E3 2015 Sony – the Force is with the PS4, but not much elsewhere

Despite its success in the game industry, Sony takes a big loss again this year. Crippled by never ending differed taxes, the conglomerate loses yet another 126 billion yens in 2014-2015, but its revenues do rise 5.8% to more than 8 trillion yens. Non deductible impairments worsen those weak figures. The operating result doubles compared to last year, but hides conflicting performances.

The electronic giant’s product lines are indeed a mess. 220 billions vanished because of the mobile branch underperforming : massive impairments are recorded and the rising dollar doesn’t make it any easier. The withdrawal from the PC market has been managed in total disorganization : 100 billion loss is recorded in an “other” category, and other shady lines cast doubts on Sony’s ability the clean the mess. Better fortune for TVs ans semiconductors, because those two are back in the black and perform nicely (the latter saw its profitability rise tenfold). Movies and music are flat and perform as expected. Finance & insurance brings the big chunk of profits as usual. Cash is reduced by 10% because the company used a great deal of money to invest in securities and repay long term debt. But as deposits wane and retirement costs rise, Sony’s gearing ratio cannot improve.

Uneven results that don’t affect the gaming division. Sony Computer Entertainment lives in its own bubble : they have shipped 21 million systems, twice more than Nintendo, of which 15 million PS4. PS4 that starts tracking behind the Wii launch aligned but stays more expensive and doesn’t benefit from the casual craze. Its product cycle will be also longer than the Wii’s, with the growing part and the decreasing part far less steep, which guarantees the PS4 to be on top at the end. Proof of its smashing success, estimates show that 1 next-gen gamer out of 2 plays on PS4. Sony also ships as many PSVita as Nintendo shipped WiiU, all this without big games like Smash Bros or Mario Kart 8. Vita’s thus a force to be reckoned with, even though it caused impairments too with the Vita TV. Operating result in the gaming branch is superior to Nintendo’s whole profits (48 billion vs 41 billion) and the revenues are more than twice those of the Big N.

Sony’s domination is very clear and can only get more crushing after this E3 given the conference that set the gaming world on fire. It sure won’t match the E3 2013 conference (where stakes were much higher) but Sony has certainly put its opponents in check in a similar way. Micorsoft has Tomb Raider? Sony throws Hitman. Microsoft has trailers for its new IPs? Sony give a detailed gameplay sequence of Horizon Zero Dawn. Microsoft takes the Division and Dark Souls III for itself? Sony invites Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and Star Wars. The open world in Uncharted 4 flattens the scripted gameplay of Gears 4. The outbidding is total. While Microsoft had crammed a lot of indies in its conference, Sony changes the rules and focuses on AAA. Once more, the Japanese giant sets the pace and the others have trouble to follow.

Black Ops III and Star Wars Battlefront are no ordinary guests. Having always been associated to Microsoft, Call of Duty sides with Sony for the first time since more than a generation. This is absolutely massive in terms of brand image : CoD is the biggest license on the planet, with between 15 and 20 million copies sold every year. Getting timed exclusivity on some DLC maps doesn’t look like a big deal, but it means that hundreds of thousands of people will rather pick a PS4 this year. Star Wars Battlefront is even more important : a ot of fans of the saga that aren’t especially into gaming might want to take the step, especially if Sony readies a Black Friday bundle. In any case, November is likely to be a massacre in the console war.

TLG

Sony deals the final blow by conjuring up three games that everyone was hoping for, but that few were still believing in. The Last Guardian has its great revival : the gameplay shown has nothing new but the moving aura of the original trailer is still intact. It is now vaguely dated. Shenmue is kickstarted live by Yu Suzuki after a greatly emotional sequence. The widely anticipated sequel of the Dreamcast’s masterpiece had gathered 1 million dollar before the Sun rises. At noon, the goal had already been reached. There comes the remake of Final Fantasy VII, too many the most iconic Playstation game ever. It’s just a timed exclusive, but it matters not : Final Fantasy Type-0 HD sold 80% on PS4. This succession of dreams coming true is a media hammering : on social networks, some were already selling their houses for the glory of the White Knight.

But that was just the first wave of events. The following day, SquareEnix comes up with two new PS4 exclusives. NieR 2 will be developed by no other than Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance), illustrated by Akihiko Yoshida (FFXII, FF Tactics) and composed by Keiichi Okabe (Drakengard). All those great talents for what is the biggest surprise of this E3 2015. Star Ocean 5 follows suit, it is confirmed for Western released in 2016 to the delight of JRPGs fans, who will even see the first in-game trailer.

Benefiting from other exclusives such as Dragon Quest Heroes, Disgaea 5, Tales of Zestiria, Street Fighter V or anime games like Sword Art Online Lost Song, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 and J-Stars Victory Versus, Sony can only increase its leadership. Everywhere in the world, because in Japan Playstation games vastly outnumber games on Nintendo platforms, PSVita keeps getting new projects and 3DS is losing ground as time goes by. Now they just have to clean up the rest of the books to be on a roll…

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