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Sony E3 press conference preview: Game time

Within touching distance of market dominance, Sony knows that software will determine its next 12 months

The best analogy that can be made in regards to the PS4's current market position is "one move from checkmate". That description was given, somewhat fittingly, by one of the most prominent indie developers in games today; Vlambeer's Rami Ismail, on the latest Off The Record.

Ismail is certainly not alone in his view of PlayStation. A remarkable groundswell of support from western indie developers has been crucial for Sony as it positions for market dominance. But that's not all the pieces it has on the board; PlayStation 4 is demonstrably a more capable machine than Xbox One, easier to develop for, and considered to have the superior operating system. It's also backed by more than a dozen first-party studios and, paradoxically, is somehow cheaper than its market rival.


This is an extraordinary combination of advantages that no console has ever enjoyed before, and the results are telling. PS4 is clearly selling ahead of Xbox in all major territories, and perhaps even more importantly, publishers are finding that multiplatform games are shifting more copies on Sony's console than Microsoft's.

To its credit, in a drastic bid to keep pace, team Xbox has addressed every last one of its perceived disadvantages. All the online and DRM policies are long forgotten, Kinect is no longer mandatory and the Xbox One price has been hacked to closer match the PS4. Xbox Live Gold, meanwhile, has been rebuilt to offer similar service and values as PS Plus.

Such a frantic scramble to adapt is telling of how significant Sony's advantage is. But it's not checkmate just yet; Microsoft still has a strong catalogue of triple-A games, and at E3 this year it will no doubt reveal a star-studded line-up of major exclusives.

This is where Sony, almost certainly, will also concentrate its focus. The next Uncharted and God of War titles are likely to make an appearance, and just maybe, The Last Guardian will reveal itself too. Third-party exclusives, such as The Order 1886 and perhaps even Quantic Dream's next project, will punctuate a press conference that will no doubt parade a whole platoon of indie games too.

How many of these games will arrive in 2014 will be the crucial detail, and for now, it's possible that the majority of triple-A games will be tagged with a 2015 release date. If that's the case, then Sony will miss its golden opportunity to make the deciding move, especially with Microsoft preparing to execute its resistance strategy.

"[Sony's] marketing slogan hasn't changed; this will be a showcase for the players"

If there is a noticeable lack of new triple-A games due for release this holiday season, as appears to be the case so far, then there's a real chance that Sony will have more HD Remastered projects in the pipeline, with the Uncharted series looking like the ideal candidate to us.

Fans should also expect final details on PlayStation Now; the company's Netflix-like games streaming service for PS Vita, PS3, PS4, as well as Sony tablets and TVs.

How generous Sony is with its subscription fees and rental prices will determine how popular this service will be for core gamers. Playing a streamed version of, say, Heavy Rain sounds like an okay night in, but if it's considerably more expensive than a streamed movie then it could dull the buyer's impulse.

Possibly a wiser option, but certainly a more painful one, would be to roll PlayStation Now into PS Plus at no additional cost, thereby securing the future of the premium platform for the long-term. One could argue that all of PlayStation's digital services will inevitably be consolidated anyway, so offering gamers this kind of value right now - before they come to expect it - would generate significant interest. But at a time when parent company Sony is desperate to yield an annual profit, this slashing of potential revenue for PlayStation Now may not get full backing from executives.


Nor is there a clear idea of how far Sony is prepared to back its VR device Project Morpheus; an expensive example of specialist hardware that would require significant investment to put on general sale. This PS4 virtual reality concept, much like Oculus Rift, is a magical experience from the first time you try it, but its broad commercial appeal is uncertain.

Sony is already investing significant sums in PS4 and PS Vita, but with Microsoft prepared to spend far more on Xbox content, the PlayStation manufacturer will not want to spread its investments so thin.

As has been the story so far with PS4, Sony will come to E3 in LA next week with an unflinching focus on its core gamer market. It may not have Jack Tretton on the stage anymore, but the company's marketing slogan hasn't changed; this will be a showcase for the players.

Sony's E3 press conference takes place on Monday, June 9, at 5.30pm Pacific Time (01:30 am UK time, Tuesday) - CVG will be covering the event live with live video, live text and up-to-the-minute news


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