Sony vs. Microsoft = Sony vs. Sega

Back during the very first E3 in 1995 (watch the video embeddd above at the 3:21 mark by Herman McClain on YouTube), Sega was in some trouble but was still more than a viable brand and player in the console market. It had been promoting what it called "Saturnday," its planned launch on September 2nd of the Saturn, for months before. As a side effect, Sony decided to position the launch of its upcoming Playstation exactly one week later on September 9th. (Odd factoid: Sega's following and final console, the Sega Dreamcast, launched on the exact same day as the Playstation did, four years later.)

The announcement that Sony, then the newcomer to the console gaming hardware space, was planning to cut into Sega's pent-up hype by launching the Playstation so closely with the Saturn (and also cutting into the lead it thought it had given themselves over Sony) was surprising to say the least. It was a smart move in the marketing chess game and left Sega scrambling on the defensive. This might explain the rash and terrible decision that followed: launching the Saturn the DAY of its E3 press conference. It was the first speech, and Sega dropped that bombshell on a confused and surprised audience. It was just as surprising to all of the retail staff of the chains it dropped in on.

When it was Sony's turn to speak, it touted its lineup and dropped another big "in response" major bombshell of its own. Sony announced the price of the Playstation… and it was a full $100 cheaper than the immediate-release Saturn. Ouch. (Sound similar?)

That whole story flooded back into my brain after the Microsoft One and PS4 press conferences.  The situations are different this time around, of course—Sega had splintered its fan base beyond repair through the 32X and Sega CD add-ons while Sony was the newcomer to the market. But in essence, it's the same story 17 years later. If we consider it like a poker game, Sony was put into the position of acting after Microsoft, and either calling or raising bets. Both times, they not only raised, but they raised big. And big enough, in a single speech, to seemingly pull the rug right out from under its opponent.

I bring this up because context and perspective are everything, and that while it's perfectly possible (and seemingly obvious) that Sony's pulled a fast one on a major rival, this is by no means a "finished" fight.  This time, Sony's doing it against a company with some significant cash in the war chest, an established fan base, and a powerful marketing machine. Microsoft has learned well how to play this game in the past decade. It is, by no means, "finished" after this recent fluff-up.

But from the general reaction of this writer and the people he's spoken with, Sony has definitely taken the upper hand in this fight by simply telling people a lot of what they wanted to hear. Sure, tthe company has got a catalog of games to back up its platform, but that speech did show up the Microsoft conference to the tune of roaring applause.

I'm looking forward to what Microsoft does from here, even after its backpedal on used games and required always-online connectivity, but what do you think? Do you feel the Sony's lead has put the kibosh on Microsoft's Xbox One plans? Make your voices known in the comments!