During the weeks leading to E3, I had the impression that Microsoft would win the show and Sony might be reaching for whatever weapon happened to be closest to its hand. Judging the excitement channeling through the audience, Sony hyped the audience as much, if not more so, as Microsoft had and for good reason: the revival of The Last Guardian and the confirmation of the Final Fantasy 7 remake rekindled the passions of nostalgic gamers, and closing the show with Uncharted 4, while expected, created a lasting impression.
However, after the impact that The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy 7 remake, No Man’s Sky, and even Horizon created alleviated, the skeptical gears in my brain kicked in, and I realized my initial impression wasn’t too far off. Looking up the conference online–the events are too intense to process everything in person–I realized that most of the newly announced exclusives–Horizon, Final Fantasy 7 (probably a long time away), The Last Guardian, and Dreams, were slated for either 2016 or to be announced.
The rest of the conference seemed as if Sony and Microsoft was exchanging strategies. When Sony introduced Call of Duty: Black Ops III, I thought this was a symbolic moment for Sony because it is now the console with the largest fanbase; it is now in the position Microsoft was in with the Xbox 360 (second only to the Wii). Most of Sony’s stage time was spent highlighting multiplatform games (and their timed or PS4-exclusive content) Microsoft, acknowledging its second place status, stepped up their game with the announcement–not all of them a surprise–of their 2015 exclusives. Consumers will have to wait for Sony’s games; Microsoft will have them ready in time for the holidays.
Yet despite the scarce 2015 exclusives, Sony seemed to elicit the same excitement–if not more so–than Microsoft. In fact, according to the polls on Destructoid, which measures approval ratings for each company rather than simply voting for the overall winner of E3, Sony is currently in the lead with 78% and is followed closely by Bethesda with 77% and Microsoft with 60%. What gives? Nostalgia, as well rewarding Team Ico’s fans for their patience.
I feel for Microsoft; with their applause-inducing backwards compatibility announcement, the company finally felt confident to get back at Sony for their potshots (Sony’s E3 video about used games immediately comes to mind). And while Sony is keen on keeping an eye on Microsoft before making their move (again, the brilliant used games announcement), the announcement of the three games that gamers rarely thought would ever escape development or legal hell was enough to dissipate the power of Microsoft’s jab. Shenmue III and Team Ico’s games may not be system sellers in the sense that Halo or Gears of War are; however, given the time
While listening to my colleagues discuss this on the React podcast (I was busy writing this the whole time, and I don’t talk–ever), it occurred to me that Sony purposefully placed the announcements of The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy 7, and Shenmue III so close together on purpose. That hype permeated the room almost the entire time, and my colleagues, as well as everyone else, couldn’t stop talking about them after the show (you should have seen the initial look of denial on Charles’ face). Planned or not, Sony provided the perfect comeback for Microsoft’s jab, even though the latter company will have the last laugh this holiday season.