Yesterday saw the launch of E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the world's foremost video-game industry conference) in LA. And it was an epic start: the big news was the full unveiling of the next–gen consoles, the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One.
Due to launch in fall (it's what they say over there, apparently) both are pretty formidable pieces of kit, and they'll make the next wave of games look very, very pretty indeed. The notable difference between the devices isn't necessarily in the spec, however. It's in how the wider ecosystems work, and how each company wants you to play, share and live with the consoles.
The differences are pretty stark. Xbox One requires a camera (which may or may not be always on and watching), online authentication for games, will place restrictions on used-game sharing, and is region-locked. The PS4 doesn't require an always-on web connection or camera, allows full and open game sharing, and is apparently region-free (great news for all you Japanese gaming fans out there, a market that’s been almost completely closed to Western gamers for the past decade).
To top it all, the PS4 is around £75 cheaper…
This is interesting because the respective stance of each company reflects an almost completely opposing philosophy on not just the future of gaming, but of the potential future of digital entertainment per se. (A future that's already being explored by the likes of companies such as Ouya).
The console war will rage for years beyond E3 2013 (they're likely to be in-market between eight and ten years) and there'll be a load of ups and downs for both companies, but this is an incredibly strong start for Sony.