Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016

Playstation, Xbox rule the roost at expo

Happy gamers just can't wait to try out the latest games at last week's annual Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in California.
Happy gamers just can't wait to try out the latest games at last week's annual Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in California.PHOTO: E3

Game console giants take own paths to win over gamers

Microsoft and Sony set the tone at last week's annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show in California. But the two video game console titans took very different strategies to win the hearts and wallets of gamers around the world.

Microsoft carted out a slew of hardware and infrastructure upgrades, including two new consoles, Xbox One S and Project Scorpio. It also showed Xbox Play Anywhere, a system that allows selected titles to be played on both Xbox and Windows 10, with progress saved across platforms.

In contrast, Sony delivered game after game in a non-stop stream of trailers and presentations. Attendees were treated to live gameplay demos from upcoming titles such as Horizon: Zero Dawn and a new God Of War game.

E3 is the biggest event on the video game industry calendar, and presentations there are often a bellwether of a company's plans for the year. This year, notable developers that held briefings at the show included Nintendo, Ubisoft, Bethesda and Electronic Arts.

 

The consensus this year is that Sony stole the show on the content front. Ms Michaela Nadine Pacis, a freelance writer from the Philippines who attended E3, was among showgoers who were impressed by Sony's new games. She said: "Content-wise, Sony won, as they understand what is important and what gamers prioritise. They focused on showing that they had better content, and that there is no need to switch to a PC or Xbox."

Microsoft's outing also impressed Mr Steve Bailey, a senior analyst at IHS Technology. He told The Straits Times that Microsoft has timed its new consoles' release well. "With the likelihood that an upgraded PS4 will not launch until 2017, the next six to nine months represent a window of opportunity to deliver accelerated sales momentum," he said.

Xbox One S is 40 per cent smaller than the current Xbox One and can output 4K video, versus the current 1080p. It will also have 2TB of storage, versus the current 1TB. The Xbox One S will go on sale in the US for US$299 (S$403) from August. Singapore availability has not yet been announced.

Microsoft also unveiled Project Scorpio, a high-end console that will be available next year. It will have six teraflops of computing power, support 4K gaming and have high-fidelity VR support. Pricing was not announced.

Microsoft beefed up its software infrastructure with Xbox Play Anywhere, an initiative that allows gamers to own selected titles across both Windows 10 and Xbox with a single purchase.

However, not all gamers are convinced that Play Anywhere will be a game changer. Mr Ian Gregory Tan, co-founder and creative director of local game developer Witching Hour Studios, attended E3 to showcase his company's upcoming title Masquerada: Songs And Shadow.

He said: "It's gonna be an uphill fight for Microsoft to convince users to switch from Steam. While the convenience is definitely appreciated, there's little else to motivate a change of platforms."

Mr Kevin Choo, a project manager in the gaming industry who was following the announcements from Singapore, said: "I think the Xbox announcements were more exciting for developers, as they focused on cross-platform compatibility and developing a wider audience."

SONY'S UPCOMING GAMES At Sony's presentation, fans were introduced to new standalone titles such as Quantic Dream's Detroit: Become Human and Guerrilla Games' Horizon: Zero Dawn, while familiar favourites such as Crash Bandicoot and The Last Guardian also made an appearance. Celebrated Japanese video game designer Hideo Kojima was there to unveil a trailer for his new title, Death Stranding.

Mr Hidetoshi Takigawa, South East Asia Regional Head of Sony Interactive Entertainment Singapore, said: "Our presentation this year hopefully showed our penchant to support a diversity of content on the PlayStation platform."

There was no news of Project Neo, Sony's next-gen console, but Sony at last announced the release date - Oct 13 in the US - for its PlayStation VR. The highly-anticipated virtual reality headset will sell at US$399 (S$538). Local pricing and availability will be announced by the end of July.

Mr Takigawa said the PS VR will be offered at an "affordable" price in Singapore. "We hope we will be able to bring excitement not only to tech-savvy people, but also to a wider audience in Singapore," he added.

Sony also announced that there will be over 50 games available on the PS VR at launch, including Resident Evil 7, a Batman Arkham VR and Farpoint.

While the PS VR is cheaper than other VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift (US$599), the fact that it is tied to a console and not a PC may limit the amount of VR content available.

Witching Hour Studios' Mr Tan said: "My fear is that all we'll get are very short experiences on a number of games, save Resident Evil 7, as Sony's press conference seems to indicate. Content will play a big part of VR's success."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Playstation, Xbox rule the roost at expo'. Print Edition | Subscribe