Sony vs Microsoft E3 2016: Who Had the Best Press Conference?
It was Sony vs Microsoft once again this year, as both publishers went toe to toe at E3 2016 with press conferences that were both pretty blood good. Free from the typical array of awkward moments and forced interactions between developers, both companies did a great job of advertising their products and getting us excited for the future of the PS4 and Xbox One.
However, as per usual, one company did their job better than the other. So who was it this year? Read on to find out.
The Xbox One press conference was more centered upon new hardware this year, with the company unveiling both its slim, 4K ready Xbox One S for a budget $299, before concluding its presentation with the Project Scorpio. The Xbox One S is an impressive piece of kit considering its price point, but unfortunately its appearance was undermined somewhat by the introduction of Project Scorpio, which Microsoft clearly believes is the future for its Xbox One family of consoles. With the company telling attendees and the viewers from home that the future of home consoles is 4K and virtual reality, that the Xbox One S isn’t VR ready (as far as we know) therefore suggests that it isn’t the future, in Microsoft’s mind. I outlined my thoughts on why the Project Scorpio may cannibalize the Xbox One S in greater detail here, but suffice to say although I was impressed by the latter console, its impact could be significantly dampened by the release of Project Scorpio in 2017.
Despite this, the Project Scorpio does sound like a formidable chunk of technology. With 6 teraflops of power behind it (leading to the majority promptly Googling “teraflops” to see exactly what Microsoft was talking about), Microsoft are branding it the “most powerful console ever,” which will probably be the case. Whether or not this will lead to Microsoft taking over some of Sony’s dominance in the current console generation remains to be seen, but depending upon Project Scorpio’s price point it could well lead to Microsoft regaining some ground.
Sony announced before E3 2016 that the PS4 Neo, the company’s own upgraded console that will also output in UHD, wouldn’t be revealed at the expo, so instead we got a closer look at the PlayStation VR. Though it will cost $100 more than the Xbox One S at $399, I’m a lot more hopeful for the future of the headset than I was previously, and new game announcements such as Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham VR, a Star Wars Battlefront experience developed by EA Dice/Criterion, Final Fantasy XV VR and a smattering of new titles have left me pretty excited for where Sony is going with its headset. If the company can continue providing support for the device, something which they’ve struggled with in regards to their previous peripherals, then this could be an excellent barrier for entry for those looking for a VR experience more substantial than is currently offered by mobile VR headsets, but that will be less expensive than the likes of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Though both hardware presentations were good, Microsoft announced two consoles and it was therefore basically impossible to top that.
The key part of every E3 is, of course, the video games. This year wasn’t short on new announcements, though unfortunately Microsoft’s own E3 2016 press conference was marred by an abundance of leaks prior to the show, which had already unveiled a number of the company’s key reveals. Truthfully, there wasn’t anything too earth-shattering announcement from the Microsoft camp regardless of the leaks. We saw new gameplay footage from Gears of War 4, which looked impressive when rendered in 4K but aside from that was basically Gears of War as you’d expect it, while Dead Rising 4 seems to be a return to the wackier elements of the series, but again, wasn’t exactly unexpected. Forza Horizon 3 looks gorgeous and will definitely be a must-buy for racing game fans, while Scalebound also received a fun demo that highlighted more of the game’s action elements.
On the other hand, Sony pretty much knocked it out of the park. Starting with a God of War 4 trailer that presents a huge change of pace for the series, switching to a third-person perspective and a seemingly more emotional tale that shares more in common with The Last of Us than previous entries in the series, perhaps long-time fans of the series won’t be too happy by this quasi-reboot but it’s certainly an interesting change of pace. Hideo Kojima walked onto the stage like a rock star to unveil Death Stranding, a typically confusing but thoroughly intriguing new game starring a very naked Norman Reedus, while The Last Guardian now has a confirmed release date and Resident Evil 7 surprised everyone by moving to a first-person perspective, along with adding a PSVR mode. I wasn’t too impressed with Days Gone, Bend Studio’s open-world, post-apocalyptic zombie game that looks as unoriginal and derivative as it sounds, but I was floored by Insomniac’s new Spider-Man game – this coming from someone who isn’t even a particularly big fan of the web-slinger.
The games are undoubtedly what matter the most at E3, and in E3 2016 Sony really blew their competition out of the water in this regard.
A big part of Sony’s E3 2016 press conference was spent discussing the PSVR, and as a former naysayer of the upcoming headset given Sony’s track record with peripherals and their marketing of it, I’ve come away feeling more impressed. Not only has Sony courted a number of major developers to produce unique VR experiences, but they also revealed that Resident Evil 7 would be fully playable in virtual reality, too, which is big news for survival horror fans. As a Resident Evil and horror fan, that may be an opportunity too difficult to pass up.
The $399 price point is firmly manageable, too, when you consider that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive retail for $599 and $799 respectively. Though the PSVR won’t match these two headsets in terms of specs, it represents a great way for people to get involved with virtual reality that is more robust than what is offered by the likes of the Samsung Gear VR. It could well prove to be a very popular option, and that there will be 50 virtual reality games to play using the headset from its launch in October through to the end of the year is heartening.
On the other hand, Microsoft announced that Project Scorpio would be capable of playing in VR, though didn’t specify what virtual reality headset it would use. While there is plenty of speculation that the Oculus Rift will be compatible with the console, given the two company’s previous partnership when it came to shipping Xbox One controllers with the VR device, this has not been confirmed so it’s impossible to pass judgement.
Given that the PSVR was the only virtual reality headset on display, Sony were the victors here.
Microsoft’s announcement of Xbox Play Anywhere, a new feature that will allow Xbox One and PC owners to play their digital games on both platforms, transferring their saved data between console and desktop was an excellent new addition to the growing Windows ecosystem. A number of Xbox Live additions, including Xbox Live Arena which allows Microsoft and other studios to organize and stage their own tournaments via the Xbox One dashboard, were also nice new features.
Sony, on the other hand, limited their press conference almost exclusively to new video games. This is hardly a surprise, considering that the company aren’t trying to also sell an ecosystem as Microsoft are, but PSN does continue to be outclassed by Xbox Live with its growing selection of features. We’d much rather see new games than Xbox Live announcements, of course, but we do hope that Sony actually seeks to overhaul the PlayStation Network at some point in the near future. Though it is definitely the more user-friendly operating system of the two, considering the Xbox One’s messy user interface that makes the PS4 look thoroughly streamlined by comparison, PS4 owners have been requesting major PSN changes for quite some time now. E3 2016 didn’t see the company addressing this.
The winners here, then, are Microsoft.
Sony and Microsoft both put on impressive E3 2016 press conferences with a host of new announcements. Though there was plenty for both PS4 and Xbox One owners to be excited about, the plethora of new games debuted by Sony gave them the edge here, with so many great looking new titles on the horizon for their new console. Though Microsoft’s new console announcements were exciting, the odd dual reveal of both the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio has left me worried about the potential over-saturation of the Xbox One family of products, while the company’s announced games – though relatively impressive in their own right – didn’t have the same impact as the likes of Death Stranding, Resident Evil 7 and God of War 4. E3 is all about the games, and this year Sony had the better roster.