The task was a lot more complicated for the industry leader this year. Indeed since 2016, the competition brings stronger offer and Sony must face the raw power of Xbox One X and fast-selling Switch. This year, there would be no default victory.
The manufacturer can boast a renewed financial health. Despite lower revenues (-6%), the operating result stabilizes around 300 billion yens, a respectable level. However, the net profit halved, Sony not being able to avoid non deductible amortization. Sony also posted a lesser financial result than last year, but it also means purer profitability. Amortizations widely affect some lines of product : semi-conductors, components, TV & Cinema are on the wane. Unfavorable currency rates were a factor too. On the other hand, the mobile sector improved a lot, and some other keep making nice profits : photo, audio & video, banking & insurance and of course, gaming.
PS4 is unstoppable, the growth in sales is so massive that the department registers a 50% progression in operating result, reaching 135 billions. That is roughly five times Nintendo’s ! 20 million PS4 were sold. The home console has topped 60 million install base worldwide and should overtake 3DS in the next term despite being… a lot more expensive ! In consumer value, Nintendo’s handheld has been beaten since a while. Moreover, let’s notice that given the gap in Japan (18 million in favor of the 3DS), PS4 has already reach a bigger install base than 3DS in the West. Currently, ¾ of 3rd party games to come are either for PS4 or PSVita. Sony’s line up has a hammering strength and got more key titles during pre-show : Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Far Cry 5, Little Witch Academia, Need for Speed Payback or Darksiders III. Games that won’t be seen on Switch… Ni no Kuni II Revenant Kingdom, Ace Combat Skies Unknown and Gran Turismo Sport also come back with attractive trailers.
With such a pre-show, what the hell was going to be in the conference ? Well, like last year, nothing… IF memory serves, we’ve probably never seen such a boring show from Sony at E3 : the rhythm was slack, the long list of VR games we don’t even recall the more of was pitiful, there was zero surprise announcement and the gameplay shown was horribly generic (Days Gone of War, etc.). After what seemed to be less than 55 minutes, “disastrous” is the only word that comes to mind. But where the fu** are Atlus, Sega, KoeiTecmo, Rockstar, SCEJ, BandaiNamco (well for the latter we know : at Microsoft’s) ? SquareEnix had no better to show than a fishing mini-game in the (dumb) FFXV universe. Don’t those guys have better to bring in the biggest show of the planet !? No creators invited on stage either, which made the conference lack human passion, whereas Ubisoft delivered it brilliantly : Sony had no friends that night… With such a presentation, why send all those big games on the back in pre-show ? Why give the rendezvous at 3 a.m. if the major stuff starts airing at 2 ? The organisation, even more still than the lackluster content, has been a gigantic failure.
Only point to its credit, Sony puts an ends to 5 years of Monster Hunter exclusivity on Nintendo platform by welcoming Monster Hunter World on PS4. This announcement has a considerable impact in terms of brand, especially at home. With splendid 4K screenshots immediately shared everywhere in the world, Monster Hunter World on PS4Pro obliterates Monster Hunter XX Switch on the technical side, and offer the first true evolution of the series in 10 years. Japanese forums caught fire. Still, Monster Hunter World is not a portable game. When Monster Hunter 3rd was ported to PS3, it had sold roughly 10% of its PSP counterpart. Monster Hunter fans are used to enjoy hunting experience on the go, so there’s a natural limit to Monster Hunter World’s success on PS4. Without the game being ported on a hypothetical PS4 mini portable, PS4 will only marginally resist to future Monster Hunter titles on Switch.
It remains that Sony’s advantage only grows after this E3. EA, Bethesda, BandaiNamco, Activision and Ubisoft aren’t keen on using their Switch dev kits : every third party title of the show was running on PS4, while Switch had at best a dozen of games (some of which being late ports). Even with the snooziest conference, Sony isn’t threatened one second by an isolated Switch.
The conclusion is still a terrible E3 for Sony whose offering has declined over the years. In its communication, the manufacturer clearly failed to give a clear view of what kind of “greatness” awaits for Playstation players. The bright future turned into a grey mist. Microsoft caught up on the technology, Nintendo went one step ahead in terms of innovation, but Sony doesn’t gather its strength to respond and remains passive. Its hold on the market is strong, but inaction is the greatest danger.