If E3 was all about introducing the Xbox One and PS4 to gamers, this week has been about taking the next-gen console war to the masses via late-night TV shows. Doing his best to play the role of Switzerland, Jimmy Fallon has hosted representatives from both Microsoft and Sony to showcase the Xbox One and PS4, with each party obviously hoping to improve their respective lots in the PS4 pre-order vs. Xbox One pre-order debate (hint: it’s pretty one-sided toward Sony at this point).
Fallon opened his week with Microsoft showing the Xbox One. Monday-night viewers had the chance to take a look at the console’s entertainment and multimedia features, which Microsoft has been promoting since the initial Xbox One Reveal event on May 21. They also got to see the exclusive games like Forza Motorsport 5 and Killer Instinct, the latter of which was a big hit when it was announced at Microsoft’s E3 2013 media briefing.
When Sony appeared on Fallon’s show, however, they didn’t just showcase the PS4 — they also took a not-so-veiled dig at Microsoft’s Xbox One DRM and used-game policies. It was surprising to see a PS4 rep not only avid the high road, but flat-out rub salt directly into Microsoft’s open wound. The Xbox One always-online requirement and arguably confusing used-game policy have been a thorn in Microsoft’s side since the Xbox One was first announced, and matters have only gotten worse since Sony announced that the PS4 will cost $399 — $100 less than the Xbox One. [UPDATE: Microsoft just removed the Xbox One online check-in requirement and changed its used-game sales policy based on strong consumer feedback.]
When speaking to the PS4 representative, Fallon said “The big story that everyone’s talking about is that this system is the only one where you can still play used games.” Although not entirely accurate — Microsoft does allow sharing of games and resale at participating retailers — Fallon’s comment provided all the fodder that Sony’s Mark Cerny needed. He replied with: “We support used games, we don’t require an internet connection.”
Fallon said that difference between the Xbox One and PS4 was “pretty major,” to which the audience erupted in applause. The audience response wasn’t unlike the ridiculously warm reception Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton received at E3 when he announced the PS4 used-game policy, offline functionality and price at E3.
Had Microsoft re-evaluated its used-game policy, which we discussed here, the Xbox One DRM could’ve been a completely moot point. It didn’t, however, and Xbox One game prices will be the same as Xbox 360 prices ($59.99) — as will Sony’s PS4 games. Regardless, that sort of DRM and online/offline minutiae probably wouldn’t have been noted by mainstream consumers had Fallon not pointed them out. And, of course, had Sony not rubbed salt in the wound. Time will tell if appearances like that on Jimmy Fallon’s show will help Xbox One pre-orders catch up with PS4 pre-orders, or whether they will only increase Sony’s early lead. Either way, the next-gen console war is off to an intriguing start, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.