Yesterday, we shared with you our thoughts on what Sony might thinking ahead of their E3 2012 press conference. Today, we’re taking on Microsoft, and if the last two years are any indication, we’re likely to see far more of the Kinect than the average gamer cares for. Barring a surprise on Monday morning, the Redmond, Washington powerhouse could be in a lot of trouble for the coming year.
Last week, I shared my belief that the recent rash of delays was an indicator that Microsoft and/or Sony had tipped off publishers that the next big thing would indeed be unveiled to the public at E3. Again, pushing off nearly completed titles to 2013 means that developers can both start to work on next-gen titles and leave publishes with enough rounds in the chamber to close out this console cycle. I may be wrong (and if I am, expect me to post a story about it), but only time will tell.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll look at three scenarios: 1) Microsoft announces a new console for the fall of 2013. 2) Microsoft and Sony announce for the fall of 2013. 3) Neither show any new hardware, extending speculation about next generation at least until E3 2013.
Scenario 1: Microsoft announces a new console for the fall of 2013, but Sony does not.
This is the best case scenario for Microsoft. Despite the overwhelming fail rate of the Xbox 360 before the Slim redesign, Microsoft’s strategy to be first to market was a success. They’ve maintained an edge over the PlayStation 3 in the United States, and through smart marketing have propelled their hardware and exclusives further than their competitors have been able. After E3 last year, many walked away from Microsoft’s press conference asking the same questions, “where are the exclusives, and where are the core games?” Especially after Sony blew the doors off the place with a laundry list of first-party titles, the Xbox 360 offerings seemed deficient.
It was only later that we found out that Microsoft was able to make smart marketing decisions, rocketing Gears of War 3 and Forza 4 up the sales charts and making a respectable showing for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Sony, on the other hand, seemed to find disappointment in the sales of Resistance 3 and floundering performance of the Vita. Uncharted 3 did well, but even there, the marketing seemed thin.
If Microsoft is ready to tease the first look at a new console to launch fall 2013, we’ll probably get our first look at Bungie’s “Destiny” (even though they won’t have an official presence at the show), a Gears of War title or something else from Epic Games, something from Rare (c’mon, a Kameo sequel would be awesome), next generation Forza and a better understanding of how Kinect will factor into next generation. If we do get our first look, Microsoft will need to have a strong first party slate and significant indication that third party publishers are going to be ready to go for the launch window. What we won’t get are specifics on power and the exact launch date. If the presentation is too Kinect-heavy it’s going to leave many people wondering if Microsoft’s next generation console will repeat Nintendo’s missteps with the Wii.
Scenario 2: Microsoft and Sony announce for fall 2013
I don’t think this is likely, but let’s talk about it. Microsoft’s key advantage this generation was launching a year ahead of Sony. Gamers eager to jump into the new generation picked up an Xbox 360 because it was the only game in town. As Microsoft has lost exclusivity on some of the franchises that made early entrances this generation (Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), they would either need to commission and publish new IPs, or lock up some existing franchises for timed exclusives. This requires a significant investment above and beyond just launching the new hardware. Microsoft also had the edge with Xbox Live’s unified profiles, cross-game chat and achievements right away. Sony had to play catchup with their online offerings. Put simply, a simultaneous start isn’t a good scenario for Microsoft.
Sony, as we mentioned yesterday, has God of War, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Killzone, Resistance (even if Insomniac isn’t at the helm), inFamous, Motorstorm and The Last Guardian (maybe…). The deck is stacked in their favor, and if they improve the PlayStation Network infrastructure, tie in Vita cross-play and bolster the free-to-play segment that they’ve already started to embrace, 2013 could be Sony’s year.
Scenario 3: Neither Microsoft nor Sony announce for fall 2013
This could be ugly. The last two years of Microsoft E3 press conferences have already been too heavily focused on the Kinect. With Halo 4 the only core game exclusive that we know about heading into the show, Microsoft is at a major disadvantage. Of course, that’s not to say that they can’t announce new controller-based titles, but we’ve seen no indication that there are any exclusives in the work or any first party studios working on anything, except for Bungie. The house of Halo might not be at the show officially, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t get a tease during Microsoft’s presser.
This scenario also puts the ball firmly in Nintendo’s court, and it’s their show to “win” or “lose.” They’ve no doubt learned from the confusion last year’s conference bred, and after having such an abysmal year financially, they’ve got to come out strong. Without even the threat of competition lingering (even if a year out), Nintendo is in position to welcome hardcore gamers back into the fold.
Next week, all of the predictions and punditry come to a close, and we’ll be dealing in hard fact. Stay tuned for our comprehensive E3 coverage direct from Los Angeles.