“In the Shadow of a Colossus”
With E3 fully underway and all the press conferences behind us, it’s time to answer the question everyone’s been asking. Who had the better E3 conference, Microsoft or Sony? In order to give both competitors the benefit of the doubt, let’s break down their biggest wins of yesterday in the fields they each dominated. One thing to keep in mind when reading this breakdown, I am judging strictly upon the conferences, not just Sony or Microsoft’s 2015 plans.
Exclusive Games Lineup
Sony’s Best: The Last Guardian
Microsoft’s Best: Halo 5: Guardians
Both conferences this year geared their presentations toward games. Showing off a plethora of both exclusives and third-party titles, there’s no shortage of exciting upcoming games. Microsoft showed off a number of new IPs yesterday, such as the mysterious ReCore, team-based multiplayer title Gigantic, and Rare’s new exclusive, Sea of Thieves. Each offered something drastically different and were pitched with compelling details. As for what games we saw coming, we got a beautiful trailer of Forza 6, gameplay footage of Gears 4, a slice from the new Tomb Raider along with some really impressive stuff from Halo 5: Guardians.
Furthermore, Sony kicked things off in a big way with the surprise announcement of The Last Guardian, followed by Guerrilla Games’ spectacular looking new title Horizon Zero Dawn, to Street Fighter V, Firewatch and finally Media Molecule’s confusing and ambitious new game Dreams. Sony put a heavier focus on third-party titles as well. Most notably the likes of Black Ops 3, Battlefront, Hitman, Disney Infinity and Final Fantasy VII, ensuring that the games are best played on PS4. It was all toped off with a stunning Uncharted 4 demo that promised nothing but excellence from the upcoming exclusive. Both conferences showcased some incredible games, but at the end of the day, Sony’s exclusive games lineup left me a little more excited for PS4’s future.
Sony’s Best: Project Morpheus
Microsoft’s Best: HoloLens
Virtual reality was bound to have a strong showing at E3 this year. As to be expected, both Sony and Microsoft set aside time to outline their plans for upcoming virtual reality headsets during the conferences. Microsoft definitely had the stronger showing when it came to VR, briefly going over its new working relationship with Oculus that will offer the ability to stream Xbox One games directly to the Rift. Though Oculus wasn’t Microsoft’s only VR push, they also went into detail regarding the HoloLens and its gaming options. Minecraft took the stage with a very impressive demo that successfully opened my eyes to the potential that lies behind HoloLens. The audience was able to see what was going on through the headset thanks to a special camera that revealed what the headset was projecting. It showed a birds-eye view of the world and highlighted playability, along with how you can play with other players who are mining using a standard controller.
In terms of Sony, their conference didn’t go too deep into what lies ahead for Project Morpheus. In fact, we only got two minutes of Morpheus, that of which reminded us that it exists and there are games are in development for it. One of those games being RIGS, a new IP from Guerilla Studios. It’s a 3 vs. 3, esports-style title, a first of its kind for VR. Aside from that, Microsoft’s presentation of the HoloLens and mention of their Oculus partnership made the conference certainly the better of the two.
Sony’s Best: Project Final Fantasy VII/Shenmue
Microsoft’s Best: Rare Replay
Sony’s conference had such incredible fan service, I couldn’t decide which title left the stage with the crown. Microsoft didn’t go down without giving it their best shot though, it was just simply impossible to one-up Sony. Highlighting Microsoft’s trip through the past for fans would have to be Rare Replay, a collection of 30 Rare games over the company’s history from Battletoads to Perfect Dark. It all comes at a fantastic and affordable price of $30, making it a must for anyone in search of a comprehensive look at one of gaming’s past most celebrated developers. On Sony’s side of the equation, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 came together to mutually blow the roof off the convention center and award Sony the victory.
Sony’s Best: The Last Guardian
Microsoft’s Best: Backwards Compatibility
Both Microsoft and Sony conferences were packed full of huge wins. Starting with Sony, they opened their conference with a gameplay demonstration of The Last Guardian that dropped the jaw of every single attendee. Conformation the game is still alive and well, in development for the PS4 by Team Ico, was a gigantic win for Sony, especially considering that’s what they kicked off their conference with. Sony then went on to deliver a magnificent conference, but The Last Guardian was hands down the talk of the show.
Microsoft on the other hand, owned in terms of highly requested functionality with their announcement of backwards compatibility. If operational and supported by publishers, this means that you’ll now be able to reach into your entire Xbox 360 collection, pick out a disc and play it directly on your Xbox One. If you prefer digital, you’ll be able to simply redownload any game you’ve bought on the store during the generations lifetime. While it’s an extremely enticing and accessible pitch, it’s one that may be given the shoulder by publishers. I’m not here to bear bad news from the future though, backwards compatibility is a big deal. If supported to the degree Microsoft hopes, this feature could be enough to give Xbox the lift they need. I feel like backwards compatibility is what we’ll be talking about this fall which is why Microsoft walked off the stage with the biggest win.
Conclusion: In all honesty, 2015 offered some of the best press conferences the show has ever seen. With more than exceptional showings from both Microsoft and Sony, it was a very close competition right up to the end. Each conference was packed with big moments, irresistible fan service, and most importantly a focus on games. At the end of the day I ultimately felt Sony had a better long-term plan and ended up taking the cake, but Microsoft surely didn’t walk away without a plentiful slice.
To keep up with my thoughts on all things E3 as they go down LIVE for the next few days, along with a whole bunch of other nonsense follow me on Twitter @BraxHaugen