far include:

  • Below (Capybara Games)
  • Ryse: Son of Rome (Crytek)
  • Crimson Dragon (Grounding, Inc / Land Ho! Co. Ltd.)
  • Dead Rising 3 (Capcom)
  • Quantum Break (Remedy Games)
  • Sunset Overdrive (Irrational Games)
  • Killer Instinct (Double Helix Games)
  • D4 (Hidetaka Suehiro)
  • Kinect Sports Rivals (Rare)
  • Forza Motorsport 5 (Turn 10 Studios)
  • Minecraft (Mojang)
  • Project Spark (Team Dakota)*
  • Titanfall (Respawn Entertainment)**
  • Mysteriously untitled new Halo (343 Industries)

* Also in development for PC.
** Also in development for PC, Xbox 360.

Then Sony rolled in the heavy artillery, dropped a megaton bomb, and blew up the entire planet, announcing that the PlayStation 4 would be selling at $399, with zero limitations on sharing and selling used game discs.

Also, no online checks and no region-locking. Much like the Xbox One, the PS4 won’t natively support PS3 games, although a game streaming service via Gaikai will provide server-side emulation for these – but sold separately.

Slightly controversially, however, PS4 owners will have to buy a PS+ subscription to play multiplayer games online.

No launch date was supplied, but the console is expected to ship out “later this year” and pre-orders are already open in the US and Europe. There’s also no confirmation of whether this will be a global tactical strike, or if the PS4 will be rolled out to different regions over a period of time.

The PlayStation 4’s exclusive titles include:

  • Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix)
  • Dark Sorceror (Quantic Dream)
  • InFamous: Second Son (Sucker Punch Productions)
  • The Order: 1886 (Ready at Dawn)
  • Mad Max (Avalanche Studios)
  • Kingdom Hearts III (Square Enix)
  • Deep Down (Capcom)
  • DriveClub (Evolution Studios)
  • Killzone: Shadow Fall (Guerilla Games)
  • Knack (SCE Japan Studio)
  • Blacklight: Retribution (Zombie Studios)*
  • Warframe (Digital Extremes)*
  • The Witness (Number None, Inc.)*
  • Daylight (Zombie Studios)*
  • War Thunder (Gaijin Entertainment)*
  • Transistor (Supergiant Games)*
  • DC Universe Online (Sony Online Entertainment)**
  • Primal Carnage: Genesis (Lukewarm Media)**
  • PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online Entertainment)**
  • Final Fantasy XIV (Square Enix)**

* Also in development for PC.
** Also in development for PC, PS3.