By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Los Angeles — Sony and Microsoft came into E3 with guns blazing Monday, revealing more details on forthcoming next-generation consoles.
Sony fired what was perhaps the largest salvo in the clash by revealing that its PlayStation 4 console would ship in time for the holidays at a $399 suggested retail — $100 less than Microsoft’s Xbox One.
But it elicited the largest applause of the day after Jack Tretton, Sony Computer Entertainment America president, said the new platform would enable playing used, borrowed and older PlayStation 4 titles, allowing discs to be sold or given away after use, and would not require the system to be connected to the Internet in order to continue playing.
Microsoft said in a statement last week that it will not mandate any “platform fee” for used games, but will leave to individual publishers the decision to charge players to activate or re-register a pre-owned title.
Microsoft said its new Xbox One will hit store shelves in November at a $499 suggested retail, and indicated that its new-generation games will rely heavily on Cloud computing to make games more immersive. Last week, Microsoft revealed that the new platform, ideally, should have a continuous online connection when playing games and added that the system must make an authentication connection every 24 hours to operate.
Microsoft positioned the Xbox 360 as the ideal platform for those game players who prefer playing games offline, while Sony positioned the PlayStation 4 as a platform equally as adept at playing games offline as online.
In designing the Xbox One, Microsoft opted to place some of the computing power to drive new richer games in the cloud, requiring that a connection be made to draw off of that capability.
‘‘The platform features and capabilities of Xbox One allow developers to push the boundaries of creativity and push the genre in new directions,’’ Microsoft VP Phil Harrison said.
Despite the fact that both systems are all-in-one entertainment consoles, offering the ability to play Blu-ray Disc movies as well as stream content from Cloud services and programming partners, both companies made forthcoming software titles the center point of their presentations.
While Sony finally revealed what the PlayStation 4 looks like — a more angular, slanted design than the PS3 — it still mentioned nothing about any 4K up-scaling capabilities of the platform or how it might interface with Sony’s 4K televisions.
From the second-screen perspective, Sony chose to focus its presentation around the uses it offers with the year-old PlayStation Vita handheld game player.
The company had mentioned in February that the new console also offers a dual-screen use and connectivity with smartphones and tablets.
Tretton said the premium PlayStation Network service, known as PlayStation Plus, will carry over to the PlayStation 4 console at the same $49.99 annual price.
Existing PlayStation Plus members will receive the PlayStation 4 launch title “DriveClub,” a racing game from Evolution Studios, free as part of Sony’s Instant Game Collection. PS Plus members will also be allowed to try one PlayStation 4 game free each month.
Both companies showed a number of games that will be exclusive or will have exclusive windows attached to their respective platforms both at launch and into 2014.
Sony said 140 games are in development now for the PlayStation 4, including 100 that should be available in the first year.
In addition to multiple “Final Fantasy” games in the works for the PlayStation platform, Square Enix showed off a new “Kingdom Hearts 3” game.
Other titles slated for the PlayStation 4 include: “The Order: 1866,” a dark title that appears aimed at fans of “Assassin's Creed,” and the next installments of the popular “Gran Turismo” and “Killzone” franchises.
Graphics in most of the new titles offered a much more realistic and richer look and feel, with several franchises shifting to open-world adventures.
Sony also indicated its desire to continue tapping indie developers for content with several PlayStation 4 games on the way, including a remastering of the original “Oddworld: Abe's Oddyssee.”
Unfortunately, one of the biggest titles for the Xbox — “Halo,” which will be accompanied by a forthcoming television program produced by Steven Spielberg — will not be ready until sometime next year.
Among the apparent standouts for the Xbox One were the zombie-fighting sequel “Dead Rising 3” and the more cartoon-looking shooter “Sunset Overdrive.”
For racing enthusiasts, “Forza MotorSport 5” was shown at both the Microsoft and Electronics Arts (EA) presentation later in the day. The racing title features a system called “drivatar,” which learns a player’s driving styles and creates a “drivatar” of the player that can play for them offline.
Other games coming to Xbox One include the third-person game “Ryse: Son of Rome,” the fighting game “Killer Instinct” a bigger edition of “Minecraft,” and terra-forming simulator “Project Spark.”
Xbox One will also host “Titanfall,” the first game from Respawn Entertainment, founded by “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” creators Vince Zampella and Jason West.
Microsoft said it was also dispensing with its Microsoft points system for online purchases with its Xbox Live online service, and will instead start accepting local currency.
Meanwhile, Microsoft began its presentation Monday by saying it will release a newly made over version of the Xbox 360, inspired by the cosmetic design of the new Xbox One.
Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft marketing and strategy VP, said the updated Xbox 360 is available now and features a sleeker look and quieter operation.
The company said it is currently planning hundreds of new games for the now eight-year-old Xbox 360.
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