A wounded Microsoft limped to this week’s video-game convention in Cologne, Germany, to plead its case for the Xbox One. The company lost points with gamers in the region last week when it announced that the console won’t actually make it to eight European countries this year as promised.
Perhaps sensing an opportunity, Sony stormed the Gamescom show last night with the kind of artillery that would make a "Call of Duty" infantry hide in the trenches. The Japanese game maker showcased unique PlayStation 4 content and partnerships geared toward Europeans, and twisted the knife on Microsoft’s high-profile missteps, such as the changes to rules on Internet connectivity requirements and reselling games.
"While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining policies and a model that is fair and in tune with consumer desires," said Andrew House, the president and CEO of the Sony Computer Entertainment group. " We set out to build the most powerful gaming platform with a deeply held, consistent focus on you, the gamer."
More specifically, you, the European gamer.
The PlayStation 4, which debuts in North America on Nov. 15 and in Europe starting on Nov. 29, will be available in 32 countries this holiday season, House said. Meanwhile, Microsoft is now shooting for lucky number 13 by the end of the year.
Sony’s most eye-catching new initiative involves gamer-centric broadband deals. While vague on the details, Sony is teaming up with Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Virgin Media and Ono to create high-speed home Internet plans exclusively for PlayStation 4 owners. This would include "reserved parts of the pipe for gaming," specialized content and downloads as fast as 200 megabits per second, according to Jim Ryan, Sony’s head of PlayStation in Europe. (That’s pretty fast.)
"Europe is a great place to live, but as all others know, broadband can be an issue in many parts of the continent — with average consumer broadband speeds around 5 megabits per second," he said. "In order to give gamers the best online game experience, PlayStation is entering into strategic partnerships with some of Europe’s leading ISPs."
During Microsoft’s Gamescom news conference, the company introduced a program called [email protected] geared toward attracting more independent game developers. Sony didn’t have quite the same comprehensive package for indies, but it spent a good chunk of its presentation talking about what small developers are working on.
"It’s not just the quantity of new experiences that’s important to us, but also the wide geographical and cultural spread of content it brings," said Michael Denny, the vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe.
Microsoft has plenty of Xbox-only goodies planned for the U.S., including a major deal with the National Football League. But that’s not the kind of football that Europe cares about. So, Microsoft touted that Electronic Arts’ "FIFA 14" will have an Xbox-only mode, which will allow players to assemble teams of football legends. The company is also throwing in a free copy of the game for Europeans who pre-order the Xbox One console.
And wisely, the American company avoided using the word "soccer" when conveying this information.