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E3 2015 – Weighing Up Sony’s Competition Ahead of the Event

June 4, 2015 Written by Michael Briers

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Another year, another E3 showcase in LA. Throughout its long and celebrated history, the trade show has played host to the industry’s undisputed heavyweights, as they each wrestle for gaming supremacy. 2015 will be no different. Come June 15, when the lights go down and the curtains rise, expectations will be piqued, controversies birthed, rumors dispelled and marketing buzzwords coined. It’s almost time.

Acting as the 21st conference, there’s a crackle of excitement emanating around the four corners of the gaming community ahead of E3 2015. For the first time, Bethesda will host its own presser on Day Zero with every fan praying to The Old Gods and the New for a Fallout 4 release date; a resurgent Microsoft smells blood in the water ahead of a critical holiday period; and Konami has cemented its place as the idiosyncratic wild card we daren’t take our eyes off.

Blood in the Water

But what does all of this mean for Sony? Over the past two years, the platform holder has exercised a stern one-two punch, catapulting the PlayStation 4 into the history’s books as the fastest-selling system the Japanese giant has ever produced. That said, there is a general feeling that Sony will descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center as slight underdogs.

We’ve recounted the publisher’s top five E3 moments, surmised what its first-party studios could produce in two weeks’ time and asked you, the reader, who will be deemed ‘victorious‘ between Sony and Microsoft when all is said and done.

At PlayStation LifeStyle, we’re naturally more inclined to lean toward Sony’s platforms. Throughout PlayStation’s revered 20-year history, we’ve supported the brand through its show-stopping highs and confounding lows. Heck, we remained by its side even when the going got tough — PlayStation 3’s $599 price point, anyone? Still, the first rule of battle is know your enemy, and with E3 2015 looming large, it’s time to size up Sony’s competition.

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Granted, the company’s own Project Morpheus will be busy fending off Oculus Rift, Valve’s HTC-powered Vive and, to lesser extent, Microsoft’s augmented reality device, HoloLens, but for the purpose of this discussion, let us usher Nintendo and Microsoft into the spotlight for a pre-E3 weigh-in.

Gaming’s Modern-Day Trifecta

First up, Microsoft. Arguably Sony’s biggest competitor since the Redmond-based giant emerged with the Xbox at the turn of the millennium, E3 2015 could prove to be a defining milemarker in the pair’s shared history.

In truth, it has been a long and trying journey for Xbox One since then-Xbox Head Don Mattrick doubled down on the console’s non-gaming features in 2013, which left many of Microsoft’s ardent fans questioning the company’s direction via mandatory DRM and Kinect 2.0. The hornet’s nest was irrefutably kicked.

Fast forward to the present day and Xbox One now stands on a completely altered landscape. Buoyed by solid sales and a rejuvenated, focused marketing plan, Microsoft is primed to lay siege to the all-important Christmas period now that both Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Legend of Zelda Wii U have been pushed into 2016. With Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider — releasing across Xbox platforms as a timed exclusive — already waiting in the wings, the company’s holiday slate can only get stronger.

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At the time of writing, the publisher holds enough ace cards to keep the PlayStation Faithful on a razor’s edge, and Sony will need a marquee blockbuster if it is to keep a firm grip on its impressive lead in console sales in six months’ time.

Third-party partnerships and exclusive content may be part of the company’s strategy, and Andrew House recently noted that there will be “a greater emphasis” on securing third-party support, but one can’t help but feel that such an approach represents a short-term answer to a long-term problem.

Sony has already showcased the fruits of said policy through Street Fighter V, but so long as these quasi-exclusives are marketed as so, rather than being treated as surrogates for first-party exclusives.

Short-Term Answer to a Long-Term Problem 

Because with Microsoft reportedly on the verge of the biggest showcase in the company’s history, the PlayStation giant will have to call upon its dormant heavy-hitters to deliver the goods. Forget No Man’s Sky and Uncharted 4 for the time being, E3 2015 and the crowd at home will demand games that are brand spanking new to really send Sony’s legions of fans into a collective tailspin.

The likes of Gran Turismo 7, God of War 4 and — whisper it — Guerrilla Games’ open-world RPG could prove indispensable for Sony to counterbalance its indie focus. Rumored to be codenamed Horizon, the latter of this unannounced trifecta is slowly beginning to pique the interest of PlayStation fans the world over, becoming the hot favorite to steal the show on June 15.

Time will tell, of course. Last we checked, our latest installment of The Vote is divided 68% to 32% in Sony’s favor, and though those results are invariably slanted, it’s telling that a significant portion of you, the audience, recognize Microsoft’s renewed status as a formidable foe. Whatever the outcome, at the end of the day competition benefits the player. Besides, if Microsoft arrives gun blazing with a raft of blockbusters coupled with a Rare renaissance — Grabbed by the Ghoulies or Battletoads, for instance — it could aid Sony in the long run lest the Japanese juggernaut slip into PS3-levels of overconfidence.

Nintendo, by comparison, represents a different breed of competition. For generations, The Big N has danced to a tune of its own, forgoing the glitz and glam of E3 press conferences in recent times in favor of a pre-recorded Nintendo Direct. What seemed like stage fright at first soon evolved into an astute means of distribution, and last year the House of Mario had one of its best showcases in quite some time.

Wii U’s Final Stand

Fast forward to 2015, though, and Nintendo faces a new challenge entirely. Now that the publisher’s latest hardware — code-named NX — is out in the open, E3 2015 could very well represent the Wii U’s final stand. Currently simmering at around 9.5 million lifetime sales, the company’s flagship home console is ostensibly on life support. For perspective, that figure is 1 million less than SEGA’s Dreamcast and roughly half of the GameCube across the same two-and-a-half-year-period. Sobering statistics indeed.

Botched marketing seems to be the main factor that clipped Wii U’s wings, as even a holiday lineup of Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. and the rather excellent Bayonetta 2 failed to give the ailing hardware the shot in the arm it so needs.

Now that Nintendo has ruled out the chances of unveiling the NX during E3, one would expect the beloved publisher to delegate a fair chunk of its orchestrated presser to the Wii U. What could that produce? Well, according to The Big N, The Legend of Zelda Wii U will be a no-show as well (we expect a new trailer nonetheless), leading us to believe that Metroid and or Animal Crossing could finally make their debut on the company’s home console. That’s not to say there won’t be anything new, with Miyamoto likely offering up more details for Project Guard and Project Giant Robot, two mysterious projects built around the GamePad at a time when most developers have kicked the super-sized controller to the kerb.

For Nintendo, however, the future of the Wii U may very well reside in the hands of the company’s established franchises — or, you know, another price drop.

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On the handheld side, the 3DS is performing overly well by comparison, and users are already looking forward to 2016’s Fire Emblem title and maybe, just maybe, a brand new handheld Zelda. Wishful thinking, sure, but in all likelihood The Big N will unveil a handful of Wii remakes in the vein of Xenoblade Chronicles coupled with a new entry in the Pokémon series — Pokémon Z, perhaps?

And though it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement, E3 is first and foremost a trade show, presenting companies with an opportunity to appease shareholders on gaming’s biggest stage. As such, will we see the first signs of the DeNA mobile partnership bearing fruit? Jettisoning Nintendo’s heavy-hitters onto iOS and Android is a proposition that is at once tantalizing and oddly terrifying, though the fact that the Japanese specialist has set a lofty target of pulling in $20 million a month underlines Nintendo’s confidence in this new-fangled relationship.

Competition Benefits One and All

Circling back to Sony and with the closure of PlayStation Mobile imminent, the platform holder has little invested in said market at this time; 3DS continues to dwarf PlayStation Vita in terms of sales; and with nary a sight nor sound of the nebulous NX, the company’s biggest concern will be Microsoft and Xbox One.

PlayStation 4 may have hit the ground running and stormed ahead in hardware sales, but Sony can’t afford to rest on its laurels. As we alluded to earlier, third-party exclusive content and HD remakes — with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection being the most recent example — are all well and good, so long as they don’t act as substitutes for genuinely new announcements. SCE President and CEO Andrew House recently likened 2015 to a year of investment for the PS4, stating that he “would characterize 2015 as the beginning of a harvest period for the PlayStation 4 platform.”

How exactly that pans out will ultimately be discussed when House and his affiliates step into the limelight on June 15. One thing’s for sure, though, despite recent successes, Sony’s grip on the proverbial E3 crown is anything but a sure thing. Mind share is crucial, and perhaps more so than years past, the company can in no way afford to bring a knife to a gun fight. 

We’ll have a play-by-play breakdown of the E3 2015 extravaganza right here for you on PlayStation LifeStyle. Until then, please be excited.

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