More than a week after the close of E3 the ripples of its events still reverberate through most of the games media and its output. As a frequent lurker of games article comments sections I’ve extracted some talking points for each platform holder that web denizens still all seem to have an opinion on. Be sure to also check out why the loss of our first always-online console sucks and why Retro’s Metroid and other expected Wii U games are missing for a reason.
In the days following E3 the sense that Sony had cleanly and decisively won was almost unanimous. Memes were drafted, fanboy mutinies were promised, Wikipedia pages were comically if hyperbolically altered. Yet that sense was predicated almost entirely on the last portion of Sony’s press conference, where Sony America CEO Jack Tretton invoked his inner rock star and worked his way down a list of all the concerns core gamers had about Xbox One and how PlayStation 4 would avoid them.
The glow that surrounds Sony and the mire that chokes Microsoft remain despite the fact that the dust has now settled, Microsoft has brought its policies back in line with current systems and we can view the proposals of the consoles with an objective eye.
So if we looked back at the E3 press conferences without that rock star moment, and without the specter of DRM and no-used-games hanging over Xbox One’s head, would Sony still have won?
Removed from its context as a David vs Goliath moment (and given the size of Sony Corporation that analogy does seem pretty ridiculous, but that’s what it felt like), the Sony conference is almost notable for the issues it skirted around more than the games or experiences it showed off. The most obvious example of course is the bullet point near the end of the conference, amongst the list of awesome Xbox-killing features, was a sentence that confirmed gamers would need to sign up for Sony’s paid subscription service if they wanted to play PS4 games online. Of course Microsoft has always charged a monthly fee to play online, but Sony has made a big deal in the past about keeping multiplayer free. It’s not unreasonable to think that without that evil DRM beast to drive a sword in to, the headline after Sony’s conference could well have been ‘Online multiplayer will be for PS Plus subscribers only on PS4’ instead of ‘Sony buries Microsoft with DRM-free PS4, support for used games’.
And speaking of games, the phenomena for which we actually purchase games consoles after all, how did the titles at Sony’s conference compare to those at Microsoft’s? To be perfectly honest Sony showcased a host of amazing-looking games that we’d already seen at their console reveal months earlier. We also saw a concept trailer for Ready at Dawn’s Order 1886, a Final Fantasy rebranding (Versus XIII will now be known simply as XV, good to know), the announcement of a third Kingdom Hearts and a live demo of Bungie’s Destiny. Combined with a reminder of how high a priority self-publishing and indie titles are to PlayStation platforms (Octodad!), the collection of trailers and demos is actually pretty dull when viewed with eyes sober of the E3 live-stream excitement.
Microsoft’s conference on the other hand had a handful of genuinely thrilling announcements. Remedy showed off a TV show / game hybrid that, if they can pull it off, will be something truly unique. Insomniac had a mold-breaking online first-person-shooter in Sunset Overdrive. Swery65, he of Deadly Premonition fame, had a bonkers new game trailer. There was a spiritual sequel to Panzer Dragoon. Dead Rising 3. Witcher 3. A new Halo that runs at 60 frames per second. Titanfall, a game that looks like Call of Duty but fun and with mechs. Add to this an epic Metal Gear trailer, Killer Instinct (if you’re into that sort of thing), Forza 5’s ambitious cloud-powered AI and Project Spark.
Sony said some very pertinent and very smart things at E3. Things that immediately won over gamers everywhere, myself included. But when it comes to the games they brought to the table and the new, innovative experiences they pledged, I find it very difficult to say Sony won E3. Despite my personal preference for PlayStation over Xbox, I have to admit that on games alone Sony just didn’t have enough to say.