Sony and Microsoft have now both held their E3 2015 press conferences, with both companies having put on incredibly strong showings this year. After a lackluster E3 2014 in which we weren’t exactly inundated with Earth-shattering announcements, Sony and Microsoft went back to the drawing board and returned in 2015 with a slew of upcoming games for their respective systems.
But which company had the best showing at the expo, and looks set for a more lucrative immediate future? Let’s take a look at where both companies succeeded (and failed) in outlining their great plans for their consoles.
Nowadays it’s tough to distinguish between games that are releasing exclusively on one particular console and “timed exclusives,” or games that are made out to be exclusives when they’re secretly multi-platform. This year was no exception, with both Sony and Microsoft having courted numerous third-party developers into appearing on their respective stages, insinuating that their game would be better off played on one particular console as opposed to its rival.
Games such as the Final Fantasy VII remake, which was one of the biggest announcements to come from Sony’s press conference, was announced along with the sentence “play it first on PlayStation,” meaning that it’ll likely come to Xbox One/PC at some point in the future, while platform-exclusive content remained ubiquitous (I’ll get to that later). But wading through all the industry bullshit, both consoles still had strong line-ups of exclusives that will ensure both PS4 and Xbox One owners will be satisfied with their purchase over the course of the next couple of years.
Microsoft showed off some gameplay for new IPs such as the mysterious ReCore and the team-based multiplayer game Gigantic, while Rare took to the stage in order to announce the Xbox exclusive Sea of Thieves, an open-world multiplayer game that sees players assuming the role of pirates, taking to the high seas and pillaging for loot. Forza 6 received a beautiful gameplay trailer, and then there was the small matter of the Gears of War 4 announcement, accompanied by gameplay footage, that concluded the company’s press conference. There was also the Halo 5: Guardians footage that they used to kick off proceedings, showing off the game’s 4-player co-op story and a brand new PvP mode titled Warzone, which will boast a cap of 24 players.
On the other hand, Sony began their press conference with the surprise announcement that The Last Guardian was alive and well and in development for the PS4, accompanying the announcement with a gameplay demonstration. Killzone creators Guerrilla Games announced Horizon Zero Dawn, an interesting third-person action game that looked like a blend between Monster Hunter and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, while Media Molecule unveiled their “most ambitious game yet” Dreams, which looked thoroughly creepy and left the majority scratching their heads in confusion. Gameplay footage from Uncharted 4 played Sony off, featuring a car chase through an exotic village that flaunted the PS4’s visual prowess.
All-in-all both Microsoft and Sony announced a bunch of exclusives, but Sony nudged ahead by virtue of them having more actual gameplay to show. With Microsoft once again reliant upon cinematic trailers in order to reveal their upcoming releases, Sony accompanied almost all of their newly announced games with gameplay footage, leaving me a lot more excited by what’s around the corner for the PS4.
Old-School Fan Service
While E3 press conferences see companies predominantly focused upon their future, they also have a habit of diving back into the past in order to resurrect old fan favorite games and repackage them for the latest consoles. This E3 was no different, and actually proved to be an exceptional year in this particular department as old series found themselves being brought back to life, while remasters and collections of classic games also proved to be a hot topic.
Microsoft announced both the Gears of War Ultimate Edition, a remaster of the original Gears of War game that had been all but confirmed prior to E3 thanks to a few unfortunate leaks, and Rare Replay, a collection of 30 Rare games from Battletoads to Conker’s Bad Fur Day that had also been leaked just before Microsoft’s press conference. While Microsoft didn’t show off any Gears of War Ultimate Edition footage, with them instead making the wise decision to reveal the Gears 4 demo, Rare Replay looked like a fantastic and comprehensive look back at one of gaming’s most celebrated developers (before they started making terrible Kinect games), and at a budget price of $30, it immediately became a must-buy.
But even though Microsoft gave it their best shot, it was simply impossible to top Sony this year when it came to answering gamers’ requests. If Final Fantasy VII didn’t already blow the roof off the Los Angeles Convention Center then the announcement of Shenmue 3 certainly managed it, with the long-awaited sequel finally being announced. A clear victory for Sony.
Least Industry Bullshit
Neither Sony nor Microsoft really missed a beat during their E3 2015 press conferences, but Microsoft certainly spouted the least industry bullshit. By industry bullshit, I mean the kind of thing that makes you grimace and remind you that you’re not watching a nice little 90-minute presentation wherein a bunch of people show you some games that you might like to play, but you’re instead watching a corporate event in which a company is trying to convince you that their product is the best.
After the Xbox One came into this world in a flurry of bad PR, Microsoft has remained subdued when it comes to its presentations, desperate to not appear too ostentatious and focusing almost solely upon the video games. On the other hand, Sony evidently still feel like they have a little more leg room than their competitors, meaning they can get away with saying things that fewer people would accept coming out of the mouth of a Microsoft exec. Whereas platform exclusive deals cut with third-party developers was typically seen as more of a Microsoft thing, this time around Sony went full speed ahead with the anti-consumer practice, along with indulging in the timed exclusivity nonsense that Microsoft were once vilified for doing so with Rise of the Tomb Raider.
There was also the issue of a number of announced games from the Sony camp still not having particularly definitive release dates. Yes, we saw gameplay footage for The Last Guardian, but it was given a rather tentative release window of 2016. Oh, and that Disney Infinity presentation delivered by Insufferable Businessman #101? Yikes.
The biggest offender, though, was Sony announcement’s of Shenmue 3. Yes, it’s very exciting that Shenmue 3 is finally being created, but rather than the reveal of a game, it was instead a reveal of a Kickstarter campaign in which Sony asked viewers and attendees to pledge their own money to a game they announced at their own press conference, before cutting to an announcement of a multi-million dollar deal with Activision to secure the rights to bring Black Ops 3‘s map packs to the PS4 first. What is that about?
Diversity of Games
This E3 highlighted that we’re living in a great time for video games. While the lineups for both the PS4 and Xbox One have been slim since their launch, it seems that both companies and their software developers are starting to find their feet, with a plethora of games occupying a variety of different genres being presented during both shows.
Honestly, this year’s E3 was a breath of fresh air when it came to the diversity of the games being presented. While previous expos have often fallen into a lull of shooting games and sports games, this year we saw developers trying new things, and though not every concept really hit the mark, it was still great to see all these different ideas coming together.
Microsoft’s indie games showreel was fantastic, with Cuphead being a particular highlight thanks to its unique, 1930s cartoons inspired visuals, and Gone Home creators Fullbright unveiling the intriguing Tacoma. That’s not to mention the more big-budget games that were shown off including the aforementioned Sea of Thieves and ReCore, which both raised more questions than they answered.
However, while Microsoft put up a strong showing on the indie game front and made good on their promise to deliver plenty of games, Sony’s line-up simply looked more interesting. Maybe it was the lack of gameplay footage on Microsoft’s behalf, but Sony’s unveiling of Media Molecule’s oddball creation game Dreams, their presentation of a slew of Devolver Digital titles, the virtual reality arena shooter Rigs, a gameplay demo of the hugely ambitious No Man’s Sky, the announcement of Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last Guardian‘s return all combined to form an E3 press conference that truly had something for everyone. Microsoft’s line-up was solid, but Sony’s looked that little bit more interesting.
Both Sony and Microsoft used this year’s E3 to outline their plans for their respective virtual reality headsets. While Microsoft glossed over its new working relationship with Oculus VR in order to stream Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift headset, they did go into detail regarding the HoloLens and its uses with gaming. Showing how the headset can be used in a session of Minecraft, the HoloLens was able to see a birds-eye view of the world, tinkering with its surroundings and joining in with other players who were exploring it using their standard controllers. It was very impressive.
On the other hand, Sony didn’t really elaborate too much on the Project Morpheus, other than reminding us that it still exists and that a variety of different games are being developed for it. Their announcement that it will be able to be used alongside four other players who are using standard controllers leaves room for some great local co-op fun, but it’s difficult to say at the moment whether console gamers will take to the tech given that it hasn’t received a price point yet.
Microsoft’s presentation of the HoloLens was certainly more exciting than the trailer we were shown for the Project Morpheus, but the pricing of the technology is what will really matter when it comes to gamers. With many having already been fooled into thinking motion-controllers were going to be a big part of gaming’s future and laying down cash for the Kinect and PS Move, they’re right to be skeptical of how Microsoft and Sony are going to make use of the HoloLens and Project Morpheus. But with that being said, Microsoft’s headset is shaping up better right now.
E3 2015 was truly all about the games, and while some amount of time was spent talking about stuff we don’t rightly care about such as Spotify subscription numbers and PlayStation Vue, all of that paled in comparison to the amount of great games that were on show. Microsoft certainly put on a tremendous showing, and earned some brownie points for their UI redesign and the announcement of Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, but Sony edged it thanks to its number of surprise announcements and range of great-looking, diverse games, though Xbox One owners won’t have much to complain about. This is a great time for video games no matter what platform you choose to play them on.