Microsoft is Primed to Trump Sony Come Holiday Season Despite E3 2015 Success
Long before E3 got underway, in a time when our collective minds remained fully intact and strictly not-blown, Microsoft trumpeted its press event as a true turning point in the Xbox One’s history. Fast forward to the immediate aftermath and there’s no question that the Redmond-based giant came out swinging, doubling down on its already sturdy holiday slate all the while delivering a bona fide kidney shot in the form of backwards compatibility.
Sony, by comparison, is once again left facing a scant holiday line-up despite a show-stopping presser. Make no mistake, there were times on Monday evening when the conference teetered toward fan fiction, with the publisher serving up a nostalgic shotgun blast of The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue 3, which sent the PlayStation family into a fervent tailspin in one fell swoop. There are left-field predictions, and then there’s wishful thinking, and then there’s Sony’s E3 2015 conference.
Megatons All Around
Take a step back from the intoxicating excitement, though, and it becomes easy to pigeonhole the platform holder’s showcase. Pulling long-dormant projects back from the brink is one thing, but given that the vast majority of software shown won’t hit until mid-to-late 2016 at the earliest, Sony’s E3 presser begins to read like fan service. Laying the groundwork for the far-future, the company effectively sated the longing PlayStation 4 audience with vaporware, a remake 18 years in the making, and a somewhat questionable Kickstarter campaign for Yu Suzuki’s long-awaited threequel.
There’s no question that the Japanese giant pulled a rabbit — or three — out of the hat, and Day Zero of E3 2015 will likely go down as one of the most exhilarating in the event’s history, but Sony is set to coast into holiday 2015 with only Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection to match Microsoft’s impressive first-party selection.
Granted, both Persona 5 and Until Dawn are locked for a late 2015 release on PlayStation platforms, too, and while Persona holds a special place in our hearts, such exclusives pale in comparison to Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Motorsport 6 and The Coalition’s Gears of War: Ultimate Edition — not to mention the timed-exclusive hold on Rise of the Tomb Raider. Sony may have considerably strengthened its presence for 2016, but Microsoft is primed to lay siege to the all-important Christmas window from all fronts. For the first time since the eighth generation began, PlayStation 4’s position atop the sales chart doesn’t look as secure as it once did.
Describing Sony as vulnerable may err on the side of melodramatic, but let’s not forget that this will be the third consecutive year where the PlayStation 4 leans on indie games and third-party content as a pixellated crutch going into the festive season. With Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End pushed into 2016, a palpable lull awaits PS4 owners the world over, and the company has locked down exclusive content within the likes of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate all the while cozying up to Activision and Call of Duty in order to paper over the cracks.
For Sony and its legions of fans, the wait for first-party PlayStation 4 exclusives will only get worse before it gets better — markedly better.
Now, you may point to the company’s enviable roster of studios that were conspicuously absent during E3 — the Sony Bends, the Quantic Dreams, the Polyphony Digitals — and wonder how on Earth we can arrive at such a conclusion. Nevertheless, now that Sony has opted to forgo a Gamescom press event in favor of the Paris Games Week on October 27, one can’t help but question the substance of its first-party roster.
Aside from trying to steal Halo 5’s thunder — 343 Industries’ sequel launches on the same day, perchance — the platform holder plans to unveil a string of “exciting announcements” during what it describes as the “most important period for gaming.” Sony may have a stronger foothold in Europe than across the pond, and squeezing out two media briefings in as many months is far from feasible, but Scalebound, Crackdown and Remedy’s Quantum Break are all bound for Cologne, and they’ll only thrive in Sony’s absence.
A Little Sparse
Of course, it’s nigh on impossible than Microsoft’s trio will hit the market prior to 2016, but mind share is crucial. There’s no doubt that Sony has a firm grasp on the goodwill of its audience in the aftermath of E3, though that momentum will surely be tested — if not curbed — in the months to come.
Looking back at E3 2015 with the benefit of hindsight and one trait that becomes immediately apparent is just how important the community values old games. Overall, it was a conference teeming with nostalgia, and the rapturous reception of Xbox One backwards compatibility is a case in point.
Granted, Microsoft will roll out the feature on a title-by-title basis, kicking things off with a select library of one hundred Xbox 360 games by year’s end. But the importance of backwards compatibility and the message it delivers cannot be overstated. There’s the potential to open up literally thousands of games from generations past, unifying the two platforms to ensure that Xbox One cherishes the old while welcoming the new.
Sony, on the other hand, has its eyes firmly set on an all-digital future, and any talk of implementing backwards compatibility would surely undermine PlayStation Now in its embryonic state.
The takeaway? Microsoft is primed to trump Sony come holiday season — and in reality, that’s okay. Coming out of E3 2015, it’s evident the Xbox One is at a turning point in its lifecycle.
Calm Before the Storm?
No longer is the company’s flagship hardware a flailing industry laughing stock; this is a machine with a redefined identity, nurtured under new leadership and an equally reinvigorated focus on the gaming community. Forget Kinect and the “all-in-one entertainment” kerfuffle, PS4 now has a worthy competitor, which will surely benefit the industry as a whole over the next two to three years.
Holiday 2015 may belong to Microsoft and its slew of heavy-hitters, but with the likes of Uncharted 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian lining the tip of the iceberg, for Sony, 2016 could be the year when the eighth generation truly — truly — begins for PlayStation 4.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of PlayStation LifeStyle or its staff.