E3 2017 Sony – The World is not Enough

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sony, the total supremacy

 

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It’s over. Nintendo bought as much time as it could. The entire gaming world had hold its breath for months, but now everybody has shown his hand. The situation is clear, there is no doubt on the current status of the gaming market : Sony has achieved crushing dominance over its rivals. Nintendo Switch is weak, its line-up even more so and its so-called partners are doing nothing but lip-service. How did we get to that, and where are we going?

To find some answers, let’s first have a look to Famitsu’s top 100 chart, published in a recent issue. How can Switch seem so feeble when top ten rankings show Nintendo owning Japan? It’s very trivial : developers and publishers, unlike journalists don’t simply look at top ten. So let’s borrow their point of view and observe the top 50 (49 actually because of the title line) of combined SKUs. As usual, the sources are GAF, Vgchartz’s digital sales thread and Dengeki’s weekly rankings.

The first thing to notice besides the (deserved) domination of the superb Pokemon Sun&Moon, is that Sony now has a majority of games here : 29 PSV/PS3/PS4 games against 20 on 3DS/WiiU. If you look in detail, you’ll also notice that 9 out of 20 games on Nintendo systems are from Nintendo itself, whereas there’s only one first party game (Uncharted 4) in the Playstation best-sellers. Third parties have therefore a lot more business opportunities on PSVita or PS4 (knowing that PS3 is almost phased out). Another parameter of growing importance : the digital purchase rate is quite higher on Playstation platforms, around 10% (22% for The Division!). Digital reduces variable costs and improves the margin. Publishers love that.

Japanese publishers came to be wary of the 3DS/WiiU audience, hungry for kiddy games which is rarely what 3rd party developers want to do. A major part of the 3DS/WiiU best-sellers is aimed at children (but also at adults in the case of Pokemon) so Japanese 3rd parties naturally prefer addressing and older and more core audience, and that audience plays on Playstation. Best proof of that is Level-5 : hugely successful on 3DS with Yôkai Watch, the company didn’t go as far as announcing Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom for Nintendo Switch. As a side-note, observe that both Dragon Quest Heroes II and Dragon Quest Builders sold more than Dragon Quest Monster Joker 3 : Nintendo consoles are no longer the home of SquareEnix’s famous series.

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So what happened on 1/13? Everyone was hoping/expecting Nintendo to turn the tides with a flurry of powerful exclusives. That failed to happen, and it’s the direct consequence of what we’ve seen above. Big games are still pretty far away : Xenoblade 2 (splendid character design this time around) gets a vague 2017 and Fire Emblem Warriors looks like development has barely started (EDIT : it’s confirmed for fall, so things are looking up slightly). The launch line-up is downright ridiculous : besides Zelda Breath of the Wild and 1 2 Switch, some party game looking like the despicable Wii Sports, all games are ports from PS4. Nintendo has lost the initiative, they’re completely out of the race.

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The third party part of the conference is ice cold. Atlus quickly mentions a new Shin Megami Tensei project for Switch, but also confirms a 3DS one, just in case… As a consequence, the exciting Project ReFantasy must be for PS4. Many wondered what Nippon Ichi Software (whose clients have been Playstation players for years of not decades) could do on Switch, and the publisher answered by saying they were providing «serious» support. It so happens that the only thing NIS has in store for Switch is a Disgaea 5 port, that is to say their biggest commercial failure. Switch is not getting NIS’s brand new games The Witch and the 100 Knights 2 (PS4) or Exile Election(‘PS4/PSVita). Far from being serious in its support, NIS actually seriously makes a fool of Nintendo.

SquareEnix has more in the works. Dragon Quest XI for Switch is briefly talked about, and Dragon Quest Heroes I&II are confirmed as launch games. Then comes Octopath Traveler, a 2D JRPG very much like Grand Kingdom and made by the developer of Bravely Default (which confirms the latter as deceased). However, nowhere in the Famitsu article it is mentioned to be exclusive. A PS4 or PSVita port could come quickly. No other JRPG is scheduled for Switch, and that won’t come as a surprise if you look at the chart. In the top 50, major 3DS JRPGs (Shin Megami Tensei IV Final, Etrian Odyssey) are flattened by numerous competitors on Playstation platforms, including the disappointing Star Ocean 5 and the discreet World of Final Fantasy. The big names of JRPGs sell better on Playstation and 2016 showed that again : Persona 5 beats the series’ record and Tales of Berseria is more or less flat compared to Tales of Zestiria.

But the most embarrassing moment is when Toshihiro Nagoshi comes on stage. The director of Yakuza games faces the public, speaks a couple of gentle words on Switch and, probably too busy counting the hefty profits made from Yakuza 6 in Asia, goes back without any confirmation he’s working on Switch at all. Suda 51, columnist extraordinaire at Dengeki, doesn’t really ease the worries : Let it Die’s creator shows a random artwork of No More Heroes while speaking some strange monologue. All this sets the eerie impression that nothing is ready, that maybe nothing is really decided for Switch. Capcom, Nintendo’s most faithful ally, is a no-show. What happens to Monster Hunter 5 and Great Ace Attorney 2? Will Switch even get them? KoeiTecmo, besides working closely with Nintendo on Fire Emblem Warriors, has Nobunaga’s Ambition Power up kit and Romance of the 3 Kingdoms Power up kit (it weakest software) for Switch. Games like Ni-Ô, Dynasty Warriors 9, Blue Reflection, Musô Stars and Nights of Azure 2 stay as Playstation exclusives. Skittish Japanese publishers are actually avoiding Nintendo as much as possible, and it’s a complete disaster for Switch : as it is now, it wouldn’t even take one customer from Vita.

The West is the biggest question mark and a huge stake for Switch. Bethesda confirms Skyrim Switch, but the game is far from ready despite being out for PS4 and XboxOne. Comes Electronic Arts, whose representative looked like at a burial : FIFA Switch is announced, but we won’t see anything of it. Despite its continuous praise for Switch, Ubisoft is not at the event Still, it has some oldies to port on Switch : Rayman Legends (remember, that WiiU exclusive), Just Dance and Steep. Pathetic is the word, Nintendo’s new system is going to be smashed into pieces on Western markets.

Nintendo mentions more than 80 titles in development for Switch, BandaiNamco promised a Tales of at some point… Sure. Crysis 3, Ghost Recon Online and Alien Colonial Marines were to be released on WiiU too. Such titles had seen their development stopped the second their publishers realized the audience didn’t fit. At least this time, Ubisoft doesn’t go as far as announcing Ghost Recon Wildlands for Switch : history shows that it would have little success on that platform, provided it could run on it. You also have to consider the issue of a new console that is coming right in the middle of a generation, which had never happened before. How should developers react? They’re already working on install bases of dozens of millions systems where the business is flourishing. Why would they make extra effort, let alone exclusives for an underpowered system that has zero install base? From a third party point of view, it’s just money thrown by the window.

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Switch’s other problem is itself. The open world (although we’re not sure of that yet) in Super Mario Odyssey is ugly and full of aliasing. It looks terrible compared to Watchdogs, a nearly three-year old PS4 game, and it so happens that precise tech specs have not been made public. Surely are they as bad as the leak published by Digital Foundry. We can now be certain that the most ambitious PS4 games cannot be be ported on Switch : forget Battlefield, Read Dead Redemption or Mass Effect Andromeda. The share button exists, but the official site already tells us that some games will block the feature. Anyone who’s tried to save a screenshot in Pokemon Sun&Moon knows how much you can trust Nintendo on that subject. The manufacturer also indicates that game «generally» won’t be region-locked. I translate that by « some games will be region-locked and you won’t be able to play them on your EU system ». So in fact region free doesn’t really exist and all this looks like a mere PR stunt. The most striking point is the total lack of trophies : why would today’s gamers even want to play their games without a centralized achievement system?

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But Nintendo might actually be targeting another audience with Switch. The conference, for most part, was focusing on Switch’s biggest innovation : playing without screen. Switch players will be invited to face each other in party games in which the screen is accessory. Table tennis, Rock/Paper/Scissors game, boxing… Switch aims at local communities rather than at solo players. In the same way, Splatoon players will be able to gather anytime, anywhere to face each other in multiplayer. In other words, Nintendo is asking casual gamers to open their wallets again to avoid facing Sony directly. Future will tell if this audience embraces the concept and if it’s large enough to make a difference. Nintendo still believes in the miraculous game/idea that sells loads of system, but nothing proves that can still happen. Rare exceptions aside, whole librairies of games sell systems, and nothing else.

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What about Microsoft then? The American recently made the brilliant decision to cancel its most hyped exclusive. From that, it’s clear that Redmond’s firm lost its will to fight : they timidly recommend Sea of Thieves and Halo Wars 2 in replacement. At best Microsoft can cling to the second place and do business in Sony’s shadow.

Miracles exist, but Nintendo Switch will need a really big one to avoid critical failure after that poor reveal conference. Sony has now more than 50 exclusives and welcomes all the commercially huge multiplatform games that Switch won’t have. Sony succeeded in taking market shares while building a win-win situation with 3rd parties, something that Nintendo is unable to do. The Kyoto-based company hence ends up totally isolated and powerless to compete. The concept of an hybrid system is really attractive, Xenoblade 2 looks awesome but Switch won’t achieve much without a strong library of games. And as a matter of fact, Nintendo has no real ally at the moment. As it is, it can just satisfy Nintendo loyalists and casual gamers not yet addicted to Super Mario Run. What is at stake for the Big N now is whether it can keep its “big” for long or if it become a regular publisher, light years behind a leader even more hegemonic than in the PS2 era.

E3 2016 Sony – Divided we stand

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Sony comes to E3 as victor. Not only does the lack of NX and Microsoft’s current state of weakness clear the way for him, but the manufacturer can also boast growing economic results. Its consolidated result has more than doubled, and is now positive.

Surprisingly it’s not by achieving superior sales that Sony reached profitability : revenues are slightly down. On the other hand and very much like its rival, the electronics giant has been mainly saving money. Production costs have been reduced by 2%, administrative costs by 6% and other expenses by 72% (but the latter represent a much lower figure). It’s fairly obvious on several product lines (mobile, TVs, photography) which sees their profitability boosted by the lesser costs. Only black mark on the record, semi-conductors are unhealthy and dive into the red. Batteries and other pieces aren’t very competitive any more, and caused amortizations.

The gaming division is still shining : the branch’s operating result surged almost 100% thanks to staggering PS4 and PS4 software sales. Sony had planned 16m shipments for the system, and ended up shipping 17,7m. Clearly the powerful partnerships signed in 2015 have brought results, AAA games players generally preferred PS4 versions. By doing multiple astonishing conferences throughout the year, Sony gave some line of sight t customers who know they’ll have plenty of choice between Western and Japanese games, including countless exclusives. Japanese games seem locked for PS4 and Vita as publishers drive away from 3DS. We’ll have to wait and see how they react to NX, but as things stand Sony has almost everything. It’s worth noticing that the Playstation Network alone generated more revenues than the whole Nintendo. Yes, the domination is huge.

Sony is then able to multiply its consolidated operating result by 5! As for taxes, the firm finally eases the pain, because its net profits allow a reversal on deferred taxes amortizations and much to its delight, Sony received direct tax benefits. The manufacturer seems definitely in luck.

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Sony’s E3 actually starts well before the show officially opens. In the first days of June, a frenzy of reveals takes place in the gaming world and developers put everything on the table right away! Horizon Zero Dawn gets a release date, as well as Dragon Quest Builders, World of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 2.8. Gran Turismo Sport is shown again, Persona 5 details its plans for America, Final Fantasy XII HD is unveiled, Akiba’s Beat is announced (worldwide), Fate Extella and SummonNight 6 let us know they are being localized and Tokyo Xanadu all but confirms it’s coming west by being ported to PS4. The producer of TitanFall 2, before saying anything about his game, warmly welcomes PS4 gamers. The play stands for EA’s futuristic shooter are all PS4. The Japanese company couldn’t be more pleased… PS4 Neo (the super-powerful 4K version of the system), which was supposed to be the star of the show, is confirmed but doesn’t make any appearance at E3. So what’s left for the conference? Will there be even crazier things? Confusion and suspense cause headaches, but Playstation has already won the first round by the usual method : games, games, games.

Before we answer the above question, you have to consider what happened after the conference. It so happened that most publishers released their trailers once the E3 doors were officially opened. In mid-day in the 14th, several companies posted trailers more or less at the same time, making it difficult for any of them to stand out. NieR Automata is briefly seen with 1 minute of video or so, accurate details being saved for the next Famitsu 2 days later. Tales of Berseria reminds us that it comes West, as well as Sword Art Online Hollow Realization which can’t avoid a delay to 2017. Attack on Titan, Ni-Ô and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 also gatecrash during the afternoon. The power of the rich line-up is indeed on the showfloor, but you’re probably starting to imagine the problem.

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Fatally, with that much content before and after, there is little left for the conference, short and lifeless. By focusing on a couple of western-centric games (God of War, Days Gone, Spiderman, etc.), Sony shatters the unity and diversity that made it strong last year in every part of the world. The company looks like it doesn’t want to unite its fans anymore. The Last Guardian only got 3 minutes of a confusing trailer, and Gravity Daze 2 won’t even be shown (it had been in the Paris conference). Poor Kat’s trailer will be posted in the internet just after the conference, like a bone thrown to a dog. Meanwhile, the conference features Skylanders and Lego Star Wars Episode 7. It’s absolutely pathetic, a conference where you prefer Skylanders to Gravity Daze is is FU** BULLSH**! “4 the players” has become “4 the masses”, a retarded view of the industry in which you don’t take any risk, stop innovating in order to get easy cash. Art and diversity will manage to survive someway, they must think… This conference should have included games like Persona 5 or NieR Automata, at least to balance its message and so that its host lives up to its leadership. That night, Sony was everything but a worldwide leader. Microsoft invited Platinum Games, SquareEnix and BandaiNamco on stage, Sony couldn’t care less and doesn’t even answer to that. The Japanese manufacturer keeps thinking locally in the biggest international show of the year. Huge mistake : Sony is being divisive at the very time it must gather people together.

Playstation VR, awkwardly pushed by worthless-looking in-game features, doesn’t make us optimistic either. Batman VR, Stra Wars X-Wing VR, a dumb shooting mini-game for FFXV in which you play as Prompto (the least character you’d want to play as) are announced without a single detail on how they are played. Eagle Flight and Star Trek VR from Ubisoft clearly look bad, so at this point you’d pretty much pity virtual reality.

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Until that moment. Resident Evil 7 is announced by a frightening trailer and is indeed back to its horror roots. Fear is back and action is sacked. Fans rejoice, and even more so when they find out that it will be 100% VR compatible and that a demo has been discreetly delivered on the PS+. The short gameplay is absolutely scary on a regular screen : the atmosphere is so oppressive that the first noise almost cause a heart attack. Just imagine that in VR! The demo is also rich and complex, including several endings and little secrets. It’s quickly made a strong buzz in the web, so that might be the killer-app PSVR needs to take off.

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In Japan, Famitsu reveals that Project Diva X will be updated to be compatible with PSVR in the future, to coincide with Hatsune Miku VR Future Live. Both titles allow the player to watch Miku’s performance in a more intimate way. Summer Lesson, Harada’s bizarre game which puts you in relation with pretty chicks, finally becomes a full-fledged launch line-up product. Of course, this information is not discussed at E3, SCEA having closed cultural borders. At the very least, PSVR has a chance to sell decently at launch.

In short, this E3 is a leap forward for Playstation, but a huge step backwards for Sony which is weak and divisive. While its accounts have never been better, the manufacturer plays it safe and entrusts part of the promoting job to publishers and the community. The Playstation ecosystem widely dominates in both number and variety of releases, but this rich line-up has to live in blackout. We’ll have to observe how this situation evolves and if Sony really decided to leave part of its audience behind.

Status quo and social rift on the Japanese gaming market in 2015

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2015 is now behind us and it’s time to draw a picture of the market. Lots of figures have leaked from GAF and I spent quite a lot of time compiling data to achieve a top 100 chart of games released in 2015 in Japan, all format combined + digital sales. I also used to data of this post (which goes well beyond 100) and Dengeki’s weekly rankings, taking the most recent figure when available.

First thing that draws the attention is that on 100 games, there 50 on Playstation systems, and 50 on Nintendo systems. Draw? No, the victory again goes the Kyoto-based firm, which dominates the top 10, has all the million sellers and boasts evergreen 2014 titles. But the point of this is to assess to social state of the Japanese market. If you look carefully, 60% or so of the games on Nintendo systems mainly address kids ad the mainstream public whereas very few Playstation games do. Furthermore, 60% of the 50 best selling games on Nintendo’s side were from 3rd party publishers, to be compared with 94% for Sony who just released Bloodborne, The Order 1886 and Nathan Drake Collection as first party games. Given that two of them are rather low in rank, I can say that Sony didn’t hinder its partners’ business this year. The success of western titles keeps growing : Call of Duty is up 33% in 2015, Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront have already topped 200K units sold. Also, I must stress that there are only 4 3DS 3rd games in the top 30, whereas the Playstation ecosystem has 13. Besides the exceptions Monster Hunter, Yôkai Watch and Dragon Quest, the interest of Nintendo platforms from a third party point of view is further diminishing.

But the most striking thing comes when you actually cross those two parameters : in the top 30, there are only two games designed for older gamers, Monster Hunter X and Dragon Quest VIII, two IPs that would sell on any platform given the high level of fidelity and awareness. This means that for 3rd parties, aiming for the care gamers’ market on WiiU or 3DS is a strategic mistake. They better have to focus on Playstation systems to get the best return, and many (all of them actually) are fully aware of that, even those who earn fortunes thanks to the 3DS : Level-5 develops Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom on PS4 and SquareEnix has 13 projects going on PSVita/PS4, but only 2 on 3DS. More than ever, 3rd parties must side with Sony if they want to achieve their goal : make money.

The big question being : how many games are being developed for NX? 2015 has been fairly bad for core gamers’ titles on 3DS and WiiU, underperforming titles are rife. Xenoblade Chronicles X ends up below Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, and is crushed by competing RPGs like Tales of Zestiria, Sword Art Online Lost Song and Bloodborne. Worse still, the ambitious open-world is outpaced by Tokyo Xanadu, Falcom’s modest Vita-exclusive Action-RPG. Takahashi can do nothing but admit its failure at home. Other much awaited JRPG, Bravely Second doesn’t even match the first week sales of Bravely Default. I was saying before, it could never catch up with Battlefield Hardline, that poor mod of Battlefield 4, in sales. The so-called «successor of Final Fantasy» is in shambles. While Nintendo or Level-5 make monstruous amounts of bucks, established IPs fail to sell as expected : Ace Combat Assault Legacy +, Kenka Banchô, Atelier Rorona, Langrisser Re:Incarnation, Project X Zone 2 et Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem can’t avoid the flop. Nearly every indicator points to less implication of 3rd parties with the Big N. But it remains true that if Sony completely withdraws from the portable market in 2017, the market share of its opponent should rise considerably and 3rd would likely immediately come back. Until then, the situation is as such.

While the West has long forgotten the specter of casual gaming, the iron curtain has fallen once more on Japan, divided between family-friendly systems continuously running Yôkai Watch or Splatoon, and gaming vets preferring mature titles like Yakuza, Tales of, Metal Gear Solid or God Eater. This divide is not absolute as both demographics can meet for games like Fire Emblem Fates or Monster Hunter X, but the trend is now crystal-clear : 80% of the games being developed right now in Japan are either for PS4 or PSVita.

Is the console wars over?

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In Les Pensées, French philosopher Pascal defines Boredom as man’s great misery. To fill this void within him, the human being deploys a vast array of distractions : sports, picking up girls, gaming and, war. From Pascal’s point of view, the latter is still a distraction on the scale of mankind. But long after Pascal, mankind does realize that war brings only more misery. Then it came up with another kind of war : the console wars, the only world conflict fought 24h/24h without any casuality.

We need to re-define the reasons of the console wars (except the fact the human are liable the compete with each other). I think it’s mostly the invasion or threat directed towards natural domains. For example, the temporary exclusivity of Star Ocean The Last Hope or Tales of Vesperia on X360 ravaged the previous generation and had dramatic consequences on XboxOne’s performance in Japan. Similarly to the invasion of a physical territory, “defenders” won’t stop fighting until the enemy isn’t annihilated.

Is such a thing still possible today? The latest “war effort” form Microsoft, the temporary exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider, is a huge failure. It is likely that we won’t see a similar initiative before long, and that we are entering a new phase, a cold war based on communication, partnership and natural exclusives. No one asks for Halo on PS4 or Uncharted on XboxOne, nor do people want to play Tales of Berseria on a Microsoft system. The offer of games is perfectly rationalized. Besides, as gamers get older, they tend to be able to own several systems.

In Japan, the situation has evolved in the same way. By observing the recent Japanese best sellers charts, we see that offer are more and more segmented between 3DS/WiiU that are mainly focused on kids and the mainstream public, and PS4/PSVita which receive the majority of core gamer titles. There of course are exceptions like Monster Hunter, but this is a solid trend now. Despite its heavy presence in media, Genei Ibun Roku #FE (aka Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem) flopped at home, selling a mere 24’000 copies at launch. This example alone confirms the above-mentioned trend. In 2016, the situation of the market is even clearer : 3DS barely has half a dozen third party exclusives for core gamers besides mainstream/kiddy games like Yôkai Watch 3, all the other (sixty or so) are Playstation exclusives. Needless to say, WiiU has none. Games are therefore developed on adequate systems, for the right audiences. Developers can work serenely, publishers profit, everyone wins.

Which leaves one big question mark : NX. Might Nintendo’s new system(s) rekindle the console wars? Let’s consider the 3 different options. If NX is a home console, it will have quite a hard time competing with PS4 and XboxOne, and eventually bound to become a secondary system. The reality is that PS4 headstart is immense in terms of price (Sony already has leeway to drop the price temporarily), functionalities, technology (Playstation VR) and above all : games. PS4 has the largest array of exclusives since PS2 and odds of developers taking risks on NX is low.

If NX is portable, the problem is not the same but the conclusion is. If we consider that a portable NX takes off during 2017 (most likely scenario), there probably won’t be a Sony handheld competing. Everyone will be on the same “side”, so no conflict. In case of two simultaneous systems (I’d bet on that one), Nintendo can be a lot more dangerous and aggressive, so the flames of war might engulf the industry again. That said, common development would mean games visually inferior to PS4 exclusives.

I think we are for now, if not the console peace, at least in a console armistice. It might be eternal, or short-lived, depending on what Nintendo is planning for 2016-2017. True, some will say their first party games are better than those of the others, but there are good manufacturer games everywhere all that makes no sense. Some will still declare the games of other as worthless, but there is no time to waste when progress is at hand. Without reason to fight, we might as well fight boredom by enjoying our games.

Paris Games Week 2015 Sony – Shadows of the Empire

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We were not ready for this. Paris, for the first time, would become the center of the gaming world. For this very first conference held for Paris Game Week, Sony gave to France an unexpected influence by a major presentation far beyond the odds.

Still, the show starts slowly by a look back on 2015, not very relevant since Bloodborne had been the only important exclusive those few past months. Then there was stuff known already : Call of Duty Black Ops III, Horizon Zero Dawn, Street Fighter V, Tekken 6, etc. Harada and Ono might be talented showmen, Dhalsim coming to Street Fighter V and Tekken 6 being on PS4 are hardly meaningful surprises, and motorbikes in DriveClub won’t impress the public either. We do learn that Black Ops III DLC will have the traditional 30-day excusivity period, this time on the Playstation Store. CoD die hard fans have no choice left : they need to drop their Xbox if they want to keep up.

After that, the real announcements start pouring. Housemarque, already know for Resogun, unveils Matterfall, likely a 3rd person shooter in a futuristic setting. Boudless by Wonderstruck is an adventure game set in a heroic-fantasy universe with a childish look where the player is at the crossing of countless world, the doors of which being mirrors. Both projects are still a little hazy, but strengthen the long list of PS4 exclusives.

The heavyweights have come and the mean business. Star Wars Battlefront blesses us with a last trailer before hitting the shelves on which it won’t be for very long. The E3 and Gamescom trailers were quite the thing but this last one is the coronation of all. The perfect choice of the music at the beginning, the expression of the rebel soldier as Ackbar urges them to not give up, Darth Vader storming the base and the Emperor enjoying his coming victory with the Death Star in the back… everything was fine-tuned for that every Star Wars fan remember the emotional power of the trilogy. And graphically damn… never a gaming system has displayed this level of spectacular before : explosions everywhere, spaceships and vehicles coming from all sides within a flurry of beams! Save the date, November 19th will a day to remember.

No Man’s Sky gets back with a short trailer well directed and like the last time, the background music gives it a perfect pace. The game has further improved graphically and its large galaxy is increasingly taking shape. Let’s recall that the the concept is about and adventurer who travels to unknown planets, with consequently strange life beings and conflicts in outer-space. No Man’s Sky is special because it wakes up a old dream, space exploration like it was defined by 2001, A Space Odyssey 40 years ago. Last but not least, it is confirmed to be a PS4 console exclusive.

We are pleasantly surprised to see Kat again in a few action sequences of Gravity Daze 2 that show how the power of the PS4 is put to good use (better be, I tell you…). Colors are a lot livelier than in the first game and interactivity has improved dramatically. Kat is not alone for Paris Games Week : Raven also appear for tag battles which lets us think there might be a multiplayer mode in the works. This strong presence of Japanese gaming in the French capital is more than welcome.

But the most important part of the conference is the emphasis put on Playstation VR, Sony’s virtual reality helmet. Lots of games are shown : Rigs offers to revolutionize e-sport with its strange sport played on mechas, Until Dawn will bring the horror closer to the player, Battlezone will do the same for the frontline, Tekken 7 is VR too and Robinson – The Journey by Crytek is a sort a Jurassic World from a first person view. We can feel that the marketing plans are being finalized, whereas not so long ago VR seemed a distant dream from Hi-Tech shows.

Here we need to stop 2 minutes and think. Playstation VR games are starting to be increasingly high profile and developers seems to go on board. So investments in that technology look massive despite no guarantee it will be interesting from a gameplay point of view. That suggests and great confidence and maybe a certain ease at Sony HQ right now if they throw themselves in high risk high return projects like this. It’s like as if Sony had already gone beyond the mere console war to pioneer new innovations and extend its power. I’m not saying it will work out, but the plans are laid down and they are ambitious.

But the firm doesn’t intend to stop there and it’s now Gran Turismo coming for the first time on PS4 in a “sports” edition. No numbering, the title Gran Turismo Sport underlines the important partnership signed with the FIA to hold joint competitions between real and virtual. Polyphony Digital hence brings the real deal since the “season” of GT Sport will have you represent your country or your favorite maufacturer. The trailer is focused on the love GT players have for cars, as the series has always been about, and anticipates on a broader audience. The increasing rhythm of the music and and the evolution seen in images catch the eye as much as the exquisite prototypes.

GT Sport can change gears as it likes : its rival, Micorsoft’s Forza Motorsport 6 ended up vastly unnoticed by buyers. It didn’t appear in European charts, nor did it in US NPD. The Xbox series is half-dead at this point and the American manufacturer has lost the race while still on the starting grid. Whatever dubious press headlines say, the public wants Kazunori Yamauchi’s simulation.

Wild goes wild as Michel Ancel, the famous French game designer, comes to present its PS4 exclusive further. No lip-service here but actual gameplay. In this game, the player is a Shaman capable of asking nearby animals for help, or taking control of them. The immense world and the various species seen let hope for a quite rich gameplay full of different possibilities for a same objective.

David Cage comes to end the show with the reveal of his first PS4 game? He takes the world as witness when pointing out the success of its Kara video aired years ago now. Quite clevery, the French creator announces that Detroit – Become Human will tell what whappens after the Kara video, something that millions of people are curious about. No real indication of what the game will be in the trailer shown, the subject of androids having become commonplace these days. Let’s stress that Sony ends its conference here in Paris by two of the most famous French game creators : the ultimate weapon of seduction.

Those successive conferences and the unexpected scale of this one can mean only one thing : Sony is (re)building its empire. US, Europe, Japan, the triad of conferences, the empire on which the Sun never sets. Sony moves faster, farer and boasts more exclusives than the others which have nothing to keep up. Microsoft played his hand at Gamescom and Nintendo is still wondering how to make Directs again. More than the conquest of market shares, undoubtedly won already given the crushing line-up and the unmatched partnerships, Sony is actually challenging the whole entertainment industry. Future will tell if its ambitions are too big or not.