E3 2015 is just around the corner and everyone knows that this is the biggest period of the year for gaming. No, not the holiday season which dictates how many millions of consoles are sold, or whether the newest Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty outsold the old ones. It’s E3 which informs the trends of hype, directing consumers to what they’ll eventually be laying their hard-earned cash down for, regardless of the reviews and previews saying otherwise. The hype, the glamour and the overall marketing for games are extensive yet teasing, thus making it an early Christmas for gamers.
Maybe that’s why this year’s expo is bigger than most. Eight major press conferences/presentations will be taking place this year with Square Enix and Bethesda Softworks joining Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft and EA in hosting their own press conferences. The first-ever “PC Gaming Show” courtesy of PC Gamer and AMD will also be taking place, featuring speakers from Blizzard Entertainment, Obsidian, Devolver Digital, Paradox and Cloud Imperium with DayZ creator Dean Hall and Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski also scheduled to appear. And let’s not forget about Nintendo, which will have its own Direct presentation scheduled for the week.
"Its presentation at E3 last year was highly lauded, which is a big deal when you consider the utter bombardment of hate it received in 2013 for its numerous restrictive policies prior to the Xbox One's release."
Among all of these companies, the big two will be Sony and Microsoft. The two have been at odds since the original Xbox came out and Sega withdrew from the hardware business. Nintendo has slowly shifted towards the periphery in recent years and it’s quickly become a competition between the two hardware behemoths, whether it’s the Xbox 360 vs. PS3 or Xbox One vs. PS4.
Oddly enough, despite several controversial policies and a mismanaged PR campaign, Microsoft managed to deliver a solid console with the Xbox One. Monthly updates have been the norm for more than a year now, introducing new features at a quicker rate than the PlayStation 4. Also, unlike Sony, there have been a suitably larger number of quality exclusives on the Xbox One since March 2014.
While Sony had The Last of Us: Remastered, inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub, Bloodborne and The Order: 1886, the overall results were a bit mixed. The Last of Us: Remastered wasn’t a brand new game by any means and came out a year after the original on PS3; DriveClub launched with several bugs that outright locked the game out from online play, its main selling point; and suffice to say, The Order: 1886 didn’t live up to the hype.
Microsoft has seen plenty of fumbles as well, none greater than Halo: The Master Chief Collection and its myriad of bugs, many which still require proper attention from developer 343 Industries. Despite this, the Xbox One has still delivered quality games like Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, Ori and the Blind Forest and Titanfall. Its presentation at E3 last year was highly lauded, which is a big deal when you consider the utter bombardment of hate it received in 2013 for its numerous restrictive policies prior to the Xbox One’s release.
"How can Microsoft bring momentum back to the Xbox One heading into E3? For starters, it needs to show off games that people will want. Halo 5: Guardians is a prime showpiece and it should be given the Halo 2 treatment (without the smoke and mirrors)."
So why isn’t Microsoft “winning” the console war, so to speak? Sony has announced more than 20 million consoles sold worldwide as of April 2015. By comparison, Microsoft has been far less forthcoming with its numbers. It announced nearly 10 million units shipped in November 2014. In January 2015, it revealed that 6.6 million Xbox consoles were sold in the holiday quarter. That’s a combined number between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Regardless, analysts have more or less acknowledged that the PS4 has significantly higher worldwide numbers than the Xbox One.
Depending on where you look, there are several reasons for this. Many consumers apparently prefer being able to run games in 1080p resolution, an aspect the Xbox One has been having trouble with since launch. Surely it’s the games that matter more? Then again, no one really expected the current generation to take off like it did on the sole premise of better graphics.
How can Microsoft bring momentum back to the Xbox One heading into E3? For starters, it needs to show off games that people will want. Halo 5: Guardians is a prime showpiece and it should be given the Halo 2 treatment (without the smoke and mirrors). It’s not merely about attracting consumers who own an Xbox One – Microsoft should be focused on giving everyone a reason to buy its console.
New IPs are great and all but the big guns for the Xbox One have to emerge sooner or later. That means Gears of War and whatever Rare is planning. Also, Microsoft has to present games that will be coming soon, not just placeholders like Phantom Dust or Crackdown which still have no tentative release date. There also need to be more third party interests beyond Call of Duty, which Rise of the Tomb Raider should hopefully help with.
"Though neither console has really successfully delivered a killer app thus far, it's still early times. Both have the potential to really break out in their own ways."
It wouldn’t hurt for Microsoft to actually take a page out of Sony’s playbook and offer some of its premiere ID@Xbox titles on Xbox Live’s Games With Gold. For that matter, it’d be nice if some of those nice-looking indie titles like Below, Inside and Cuphead actually released this year. Microsoft needs a visual masterpiece to show off the Xbox One’s power as well – perhaps something which could rival the PS4 at this time. And no, Forza Motorsport 6 doesn’t quite cut it.
As odd as it sounds, HoloLens will be an interesting little addition to Microsoft’s conference, if it indeed chooses to showcase it. This can’t be like the Kinect debacle though when the device was first revealed for the Xbox 360 (and later revealed to be bundled with the Xbox One). We need to see games. We need to see reasons to buy an Xbox One, even if we’re really buying it for a select number of experiences at this time.
Though neither console has really successfully delivered a killer app thus far, it’s still early times. Both have the potential to really break out in their own ways. That being said, there’s no denying the vast success Sony has seen over Microsoft. If the Xbox One really wants to make an impact this year, Microsoft has to fast-track its killer app and keep the momentum going all year round. And the best way to do so is to keep releasing high-profile games at the opportune times.