E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, is one of the biggest gaming trade shows in the world. It will be held at the L.A. Convention Center in California this week from Tuesday June 10 – Thursday June 12, and will undoubtedly feature some exciting news from the industry. The two biggest console manufacturers, Microsoft and Sony, have already made some important announcements.
While Microsoft has focused on damage-control after the disastrous launch of the Xbox One, Sony has announced some very ambitious projects in an attempt to maintain a lead in console sales. With 7 million units sold, the PS4 has been the popular choice for consumers, but Microsoft is not far behind with sales of just over 5 million. These are relatively small numbers which represent the beginning of each console’s product life cycle. For example, the Xbox 360 has surpassed 83.7 million units sold since it was released in 2005, and Sony has sold 80 million PS3 systems since 2006. A recent survey indicated that 58% of gamers haven’t even purchased one of the new consoles, and 82% of those that have a PS4 or Xbox One own less than 8 games. This means that the new console war has only just begun, and the upcoming holiday season will be crucial for Microsoft and Sony.
Microsoft entered E3 with a focus on software. Among the titles announced, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was predictable but effective in reminding the public of one of Microsoft’s most popular series. It also served as a distraction to those wishing to see Halo 5 gameplay footage, which was not featured. Trailers for Dragon Age: Origins, The Division, and Forza Horizon 2 were shown, but with all of the games showcased, many noted a lack of updates in hardware. The Xbox One has always been an ambitious system with a focus on advancements in physical technology, yet one piece was conspicuously absent from the Microsoft Press Conference: The Kinect. The motion control device was originally bundled with the Xbox One, and advertised as a key accessory for gameplay, but public reaction to the device has been less than spectacular. Microsoft has announced that the Kinect will not be bundled with lower priced Xbox One systems anymore. This could mean that Microsoft is shifting its focus away from motion control for the time being.
Unlike Microsoft, Sony showcased both hardware and games. They announced a white version of the PS4, which will be bundled with Destiny, a sci-fi shooter on September 9. This is the first hardware update Sony has announced for the PS4. Other notable mentions include updates on Project Morpheus, a headset for virtual reality gameplay, and Sony’s new streaming box: PlayStation TV. Although neither project has a release date yet, it was announced that Project Morpheus will be available for demo with two games at Sony’s E3 booth, and Playstation TV will have a $99 – $139 price tag upon launch in North America. Survey results showed that only 12% of gamers use their consoles solely for games, meaning that PlayStation TV may be launched to a receptive market.
The future of console gaming is as uncertain as ever, and manufacturers must integrate high quality gaming experiences with new features and hardware. In a survey fielded by qSample, 44% of consumers indicated that, “quality of games”, was the most important factor in buying a new console. Only 16% chose price as the key factor, which suggests that many consumers are willing to pay for a better experience.
In an industry filled with tech-savvy people, it is crucial to listen and respond to the attitude of the consumers. Public opinion shifted dramatically towards the PS4 during the console launch last year, and Microsoft is still fighting to recover its image. When Sony responded to Microsoft’s controversial announcements with conservative messages that catered to the public attitude, they took advantage of those mistakes and won the hearts of many consumers. Since then the company has fought to maintain its position as king of the consoles, and E3 2014 will be no exception.