Soon the world will watch as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all battle for the attention of gamers. Make no mistake, the stakes for each company at the Electronic Entertainment Expo couldn’t possible be any higher.
Microsoft goes into this year’s event in a much weaker position than it has in years past. Last year the company followed up its Xbox Revealed event with an E3 presence that angered many gamers. Microsoft discussed many of the then unreleased Xbox One’s features including its ability to connect with a television cable box. It also talked about how its new digital-first approach to games would make buying and sharing games more of a cohesive experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t talk much about the details and eventually ended up shelving some of what it showed off after gamers effectively revolted.
Since GottaBeMobile’s last E3 2014 predictions article, Nintendo’s situation has improved a great deal. This week Nintendo announced that it would mostly skip big on stage announcements for E3 and settle on talking directly to gamers. Nintendo fans can expect the company to make announcements during a special Nintendo Direct video stream concerning upcoming titles. The company also has a Super Smash Bros. Tournament planned during E3 and users will be able to try Super Smash Bros. for Wii U at their local Best Buy. Though smaller in nature, this means Nintendo won’t be stuck in the shadow of its two larger rivals console announcements during the show.
Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have kept very quiet about their plans for the show. That communications silence doesn’t mean we don’t already know what to expect from the two titans of gaming. There are trends in the entertainment industry that just can’t be denied or ignored.
It used to be that console makers could release new hardware and users wouldn’t immediately expect that hardware to work with the same accessories and games that they purchased for their previous system. Those days are long gone thanks to Sony and Nintendo.
Earlier this year the company announced PS Now, a cloud gaming platform built from its acquisition of a much smaller video game streaming company. Essentially, PS Now turns Sony Bravia televisions, smartphones and the PS4 into a client that connects to Sony’s servers. Gamers are able to use their devices loaded with PS Now to play PS3 games. It’s really that simple, provided that the user has a decent internet connection. Sony kicked off testing for PS Now shortly after its initial announcement, indicating that the company has to be close to rolling out PS Now sometime this year at least.
Wii U Virtual Console is also enabling much the same experience for Nintendo users. Wii U owners do have to pay for an updated downloadable version of games from the console’s store front, but from then on that game is playable on their Wii U system. In North America games available through the Wii U Virtual Console include Yoshi Island and Metroid Fusion. The Wii U Virtual Console has been a crowd please over the last few months. There’s no way Nintendo doesn’t talk about more games coming during its special Nintendo Direct broadcast.
That just leaves Microsoft. Recently a Microsoft executive confirmed that the company had plans to introduce some form of backwards compatibility for the Xbox One, and that’s a very good idea. The more games a console has, the more users are likely to pick it up. The Xbox One isn’t exactly hurting for titles these days but more of the games people loved on their older systems certainly wouldn’t hurt. Microsoft needs a win that only a big surprise like bringing classic games to its newer system can only provide.
If the happenings at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo taught us anything, it’s that gamers hate to feel like second class citizens. More specifically, many of the most passionate gamers hate to feel like they’re sharing a First Class cabin with users who love video.
No matter what gamers want to believe, there is no console that exists just games. The Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Wii U all try to attract users of all backgrounds with video features that users can’t get on other platforms. Gaming is a huge industry but it’s not as big as television and music.
Last year Sony entered into a definitive agreement with Viacom to stream their content. This year at CES 2014 Sony announced that it was developing its own video on-demand and live television services. Just like what Microsoft is trying with the Xbox One’s television app, the idea is to expand the PS4’s reach and add features that the whole family will love. The PS4 now holds a very comfortable lead, mostly because gamers have flocked to it. With those gamers in their back pocket, Sony is in a perfect position to unveil that television service and go after the users it didn’t attract with its announcements last year.
Today, the video game market is mostly controlled by the living room console. However, smartphones with better graphics and bigger screens are slowly starting to make users think about mobile consoles differently. Today, neither of living room gaming’s biggest companies have much of a presence there.
To be clear, the PS Vita is still a thing that users play video games on the go with. That being said, adoption has been slow, particularly slow when compared to Nintendo’s 3DS. Sony and Microsoft are setting themselves up for a serious clash with Apple and Google and they’re going to want to act fast and nullify the threat. Google recently introduced a refreshed version of its Play Games offering that’ll be available for iPhone and Android developers to include in their video games. Simply put, iPhone and Android users can look forward to earning Google Play achievements and playing against each other wherever they are. Sony should be able to combat the threat with an even cheaper PS Vita and even more games.
Microsoft is in a particularly nasty position. It’s done nothing meaningful in the mobile games space except introduce Xbox Live Achievements on the Wii U. Clearly, that’s gotten them no where. If Sony doesn’t talk about mobile gaming at this year’s event, Microsoft has to. It’s too big of an industry for them to remain on the sidelines.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo starts on June 10th, and it appears that this year’s show is going to be a make or break moment for at least the Xbox One and Wii U.
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