Every June, E3 highlights the progress of the gaming industry and offers a glimpse at its future. Hundreds of thousands of gamers pack livestreams of press conferences, screaming their thoughts into the endless abyss that is an Internet comment thread. There’s no other event that comes close to bringing the excitement of E3. Seeing industry giants outline their vision for the future, wrestling one another for attention and positive press, never gets old.
A lot of folks don’t enjoy the competitive angle of E3, but I’m not one of them. I love it. While some downplay the importance of the event, there’s no doubt that E3 can mark a turning point in the never-ending battle for our dollars. Look no further than The Beatdown of 2013, where Sony humiliated Microsoft and left them scrambling just months before the PS4 and Xbox One launched. Sony beat them so badly that Microsoft had to completely redefine the Xbone, and they lost their hold on the US market as a result. Events like that are fun to watch! E3 is the Super Bowl of the video game world.
This year’s E3 looks to be something entirely different. While Sony usually turns in an excellent performance, all eyes will be on Microsoft and Nintendo this week. If Nintendo or Microsoft plan on toppling Sony, they’ll need to dominate the show and define the vision for their new consoles. Usually it’s easy to predict a winner going into the Summer Showdown, but this year every one of the Big Three can win this thing. How will it turn out? We’ll know by week’s end, but here are a few possible outcomes.
Situation 1: Sony Wins E3 by Default
Sony enters this year’s show at a disadvantage. While the PS4 continues to sell incredibly well, Nintendo and Microsoft have new toys to show off. Sony has the moderately successful PlayStation VR and an incredible home console, but it’s hard to see them wowing folks with new technology this time around.
That’s not to say victory is impossible, however. Only a fool would underestimate Sony at E3. Betting against them is like betting against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Just don’t do it. He’ll come back from a 25-point deficit and leave the competition scratching their heads, demoralized.
Sony actually has a clear path to victory and that’s by doing what they do best: showing off really cool games. You can expect a lot of God of War, Days Gone, and Spider-Man but there’s sure to be plenty of huge surprises in Sony’s arsenal. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Final Fantasy VII remake trailer that really brings the house down.
Games alone won’t ensure a victory for Sony, however. With Nintendo and Microsoft currently dominating the pre-show buzz, Sony will need its rivals to fall flat to earn a decisive victory. Nintendo has a high floor this time around, but I believe they also have a low ceiling. If they stick to the flashcards and just talk about games we already know are coming Sony could conceivably defeat them with an onslaught of 2018 games that keep players eyes on the future.
Microsoft currently seeks to rebrand itself and become the leader in power by a wide margin. The Scorpio will need to demonstrate its power, something that may be harder to do over a livestream than it is when you’ve actually got your hands on the console. That device’s price will go a long way towards ensuring its success. If Microsoft misses here, the Xbox brand will be out cold on the mat with PlayStation once again looking down over it.
My Advice: At $249.99, the PS4 is cheaper than the Switch and the Scorpio. Sony should beat that point home for huge points with families on a budget.
Situation 2: Scorpio Amazes and Microsoft Reclaims North America
The Xbox One can’t be classified as a failure just yet, but at 26 million units sold it’s highly unlikely it’ll ever catch the PS4 in total sales. The Scorpio offers hope; however, as its promise of 4K gaming is sure to appeal to hardcore audiences.
Microsoft needs to articulate what makes the Scorpio worth a purchase. 4K graphics are great and all, but this console needs to blow away the PS4 in terms of what it can play. Much like Nintendo, Microsoft needs to blaze a new path for gaming. If Scorpio can play games that no other device can, get third parties to develop games exclusively for the platform, and change the way people experience games it will be successful.
Price matters, but not quite as much as others expect. If Scorpio justifies a $499.99 price point, people will buy it in droves. Still, that will take a lot of coaxing next to the $249.99 PS4 and $299.99 Switch. Ideally, Scorpio will cost $399.99, just as the PS4 did at launch.
Flagship titles like Gears of War, Crackdown, and Forza will go a long way towards getting gamers on board with Scorpio. Again though, these games need to look different enough to warrant upgrading from the Xbox One or dumping the PS4. For example, if Microsoft trots out Halo 6 (they’re saying they won’t) and its gameplay looks identical to Halo 5 but slightly prettier, they’re better off saving their money and bailing on the whole thing now. Scorpio needs to differentiate itself from Sony in more than just specs. It needs to differentiate itself as an experience.
With all eyes on him, Phil Spencer needs to deliver a bold new vision for Microsoft to get back into the game. Can he do it? Yes, but it won’t be easy.
My Advice: Release the Scorpio at a loss if need be. From what I’m seeing now, Scorpio won’t be able to justify being double the PS4’s price. $449.99 is a lot, but it’s better than $499.99. At $499.99, it better have the best launch lineup ever if it wants to survive.
Situation 3: Nintendo Continues its Hot Streak and Switch Continues to Soar
The Switch has surprised everyone with its incredible early success. Still, optimism about the console can’t turn into arrogance if Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima wants to see the hybrid console continue to roll. Still, with all the good will that its built up, Nintendo shouldn’t have too much trouble achieving its goals this E3.
Recent E3’s were somewhat disappointing for Nintendo. 2015’s show was an unmitigated disaster so terrible that Saturo Iwata apologized to fans and promised to improve in the future. Then, the Wii U was on life support. In 2016, it was dead. Nintendo focused primarily on Breath of the Wild, and the result was a bland show that still succeeded in its goal: make Breath of the Wild a game that almost no gamer could justify missing.
Many believe Nintendo needs to come out shooting firework after firework. They don’t. In order to succeed at E3, Nintendo needs to get people buzzing about 2017’s lineup and whet their appetite for 2018. The Wii U built itself upon the future. As an owner and apologist, I talked endlessly with PlayStation and Xbox fans about how “things will change when Mario Kart 8…Smash Bros…. Mario 3D World… Mario Maker arrive.” Every time I was wrong, despite those game’s massive critical acclaim. The Wii U had us always looking towards the future. It never got a consistent stream of great games (save for May through November of 2014). The Switch hasn’t had that problem yet, and Nintendo needs to get people focused on what arrives now rather than later.
If they want to secure a decisive victory, however, a few big surprises need to be sprinkled in. The long rumored Mother 3 releasing on either the 3DS or Switch would blow the roof off the place. Even the shortest teaser for a new Metroid would score huge points with hardcore fans.
Ultimately, Nintendo’s performance depends on the power of Super Mario Odyssey. Showing it off as the centerpiece stands to reason, but it needs to leave an impression similar to Breath of the Wild. If Super Mario Odyssey comes close to matching Zelda’s hype, Nintendo wins E3.
My Advice: Super Mario Odyssey carries the hopes of the Switch on its shoulders right now, but Breath of the Wild is still fresh on gamer’s minds. Announcing two different holiday bundles, one featuring Breath of the Wild and the other featuring Mario Odyssey for $299.99, would definitely bring more people over to the Switch.
My Prediction: Nintendo Wins It, Sony Keeps its Momentum, Microsoft Stumbles
Nintendo has devised a brilliant strategy. The Switch Showcase will hammer home the selling points of Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, ARMS, Fire Emblem Warriors, Xenoblade 2, and Pokken DX. From there, surprises will fill out the Treehouse segments along with gameplay footage that furthers they hype they built up for games shown during the Switch Showcase.
The real brilliance; however, comes in the form of their E3 Invitational Tournaments for ARMS and Splatoon 2. ARMS will feature prominent gaming personalities from competitive fighting game communities (Super Smash Bros. is well represented), while Splatoon 2 will feature the best of the best dueling for the title of “Best Team in the World.” Both events highlight Nintendo’s ability to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore fans, and they’ll command a lot of attention on social media.
Nintendo, having just released a popular console, also has the easiest path to victory. Sony doesn’t have the ammo to out gun Nintendo this year, and Microsoft has to face the challenges that come with unveiling a new console. Nintendo just needs to keep the Splatoon 2 and ARMS buzz alive, hype up Pokken and Xenoblade, and hit it out of the park with Mario Odyssey. I think those goals aren’t going to be too difficult to reach.
Sony won’t fumble either. They’re the safest best to have a good showing, simply because you can never rule out Nintendo grasping defeat from the jaws of victory. The PS4 established its place as ruler of the market place years ago, and it will take a herculean effort to knock it from its perch. Sony won’t let that happen without a fight, and I expect them to deliver a solid performance this year.
Microsoft has me concerned, however. I’m not convinced that the Scorpio will be able to differentiate itself from the cheaper PS4. A flubbed announcement will leave longtime fans frustrated, the price point driving parents away. The Scorpio depends on power as its selling point, but PC gaming exists and a home console won’t replace that as the way to squeeze the most horsepower out of games. Microsoft may have a full-blown disaster on its hands if my fears prove true.