2019’s E3 season is finally here, everyone make sure your bodies are ready. Despite the awkward timing between console generations, this year’s trade show still stands to be a landmark event for video games.
This year’s E3 is vastly different in comparison to each show that came before it since it began in 1995. For the first time in its history, Sony will not be attending E3 this year, making it the first time in 19 years where a member of “The Big Three” would be missing the show. Even the very concept of The Big Three may be changing with the impending intrusion of Google with their Stadia game-streaming platform.
Regardless, this year marks the end of a console generation and the journey to a new one. This past generation has treated The Big Three very well, so there’s a bright future ahead for the games industry. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony each have their own perspective on the future of games, so let’s discuss what’s in store from each of them and prepare for this year’s E3.
What’s Next for Nintendo
Always the outlier but never the odd man out, Nintendo sculpted out their own hugely successful niche this generation with the amazing Nintendo Switch. Paired with some of the greatest games that came out this generation (See: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, etc.), Nintendo made a great splash this year with 1st and 3rd party support all around.
While the other thirds of The Big Three have some big plans for 2019, Nintendo’s framework for this year’s show hasn’t really changed. And that’s okay.
“As a general rule, we’re always working on new hardware and we will announce it when we are able to sell it,” Shuntaro Furukawa, Nintendo’s president, told reporters in Osaka. “But we have no plans to announce that at this year’s E3 in June.”
While this may come as a disappointment for some, that doesn’t mean Nintendo isn’t pulling out the big guns for this year’s show. Much like 2018’s E3, Nintendo will be doubling down on some of the heavy-hitting 1st party games in store for 2019, as well as community events and updates to their current titles as well.
Pokemon games themselves are considered system sellers, as well as the highly anticipated remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Paired with Luigi’s Mansion 3, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, and more, Nintendo running with some of their strongest exclusives (similar to PlayStation in that regard) is their best play. Fanbase loyalty for Nintendo’s 1st party games and exclusives have carried Nintendo through thick and thin. And with the Switch’s popularity surging since release, focusing on games for 2019 and saving new hardware for later is still the smart play.
It’ll be interesting to see what Nintendo’s new hardware plans are, but until then Nintendo can still comfortably ride the wave of Switch hype with 2019’s release lineup.
What’s Next for Microsoft
With redemption in their sights since Phil Spencer became head of Xbox, Microsoft has been on track for a comeback since 2014.
While at first glance Xbox definitely seems like a clear number two in comparison to PlayStation, Phil Spencer and the Xbox team has made several important shifts in their focus as well as quality-of-life improvements.
Xbox has added backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360 as well as the original Xbox, with full support of Achievements and GamerScore as well as online functionality. They’ve initiated Xbox Game Pass, a competitive subscription service that provides several games to players as part of a low-cost monthly subscription model. And much like the previous generation, Xbox Live has proven time and time again to be superior to the PSN in more ways than one, from stability of the service to features like Discord integration.
Among various other improvements as well, Xbox has vastly improved its ecosystem to the point where it’s arguably better than PlayStation’s. When you disregard PlayStation’s good faith, exclusive games and exclusivity deals, it’s even arguable that Xbox’s gaming environment is better than PlayStation’s. But obviously those are very important factors in the gaming industry, which is why PlayStation has remained on top for so long. But it’s hard not to see this and speculate that Xbox is gearing up for a serious takeover overtaking of PlayStation for the next console generation.
Not only is Xbox going to be the main conference to pay attention to at E3, it’s the first and longest major conference of the entire trade show. Xbox has an incredible opportunity to end this generation with a high note as well as usher in the next generation of games on their terms. Much like the unveiling of the Xbox 360, this year’s E3 is yet another opportunity to sweep the rug out from under PlayStation and take charge of the next generation of games.
As long as Xbox paces their conference well and focuses heavily on the games, they could easily outpace PlayStation. And at this point, Sony won’t have an immediate platform to plead their case, already placing Xbox in a favorable light.
Microsoft’s also poised to show off some more of their next-gen ambitions, including their previously shown Project xCloud game-streaming technology. Pair that with whatever sneak peek they’ll be giving for their next-gen hardware, Xbox will be getting a serious head-start on the new console generation.
Of course, much of this is up in the air considering Xbox hasn’t really teased anything specific about their conference. But at this point, all signs point to Xbox making a splash at this year’s E3.
What’s Next for Sony
Sony will not be attending E3 this year. It’s a weirdly perplexing but ultimately understandable decision, one that I’m sure was not made lightly. Despite being the first of The Big Three to skip out on the trade show entirely in E3’s history, Sony and PlayStation are in a comfortable enough place to do so without jeopardizing themselves economically.
From a business standpoint, Sony has been a clear winner this generation.
On the hardware front, the PS4 has dominated sales; not only as the highest selling console this generation, but also one of the highest selling consoles of all time, topping out at over 88 million consoles sold so far. PlayStation exclusives have knocked it out of the park as well, with titles like God of War, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Persona 5, and Bloodborne all being received well critically as well as selling extremely well.
That’s also without mention of their success with triple-A games as well, with powerhouses like Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher 3, Resident Evil 2, and GTA V tipping sales charts in favor of PlayStation.
Coupled with Sony’s excellent marketing strategy, they’ve had a stranglehold over this console generation, leaving Xbox in the dust after some grave missteps during E3 2013. Thanks mostly in part to their tongue-in-cheek “Official PlayStation Used Game Instructional Video,” among other important factors like a majority focus on the games themselves rather than the console, Sony surged ahead early and maintained their lead since 2013.
Sony’s runaway success this generation is reminiscent of their PS2 days, so them deciding not to go to E3 is a strange but totally viable business decision for them. Sony and Microsoft have been lightly teasing their next-gen hardware ambitions throughout 2018-2019, so perhaps Sony is gearing up for a full reveal of their next-gen plans later this year. Given their position, they have all the opportunity in the world to capitalize on their success and push it a step further into the new console generation.
It’s also important to note that the PS4’s last few games appear to be in an awkward spot in terms of release schedule. Most of the big ticket games like The Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima, and Death Stranding are either already on track to release at the end of the year or are possibly being released cross-gen with PS4 and the presumed PS5 next-gen hardware.
PlayStation is clearly preparing for their next-generation hardware reveal, and if they feel they don’t need E3 for that reveal, then they have every right and privilege to make that choice. Sony’s runaway success this past console generation means they can afford missing the gaming industry’s biggest trade show if their next generation PlayStation has something big planned.
What does the future hold
All in all, it’s fair to say that the end of this console generation will be book-ended by some great releases as well as plenty of promising innovation coming for the future of games. Xbox could potentially be the next front-runner in the not-so-violent console war, Nintendo will continue to do their own thing very well, and PlayStation is confident enough that their future announcements can wait until after E3 this year. It may be slightly more unusual with Sony not attending, but the 2019 show undoubtedly has plenty of promising reveals ahead, no matter who shapes out to be on top.