Sony’s E3 Show Underwhelmed, But PS4 Retains An Edge Over Xbox One X – Forbes

God of War

Sony

God of War

Sony is usually the master of ceremonies when it comes to E3, having created some truly memorable moments in the past few years, whether it was their Xbox One roasting of 2013 or their Shenmue 3/FFVII/Last Guardian tri-reveal in 2015. This year, however, things were a bit…off.

At the outset of the show, fans were promised that the night would be “all about the games.” A welcome promise at a games show that has often been hijacked in the past by other concerns, but what followed was machine gun fire of one trailer after another with no context and few breaks. Sony’s show barely ran an hour, far shorter than their usual, and was punctuated only be brief appearances by one man, Sony Interactive president Shawn Layden.

What were arguably Sony’s biggest games of the show were ones that were already featured last year, God of War, Days Gone and the big closer, Insomniac’s Spider-Man. The Last of Us 2 didn’t return. From Software was nowhere to be seen. There were really no actual surprises. The only thing that might count is the unexpected appearance of Monster Hunter World on PS4, but it’s also coming to Xbox One.

It was a very un-Sony-like show. There were no jaw-dropping reveals, no pointed jabs at Microsoft. After the debut of Xbox One X at $499, it seemed like Sony could have twisted the knife with a year-later price cut of the PS4 Pro to $349, but I suppose with Sony’s huge lead and the $100 disparity already in place, there’s really no reason for them to bother.

This was an unusual year in that Microsoft actually but on a better show than Sony for a change, but both were not particularly great and weirdly, so far, Ubisoft seems to be winning E3 with big moments like the reveal of Skull and Bones and Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Beyond Good and Evil 2

Ubisoft

Beyond Good and Evil 2

The problem is that even if Sony’s show was relatively subdued this year, what they do have on deck is still more than Microsoft can claim. The biggest games of Microsoft’s show were Assassin’s Creed, Shadow of War and Anthem, cross-platform games, with Sea of Thieves looking like a pretty niche title, Crackdown 3 barely featured despite being a 1X launch title, and Forza being…Forza, looking undeniably pretty.

But Sony has Spider-Man, which looked pretty stunning (during the parts that weren’t QTEs). Uncharted: The Lost Legacy should be great even if it’s like 20% of a full Uncharted game. Sony has God of War, which looks to be an evolution of the series in a way we really don’t see with Halo or Gears for Xbox. And The Last of Us 2 is still on the way, even if it wasn’t featured. And this is all in addition to the fact that Sony has had an absolute blockbuster 2017 already with three GOTY contenders in the first half of the year, Nier: Automata, Persona 5 and Horizon Zero Dawn, the last of which has DLC on the way.

This is the fundamental issue Microsoft faces. Even on a bad day for Sony, their exclusive roster is still impressive, and Xbox has a hard time competing with it. All the horsepower of the Xbox One X doesn’t mean all that much if Sony still boasts a much more compelling roster of exclusive games. The problem is that this disparity is never going to turn on a dime. It’s the result of years and years of Sony cultivating their relationships with developers and their own in-house studios. It takes an investment to get to this point, and Xbox has only seen these relationships wane in time, for the most part.

Crackdown 3

Microsoft

Crackdown 3

I was impressed with the Xbox One X. It is a console that I personally will be picking up as I have the kind of massive 4K TV that was designed for hardware like this, and I have no problem making Xbox One X my go-to place to play most third party titles. But I am a unique case, and also even then Sony has its hooks into a few games, like how it’s going to be tough to play Destiny on Xbox with another era of Sony-exclusive content, plus the fact that it seems likely that the publishers that have deals with Sony may not allow their games to look or play dramatically better on Xbox One X, even if it’s technically possible (ie. Destiny 2 running at 60 fps). That sucks, but it’s the current state of things.

I was impressed with Microsoft’s showmanship this year, and Sony’s press event really rubbed me the wrong way, even if I did see many games I liked. But in the end, when comparing the current states of Sony and Microsoft’s hardware and software offerings, it’s hard to see Xbox with anything resembling a clear advantage, even with the arrival of the 1X.

I’m looking forward to Nintendo’s show today which will hopefully redeem what feels a bit like a down year for E3 overall. Neither Sony or Microsoft blew me away this year, though MS definitely gave the better performance, given what we saw last night. But the console war itself? That’s another story.

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