Monday, 12 June 2017

Sony Beats Microsoft At E3 Once Again By Doing What It Does Best

Every year at E3 is that head-to-head game that gets the most attention. Sony vs. Microsoft, PlayStation vs. Xbox. All other companies can freely release the attention on their own merits, but these will always be locked in deadly combat under two barely differentiated platforms, with a single victory each year. This year Microsoft came in with a big advantage: it had the Scorpio project to show, which is now known as the Xbox One X. But Sony, in its way, swaggered on stage and took the show again. This may not have been as strong a show as last year, but Sony is able to keep winning by showing its greatest strength in the face of Microsoft's biggest weakness.

To begin with, Sony's talent for stage design never hurt anything - it was evident from the outset the sitar player started under a lit waterfall, or when the zombies began to hang from the stage. But the scene would not work without games to back it up, and Sony successfully replicated its "non-stop" format of game trailers starting with Uncharted, moving on to Horizon Zero Dawn, continuing with Days Gone and moving from there. There were few surprises in general, and most of the big titles were expansions of things we've seen fragments of before. Taken on its own, it could be considered a more mediocre performance than last year. But as I mentioned, this thing is never judged by itself.

Since 2013, Sony has managed to stay above E3 almost by default. Won in price in 2013, won with sales momentum in 2014, and has won exclusive deals ever since. It is the last one that was in full screen here: Microsoft gave a good show, no doubt. It debuted successfully the elegant Xbox One, which is clearly the most powerful console ever made. But the hardware alone does not show up very well on stage, especially the iterative hardware like the PlayStation 4 Pro or the Xbox One X. E3 shows are now more than ever about games, and Microsoft lacked a tent Exclusive to really tie the Show together: the closest it came was Crackdown 3, which does not feel very ready for the center stage.

And that's where Sony comes in. In addition to previous games, we saw God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and enough Destiny 2 exclusive content to move the needle. We saw Playstation VR, still somewhat of a quixotic platform, but something totally absent from the Microsoft console line. We saw Detroit: Become Human, which I'm probably going to hate. But we also saw an amazing Spiderman, and the big franchises are not usually exclusive. There was no real highlight this year - The Last of Us Part 2 did not take that place, for some reason - but any of the games that Sony devoted so much time could have served that purpose for Microsoft. The gulf is very wide at this point.

Deciding who won the E3 is not necessarily the one with the best platform, but that never hurts. E3 is, at the end of the day, a show, and one that has grown more and more in the face of the consumer over the years. Sony understands that, and its stable of exclusives help keep that show moving with the relentless pace that the company prefers. Microsoft had a lot to love yesterday, especially with its surprise announcement of compatibility with previous versions, a category in which Sony shows a real weakness. But again, it's all about the program. And Sony remains in the enviable position of being able to remind people that PlayStation 4 is an incredible platform rather than having to convince them. He did it that night.

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