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A Sony-Free E3 is Both a Blessing and a Curse for Microsoft

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A Sony-Free E3 is Both a Blessing and a Curse for Microsoft

Representatives from Microsoft and Nintendo were quick to show their support for E3 last week following Sony’s shock announcement that PlayStation wouldn’t be participating in the 2019 show.

Both Phil Spencer and Reggie Fils-Aime reaffirmed their company’s interests in the event, not only as a reminder to fans of their presence but perhaps as a gesture to E3 as an organization that had just taken an almighty blow.

But they won’t actually be too sympathetic, you’d have to imagine. In fact, behind the various Tweets and statements made by both parties, I like to imagine them rubbing their respective hands together, maybe doing a little dance around the boardroom in glee at the prospect of not having to share it with the industry’s current most dominant force.

Sony, after all, has arguably stolen the show every year since this console generation began.

Building on the success of its launch of the PS4, they’ve generated fever pitch excitement at every conference by delivering showstopping game announcements and exciting exclusive content.

All game publishers, therefore, be they Sony’s direct rivals, third-party giants like Ubisoft, or the smaller fish that’ll occupy the almighty void in the middle of the LA Convention Center where Sony used to be, are going to benefit massively from the extra attention afforded by Sony’s absence.

Yet there’s no question that Nintendo and Microsoft are the biggest benefactors. It’s a big opportunity for both to manufacture some excitement over their respective brands.

Although considering that Nintendo has for years operated on the show’s fringes with their treehouse presentations, it’s Microsoft who is certainly going to be taking center stage.

However, I’d caution against looking at the situation purely in the positive, because it’s potentially much more complicated than Microsoft simply having carte blanche to monopolize announcement hype.

Having the industry spotlight shone so brightly also gives them the rather huge responsibility of determining whether E3 2019 is a success or failure on the whole.

And if it isn’t, I can quickly see the narrative that “E3 sucks without Sony” working entirely to the disadvantage of Microsoft.

As a result, there’s now a huge amount of pressure piled on them to deliver. True, under the leadership of Phil Spencer, Microsoft has turned the Xbox brand around, resulting in two great showings at E3 in 2017 and 2018.

But there’s a bit of a danger that anything less than an absolutely stunning conference next year could see this Sony-free E3 situation backfire a bit.

Quite honestly, as good as Xbox conferences have been recently, I can’t honestly say they impressed me to such an extent that I would have been happy just to see that content alone.

As an overall E3 experience –if we’re to judge the show as the sort of hype-meter for the industry moving forward that it’s become in the past decade– Sony has done a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to delivering the content and spectacle capable of propping up the event.

Is Microsoft really packing the content next year to hold the weight of E3 on its shoulders?

Is there going to be enough of a balance between new game content, showstopping announcements to stir up the crowd, and just that general bit of magic that validates Xbox capable of determining the pace of the industry?

It’s possible. I think Microsoft is steadily laying foundations for a very bright future for Xbox, which we’ve seen with its various efforts to improve user experience, new studio acquisitions, and hints at new installments of its best-known IPs.

But these foundations, as exciting as their potential are, aren’t the sort of mic-drop moments that get audiences excited and on board.

Microsoft is really going to have to up the firepower beyond anything we’ve seen this generation if E3 2019 is going to be a success.

Many fans are disappointed that Sony, a force that has for so long delivered on exciting conferences, isn’t in attendance, and so it’s on Microsoft to really crank things up and highlight Xbox as a brand just as exciting.

Anything less is sure to have people walking away yearning for Sony to come back.

Author:

Alex has a BA in Political Science and English Writing, but he's also a self-proclaimed history and meteorological expert. He loves cyberpunk and fantasy, and RPGs are kind of his thing too.

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