Under the elaborate hype and practiced product presentations, E3 is simply a marketing event. The expo is an industry conference and trade show meant to generate leads. The last two years Sony has “rekt” Microsoft in sheer sales numbers (a 2 to 1 differential) and I would argue much of their success stems from their E3 showings. The event informs the “hardcore” enthusiasts on what software and hardware to look forward to spending money on. This seems to have a word of mouth effect that every MBA on LinkedIn should be studying.
What is shown by the big 3 (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) at E3 dictates where “core” gamers will invest their dollars. The rest of the “casual” game consumers will turn to their “core” friends and ask what console should I get, especially during the launch of new hardware, and what games should I be looking forward to. This has been a common occurrence in my own life. Anecdotal yes, but the PS4’s success could probably be traced back to the first post E3 conversations singing Sony’s praises. These press conferences hold a lot of weight for consumers and stakeholders alike.
The point is who wins these press battles is indicative of who will lead the gaming market for the coming year. And like any good business this all comes down to the customer. The winner of E3 isn’t who makes the biggest most surprising announcement, it’s the company who best markets to their customers—understands what gamers want.
Microsoft’s outing was quite strong with a nice balance of games, QOL improvements to the Xbox platform, and two hardware reveals. The hardware reveals were a strange marketing decision, considering that they debuted the Xbox One Slim then cannibalized it with the Scorpio announcement.
The games lineup was decent, but tbh Gears of War 4 wasn’t doing too much for me. Sea of Thieves certainly generated some wonder and the “candid” players certainly helped that. Especially in contrast to that cringe worthy and canned Minecraft demo. Ugh, shivers.
But the big news is that exclusivity no longer lives on the Xbone. I can now play on my PC because of the Windows 10 initiative. None of the alluring games that they showed off gave me any reason to want to play on Xbox first (I guess maybe Play Dead’s “Inside”).
I would fall into the “core” enthusiast demo, so I own a PS4, powerful PC, and the Xbox One. Why buy a multiplatform game for the least powerful machine? The only thing keeping my Xbox on the shelf is that I have friends who are active on Xbox Live.
The only thing I really remember from the Microsoft conference:
Sony once again stole the show because of a surprising secret weapon: games. Crazy, right? There was the hardware announcement for Playstation VR, but even that revolved around playable media.
What truly won it for Sony was the marketing strategy they deployed at conference. The incessant reveal of games powered that strategy along with the live orchestra scoring the show, the late time slot (let’s them react to Microsoft’s conference), the exclusives, robot dinosaurs, an Insomniac Games’ Spiderman, the incessant game-after-game, Crash Bandicoot, Old Kratos, and Hideo Kojima. The implicit “fuck you” to Konami, which garnered Sony further gamer cred. Oh, and did I mention exclusives?
The conference did have a suspiciously abrupt end. Almost like they had a plan to reveal hardware—just in case.
Ultimately, Sony out-marketed Microsoft. Only the Holiday NPD sales can really confirm, but if the memes are any indication this year’s console war already has a winner.
Are all the games Sony showed going to be great? Impossible. Will some of these games get delayed for a decade. It’s happened many times before. Will some of these exclusives eventually end up on other platforms? It’s likely. Does it matter that Kojima’s game is only a trailer with some actual game “experiments” in development? Nope. And Sony knows all this.
Sony also knows that you’ll only remember what matters to you, so an increase in volume equates to increased chances that they’ll cover the spread of the market. There was something for everyone. And likely multiples things people are personally excited about, creating the sense that Sony gets you.
In the end, Sony’s success was based on a few important insights: gamers are susceptible to nostalgia, gamers get bored fast so keep up the pace, and show as many commercials as possible within the allotted time. There’s always next year, Microsoft.
The internet’s response to the Sony E3 conference: