Once a year, the gaming industry stops whatever it is doing and comes together in a celebration of pixels and polygons. E3, despite losing some of its luster over the years, is still the biggest event in gaming. Publishers and developers from all over the world will descend upon the Expo and try to outdo each other, generating headlines and interest in the things they plan on selling us over the next couple of years.
The winner of E3 is an unofficial title, reserved for the people who make the most impact. The biggest splash. The best impression, if you would. Not to be cruel to the likes of EA, Bethesda, and Ubisoft, but you normally need to hit a little harder to win E3, which is why the winners have traditionally been the people who make the platforms that we all play on. Over recent years it has been a triple threat match, with Sony and Microsoft taking the center of the ring before Nintendo snuck under the ropes with a giant switch and bashed them both about the skull with it.
This year, it’s just Microsoft Vs Nintendo for the crown, as Sony have opted to not have a dedicated showing at the event. So, the question remains, what can either company do to win E3 2019? This is about headlines, and mindshare. They need tricks up their sleeves that will keep us talking for a while, and already hinted at products need to land with a bang. Let’s run through some areas where the two companies need to succeed in order to win, and lets talk about things they can hypothetically do to have a truly dominant showing at E3 2019.
Who Will Win E3 2019?
#1 – Hardware Showcase
Either company could land a knockout blow by showing new hardware. If Microsoft even hint at their next generation console it will more than likely dominate headlines, but Nintendo could scupper anything other than a full reveal by showing off the rumored new models of the Switch. It’s actually hard to know what either one will do. Sony already laid down a gauntlet by revealing plenty of details about their PlayStation 5, but Microsoft and Nintendo have quite the stage to orate from if they feel like giving us the lowdown on any new hardware offerings coming our way. It’s tough to predict what either one might do, but if they do anything at all around hardware it will delight both the crowd and those shadowy analysts that will be watching like hawks.
#2 – Tentpole Games
Tentpole products are not just expected to sell well; businesses also expect them to have a knock-on effect for revenue generation. The tentpole products bring people in, and those people then engage further with other aspects of the service. You buy a Nintendo Switch because you lose Mario Kart, next thing you know you are addicted to Smash Bros. As a business practice it works because a heavy outlay of cash for something feels a little better if you spend just a little more money to justify it.
Microsoft has Halo Infinite, and Nintendo’s tentpole game is probably going to be Pokemon Sword and Shield. I would say that Microsoft is feeling more pressure to have Halo Infinite succeed if the rumors about their $500 million investment in the game is to be believed. To give you an idea of the scale of such investment, that is nearly one and a half Avengers Endgame movies, or nearly 7 Robert Downey Jrs. With that kind of money, they are not trying just to set up a game; they are trying to set up the next ten years of the series.
On the other hand, Pokemon has probably never been more in the public eye than right now. Detective Pikachu was a huge success, and Pokemon go means engagement with the brand is a daily thing for a huge amount of people. Depending on how the reveals are handled, and the features on display, either one could easily be the star game of the event.
#3 – They Both Have A Lot Of Games
Microsoft is bringing 14 games to show off at E3 2019, including efforts from their newly purchased studios, while Nintendo could have anywhere up to 21 news games to show off. I don’t think they will have that many; I get the feeling some of the SKUs that were revealed by GameStop’s website are things like Amiibos, and potentially even new hardware. Either way, they have a lot to show off, and a lot of potentials to shine a little brighter than each other, and the rest of the competition. It won’t just about quantity. However, they will need to be bringing their A game, and with no Sony around, this is the perfect year to do it.
People have a habit of dismissing the importance of console generations a final year, acting as if the battle is already won. It is very important to remember that ever console sold late in this generation is someone entering your product range that is easier to up-sell the next generation. Unless there is a pretty wide gap in hardware release dates, history has shown it is difficult to make someone move between platforms. Every Xbox One, Switch, and PlayStation 4 that is sold between now and the first few years of a new consoles life matters. A lot.
#4 – Microsoft Have An Obvious Advantage
Microsoft has really started to focus more on the PC side of things, and it cannot be understated how important this is. Everything about Microsoft over the last few years tells me that they feel they lost the current generation, and are setting up to attack the next one aggressively. They are finally trying to leverage their place on both console and PC to their advantage. More Xbox games than ever are coming to PC, and it looks like that trend will continue. Even all the Halo games that we missed out on are coming to Steam at some point.
They are bringing the Xbox Box Game pass to PC, and Play Anywhere allows you to play certain games on either Xbox One or PC, which you prefer. The move to embrace PC isn’t just good news for gamers; it is also good news for developers. Xbox Exclusives are no longer limited to just that platform, and the games can instead launch on PC meaning more profits, and more success. The potential for extra sales makes working with Microsoft, even on exclusive games, an attractive proposition. Exclusives are not just important to get great content onto your platform; they are also a great way to keep great content off the competitions platform. PC gaming is also exploding in China, a potentially massive market. It is a great time for Microsoft to continue to bring the platform into their fold, something they should have been doing since day one.
#5 – It Could Potentially Be A Draw
If both companies take similar paths through E3 2019, it could be a draw. Despite both being in the console game, Microsoft is not direct competitors in the traditional sense. Yes, they both sell games, but they do it differently, with different aims, and to different audiences. Xbox provides a pretty traditional console experience, while Switch aims itself at the portable gaming crowd. How their games look and play tends to be dramatically different. Microsoft wants developers to harness every bit of power the Xbox One can muster, producing lots of realistic looking games, with complex visuals and systems under the hood. Nintendo like a more cute style, often focusing on simplistic graphics but incredible charm. Both of them can have very strong showings without really needing to knock the shine off the other one.
They could both be thinking that without Sony there, there is more than enough room for both to flex their muscles and do what they need to do. It would be the same if Sony were going and Microsoft were sitting it out. There have even been rumors of a collaboration between Microsoft and Nintendo to bring certain new products to market, which is interesting.
If I was under duress to pick a potential winner, I would side with Microsoft. I just feel that larger potential install base, and the appeal to two platforms, means more people will be interested in what they have to show off. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see it called a draw after the event though, once neither company drops anything major that the other simply cannot respond to. The big difference maker could be hardware, but we just don’t have any concrete evidence that either company plans to bring anything to show off at E3 2019.