Answering That Insufferable Question: Who Won E3 2016?

It would be easy to simply say that Sony “won” E3 and be done with this almost inescapable question – I’m only trying to answer it because it’s such a recurring theme – but actually, after the dust has settled on the handful of press conferences, I find it hard to pick anyone that actually “lost”.

You see, each publisher and hardware manufacturer has gone into E3 this year with very clear aims and goals. EA’s main goal, for an otherwise rather functional press conference, was to take one step away from E3 and present their games independently (while still not-so-secretly riding on the coattails of the trade show), while allowing some members of the public in as well.

Similarly, Ubisoft’s press conferences have long settled into a groove with Aisha Tyler’s presentation style – love her or loathe her, she makes a change from just having business-y guys in suits or developers who are afraid of their own shadow. Watch Dogs 2, a Tom Clancy game, seeing more of For Honor, it kept to Ubisoft’s formula. Of course, that also means there were slightly more unusual games, with South Park: The Fractured but Whole, the delightful whimsy of Star Trek: Bridge Crew for VR, and the snowy extreme sports of Steep as the now traditional surprise to close the show.

From the established giants to a rising one, Bethesda’s second E3 press conference was more assured than their first, spreading their wings to talk about and reveal more games, instead of leaning on a single landmark release as a crutch. Admittedly, Dishonored 2 was still the focal point, but with Prey, Quake Champions, talk of Bethesda VR and a tiny teaser of Wolfenstein, they’ve shown that they have the legs to support a major E3 presence each year.

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Of course, the real battle is always between Microsoft and Sony, and Microsoft came out swinging with major hardware announcements and a showcase for the strong line up of their core IPs coming at the end of this year, with Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3. During the press conference – but perhaps less so since – they strongly defined where the next iteration of console hardware can and will be able to achieve. For Microsoft, that’s hugely important, because as it stands, with Sony reticent to talk about a heavily leaked console that is reportedly much less powerful than the Scorpio, it’s a battle that Microsoft can win and win convincingly.

That could have been the defining moment of E3, especially if Sony had decided to talk about Neo, but Sony’s press conference countered with a relentless stream of trailers for new and upcoming games. Days Gone, Death Stranding, Spider-Man, Crash Bandicoot remasters, X-Wing VR Missions, Batman VR. It barely slowed down for even a second, but think back on it and you’ll see that Sony’s focal point was far, far off into the distance, just as it was last year. This is the real point of contrast between Sony and Microsoft’s show.

The games that Microsoft spent the longest showing off are generally coming out this year, but GT Sport was nowhere to be seen on Sony’s stage, The Last Guardian’s trailer and release date felt like a footnote, and PS VR’s presence was essentially just a handful of interesting teaser trailers. At the same time, there’s the endless allure to that which is so far out of reach, that God of War, Death Stranding and Detroit Become Human are games that can light up your eyes as you imagine their potential. Don’t get me wrong, they’re exciting games and announcements, but this screen from after the end of the press conference undercut some of that excitement and interest, especially in the context of last year’s press conferences.

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In the end, E3 is always about building excitement for the future and dealing with the intangible. To a large extent, EA, Bethesda and Ubisoft all focused on what you have to look forward to this year, while teasing what’s set for 2017 and beyond, but both Microsoft and Sony indulged heavily in the intangible in very different ways, and it’s been fascinating to see how that has developed since.

Phil Spencer has been bogged down trying to keep the simple message of what Scorpio means for Xbox and why you’d want to buy an Xbox One S, while Sony have happily gone about simply demoing games behind closed doors, continuing to ride high on their staggering success over the last few years.

And that’s why Nintendo are the real winners. With no hardware to talk about, no E3 Direct, and no promise of huge reveals, they exceeded expectations and did so with a single game.

Yes, I’m being flippant, but it’s a stupid question anyway.

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19 Comments

  1. Sony, they did what they needed to do, show games & gameplay, more reason to own a PS4. Solid line up of games on show, no awkward talks, rarely talking just game after game..They even made the VR appealing with the titles they showed.

    And Skyrim remaster won too

    • Agree with all that, Sony presentation was much more professional. Putting people on stage who dont want to be there and can barely speak English always makes me cringe.

      Sony just showed game after game with no interuptions. I was interested in at least 6 sony games, were as only 2 games from MS appealed to me.

      I also had no interest in VR until i saw the RE and Arkham games.

      • I also agree Sony.

        Microsoft announced a console that’s still 18 months away, for which Sony have 12 months to up the spec of theirs to match (or like this gen, substantially exceed). As Sony are a hardware manufacturer, and have in-house hardware design, a global supply chain and contract manufacturing all in place, this isn’t nowhere near as big a problem as it is for Microsoft (who outsource all of it).

        Next year E3, Sony can rock up with a Neo that matches and exceeds what Microsoft let slip THIS year, in the meantime, they can clean up with PS4 software titles, and PS-VR.

        As there is no change in architecture for the new consoles, the by then HUGE advantage in userbase will mean a platform of hungry upgraders, ready to transition.

        So in overall strategy, Sony knocked it out the park… I’m sure they had their Neo presentations prepared, but didn’t need to disclose it, when they found Microsoft were still 18 months away and ready to tell-all that buying and Xbox One. So Sony ended up focusing on the games, and winning not just this gen hardware race, but getting a free ride on hardware specs next gen too.

  2. Sony. It’s not even a question.

    We all know the Neo is coming eventually, just as we already knew about the existence of Scorpio. Now we know the specs. Big deal.

    I wanted to see new games and Sony delivered. New Spidey game alone was more surprising/exciting than anything else shown during the whole conference.

  3. Ubisoft for me. They simply have the most games I’m interested in.

    • Meh, im sick of ubi games, it doesnt matter if your playing AC, Far cry or the division, they are all pretty much the same game with the same repetitive missions.

  4. I have to say Sony’s was one of their best yet, loved the orchestra playing throughout, that Crash reveal, Hideo Kojima on stage to reveal new IP , some stunning games to look forward to and no stat-laden ‘state of the playstation nation” speeches.
    But nvm all that – far more important question is – who won TSA E3 Bingo?! :)

  5. I think they all did a stellar job this year. Sony’s was a lot better than last year with an actual proper line-up of games, and Microsoft’s maintained the momentum of a strong showing of soon-to-be-released blockbusters and delectable indie games from the previous year. EA’s line-up was actually rather surprising, with a nice mixture there (even if there conference wasn’t technically at E3).

    Personal highlights were Forza Horizon 3 (if any part had to win it would be this part), Cuphead, We Happy Few, Halo Wars 2, Inside, Titanfall 2, F1 2016 (on the game floor), God of War, and Spiderman. A lovely selection which holds all sorts of excitement for the next year or two.

  6. Sony was certainly the most enjoyable of all conferences and as a ps4 gamer an utter delight. No timed exclusive dlc, no media. Just games.

    Xbox did well too though their games aside from forza fell flat imo. How they sort out their hardware scenario remains to be seen but if you’re a Pc gamer, it’s a good time to upgrade to win 10.

    Ubisoft were poor. Their games looked so underwhelming and going by their history of downgraded games, it’s hard to take some of it seriously. The new ghost recon looked flat. The animations were poor and the in game chatter was fake. I know it’s supposed to be representative of coop play but include that in offline or solo modes.

    Bethesda were solid. They made a smart move in reviving classic fps franchises. Wolfenstein and doom are both wonderful. Quake is next in line. All that’s missing is goldeneye and you have the classic 90’s shooters.

    EA were okay. Battlefield 1 livestream was excellent and fifa is finally making big changes. But other games were flat.

    Nintendo has probably got the best game with the new zelda….and that’s pretty much it.

    So Sony wins for me. It wasn’t like last year though where they rode the wave of awesome announcements. Sony looked to be holding stuff back so their other conferences this year will be interesting.

  7. Only watched the xbox show, didn’t bother with Sony as I’ve only got a Ps vita and they’ve dropped that. From the sounds of it Sony won games-wise, xbox won on terms of being talked about the most afterwards. Like they usually do. Spiderman by insomniac could be great. We happy few is very intriguing.

  8. Simple – we won! I’m getting a bit fed up of this obsession with some one company having to “win” (whatever the hell that actually means).

    At the end of the day they were all there to show off their wares and that we’ll be playing in the near future, regardless of which platform or platforms you’re invested in. Admittedly some did a better job of that than others, but that hardly constitutes winning in my book.

    Literally the only fail condition here is if there wasn’t a single title shown that raised even a flicker of interest… in which case it may be time for you to find another hobby!

    • You might have guessed, but I’m a little fed up with this notion of winning and losing as well. ;)

      • I didn’t mean you literally, you as in the reader ;)

      • It’s a competition. Both Sony and MS (and Nintendo I guess) are there to sell their product. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognising/praising the more successful conference.

        The only reason to be upset about having a ‘winner’ must be that your own opinion differs to the consensus that Sony’s conference was more successful/entertaining than their competitors.

      • How do we know which is more successful? Success would be measured by the purposes of the conference such as product exposure, marketing, and information, all of which translates into sales and brand value. We can’t even begin to record any of that about any of the companies’ press conferences.

        It’s only a competition to the companies and their board members who are playing the business game. The moment it becomes a competition for the customers is the moment you get silly fanboy politics.

      • I guess it depends on how upset you are with the outcome. I personally don’t care who ‘wins’ – the ‘winner’ will always be the conference I enjoy the most and that will always vary between individuals depending on personal taste – but I can make an observation and voice my opinion on who I believe had the best show. We are afterall living in the age of social media.

        It’s no different, although somewhat less important, than political figures ‘winning’ political debates.

        More people preferred one conference to another so technically that conference was more successful (more entertaining / more exciting) and is therefore considered the ‘winner’.

        The actual fanboy politics only come into play when certain individuals take umbridge with the general opinion, when it doesn’t agree with their own personal views of who they believe was the real ‘winner’. Or if they don’t believe there was or should be a ‘winner’ at all.

        In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. Why anyone would be upset about such discussion is beyond me.

  9. Who won E3? Well, there is only one way to find out.

    FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGHTTTTTT!

    Yeah, i don’t understand this whole “Winning” aspect of E3. Gamers are always the winners unless it’s complete shite. The publishers win as they have a market of hungry gamers for new games.

    Except Konami. Konami will always lose E3 from now on. Why? Because #feckKonami

    Sony’s approach was simple yet effective. Show us the games, no BS, game after game after game after game. Etc..

    In fact, i think I lost this E3 due to me being a last gen penniless peasent that will be hunted by the posher gamers for being last gen. I can hear the hunting horns as i speak.

  10. Obviously I won, because I always win.

    • Because you slept your way to victory.

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