Every year, Sony and Microsoft attempt to top one another at E3. Every year, the gaming public inevitably begins arguing about who “won” the show, despite the fact that this is an inherently ridiculous exercise. E3 is the biggest marketing push in the industry — if you tuned in for both press conferences, they both won.
But as ridiculous as it may be, it’s still incredibly fun to pick a winner so that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Feel free to disagree wholeheartedly.
[Quick note before we get started: I am fully aware that Nintendo still exists, but with just one major first-party game in the works for the Wii U and a smattering of third-party RPGs, it wouldn’t make any sense to stack the house of Mario up against Sony and Microsoft. So I’m not going to do that.]
Doubling down on the big ideas it discussed during last year’s press conference, Microsoft definitely has Sony beat when it comes to comprehensive game plans for the future of this console generation.
In two months, the Xbox One S will become the slickest console on the market. In late 2017, Project Scorpio will become the most powerful home console ever made. Although the introduction of two additional Xbox One models might be a bit confusing for the average consumer, it’s how Microsoft has decided to reinvent the 5-7 year life cycle that gamers have become accustomed to.
Sony has its own plans for a “high-end PS4,” but considering the fact that the upgraded console didn’t even get a passing mention during the company’s E3 presentation, it’s hard to imagine we’ll see it this year.
Sony has a significant lead over Microsoft when it comes to hardware sales, but when everyone rushes out to the stores later this year to find a new and improved Xbox One on store shelves, who’s to say they won’t want the latest and greatest?
But updated consoles aren’t the only hardware innovations planned for this year and beyond. As expected, Sony gave its PlayStation VR headset plenty of screen time during the press conference, highlighting some intriguing virtual reality games and experiences that will only be available on PSVR when it launches this fall. Project Scorpio might be VR-ready, but we’ve heard next to nothing about VR coming to Xbox One in any capacity in 2016.
More powerful consoles are great and all, but the reason we tune in to E3 press conferences is to see new games in action. On that front, Sony blew Microsoft out of the water with God of War, Spider-Man, The Last Guardian, Horizon Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, Resident Evil 7 and even Crash Bandicoot.
Much more so than the hardware reveals, the “best” game lineup is going to come down to personal preference, but the general consensus from both journalists in attendance and fans watching at home was clear: Sony slayed.
And it’s not just about the games themselves either. E3 is a circus, and showmanship counts for a lot (probably more than it should). Microsoft had to spend time covering the Xbox One S, Project Scorpio and Xbox Play Anywhere (which we’ll discuss later on), while Sony spent its entire show parading out game after game after game, until time ran out and everyone had to leave.
Plus, the PlayStation VR games looked stellar. It’s hard to convey the experience of VR through a trailer or a gameplay demo, but everyone in the theater walked away from that Resident Evil 7 trailer quaking with fear.
Forza Horizon 3 is one of my most anticipated games of 2016 and Gears of War 4 looks like a return to form for the franchise, but if I have to pick a console based solely on the games I saw at the show, I’m going with PS4.
On the other hand, many of the most exciting PS4 titles have either been delayed to 2017 (Horizon Zero Dawn) or have yet to be given a release date at all (God of War, Spider-Man). That doesn’t diminish the excitement for those titles, but it probably means more big names exclusives on Xbox One in 2016.
If you came for game reveals and nothing more, chances are you were far more entertained by Sony’s presentation. If you wanted to see dramatic strategic shifts that could alter the game industry forever, Microsoft took the cake.
Xbox Play Anywhere (which we mentioned above) will allow gamers to buy a single digital copy of a game and own it on both PC and Xbox One. They’ll even be able to pick up where they left off, transferring save data from one machine to the other. Basically, the PC and the Xbox One will merge into a single platform.
Not every game will support Xbox Play Anywhere, but most first-party titles (and a few popular third-party titles) will, including Gears of War 4, ReCore, Forza Horizon 3, Halo Wars 2 and Ark: Survival Evolved.
As Microsoft continues to completely reinvent itself and push forward into uncharted waters, Sony seems comfortable treading water for the time being. That’s not to say that PlayStation VR isn’t an exciting addition to the PlayStation ecosystem, but the PS4 UI isn’t receiving any major updates, PS3 games still aren’t backwards compatible with the PS4 and I’m fairly confident you aren’t going to be able to cross-buy PC games with PS4 any time soon.
Now that we’ve exhaustively recapped E3 2016, it’s time to pick a winner.
Although I walked away from Sony’s press conference far more enthused than I did any other event at this year’s E3, I can’t deny that I’m more intrigued by the future of Xbox than I am the future of PlayStation.
Microsoft is still playing catch-up with sales, but the company has rocketed past Sony when it comes to exciting, forward-thinking plans that could upend the entire industry. Even if it all falls apart before it can come to fruition, I want to take this ride with Microsoft for the rest of the console generation.