Bloggy musings about trajectory and E3.

In the weeks leading up to this E3 I am in a far different position than I was last year – or any year, for that matter.  Construction of the site is coming along… there’s news breaking daily about game reveals… sales of recent games have been quite high.  Yet I find myself sucked into this pit of despair like everything videogame related is awful.  Vita is dead!  Wii U is dead!  Xbox One is dead!  Sony is going bankrupt!  Driveclub is 30 fps!  Forza Horizon 2 is 30 fps!  Watch Dogs isn’t even 1080p!  I hate everything about your system and love everything about mine… even when that makes me contradict myself!

It would be nice to tune this stuff out but I can’t. These people are potential customers for the website. Some of them, at least.  I’m convinced there are certain folks who exist only to troll and don’t even enjoy gaming. There’s also this gravitas to every single announcement like it is either the BEST or WORST thing that’s ever happened.  Forza Horizon 2 looks amazing.  XBOX IS THE BEST!  Forza Horizon 2 is 30 fps.  LOL XBOX U SUXXX!  So if you are even keeled you don’t really have anything to say.  Except we do.  Forza Horizon 2 does look amazing.  It being 30 fps is not going to ruin the game, but obviously a higher framerate would have been preferable.  Just like Driveclub.  If I was to make you a list of my top 5 racers last gen, 4 of the 5 were 30 fps.  I think I’ll make due…

People have been asking me if I know anything about what Microsoft and what Sony are going to show at E3. I do, kinda. Planning for these shows is very fluid and things get moved in and out regularly. So I’m sharing what I hear with folks on the private forums of the site and otherwise keeping my mouth shut. There will be bombs, and megatons, and groans, and everything that every E3 has. This E3 is no more important than the last one or the next one. Every little piece of news that comes out is not the end of the world. Gaming is really healthy right now.  Watch Dogs just sold 4 mil. Mario Kart 8 sold over a mil in a weekend. The PS4 is selling at a record pace.  The “doomed” Xbox One is selling at a fine (but slowing) pace.  The only place we really see trouble out of the ordinary is in Japan but there are reasons for that beyond just mobile gaming. Their economy, specifically Abenomics, is doing no favors to most international companies based in Japan. Weakening the yen to lessen the value of the amount of debt the country has is, well, this is getting out of my  jurisdiction of knowledge.  What I do know is that when console and handheld sales are as low as they are in Japan – it’s not good for gaming.  Otherwise, though, the gaming industry is on fire right now.

You wouldn’t know it though if you read r/gaming or NeoGAF or twitter…  everything is awful.  E3 must be MEGATONS!  If MS has a huge E3 and Sony has a terrible one that means Sony is DOOOOOMED FOREVER.  This flies in the face of all knowledge we have about prior E3’s.  Remember Miyamoto on stage doing Wii Music and making the entire world cringe while the Wii was selling like hotcakes?  Or that dude playing Star Wars Kinect that was so out of sync that we actually felt embarrassed for him…  while Microsoft continued to sell millions of Xbox 360s and dominate the US and western Europe?  These things really don’t matter that much and they rarely change the trajectory the industry is headed. It’s usually a decent look at what that trajectory is…. but changing it – not really.

So what is the trajectory? In my opinion it is that Sony built a more powerful box, that is cheaper (or will be the same price, shortly). This has led to third party games universally looking better on the PS4. If this was 1995 that wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It isn’t 1995, however, and AAA muliplatform games rule the industry. This isn’t opinion, this is bore out in sales numbers over and over and over.  While we argued about what looked better – Killzone or Ryse, Call of Duty went on to sell more than both of them combined.  And it was a shitty Call of Duty!  While we argued that Titanfall was going to change everything and inFamous was going melt our eyeballs….  Watch Dogs sold more than both in 4 days.  FOUR DAYS!

The Order getting delayed sucks.  It also was going to get eaten alive by Destiny.  A developer friend of mine said to me last week “If Watch Dogs is huge; the Xbox One is fucked all summer, everyone thinks of Watch Dogs as a PS4 game.  If Destiny is huge in September, the Xbox One is fucked all fall because Sony and Activision have teamed up to make it seem like that’s a PS4 game also.”  I agreed with him, kinda, but I’m a bit more bullish on the Xbox One’s chances than he is.  When the numbers came in from the UK and the PS4 was 49% of the Watch Dogs sales… my mind immediately went to that conversation.  The motherfucker was right.  People saw Watch Dogs as a PS4 game because of the combination of advertising, extra content, and the knowledge that third party games run best on the PS4. This is a very real problem for Microsoft. Now, I’m sure the numbers are slightly more even in the US, but not by a whole lot…  and the rest of the world, forget it – the Xbox One is moribund in every country that doesn’t start with the word “United.”

I believe Phil Spencer and his team are firing on all cylinders now and I’m most excited for their conference. They are the feisty underdog at this point. If someone is going to drop a huge surprise it’s going to be them. Their sales in the US have been falling since February. They can spin the PR as much as they want about how it’s out-performing the 360…  but sales dropping week after week is a problem.  Especially when the drop started *before* Titanfall (weekly, not monthly, March had an extra week on the NPDs).  The first thing Phil said when he took over was “games.”  Games games games games games games.  Xbox One is a games machine.  As an owner (and, believe it or not, a fan) of the Xbox One I was like “Fuck yeah, dude!  Get me some shit to play!”  E3 will be the first step for that.  This is the trajectory that MS is on.  But, as I said up above, they have issues if Watch Dogs has legs and if Destiny is as big as a lot of people think it’s gonna be.  Nothing is insurmountable, however.

Sony on the other hand just needs to nail home the message of “everything plays best on the PS4.”  Rumors are abound that they will show BF: Hardline and the beta will start soon after the show.  They will obviously show Destiny and the beta this summer has already been declared a PS4 exclusive.  I expect a lot of third party stuff to hammer home this “all games are best over here, ya’ll” thing that has gotten them to the lead they are at now.  I also think they will dangle enough first party exclusives to get people excited (and I do think TLG will be there… but not enough to put money on it 😉 ) but for those who want to see footage of every WWS game in development are going to leave the conference bummed. This conference is not for them.  This conference is for the mainstream. Like Wii Music and the Star Wars de-synced guy.

If Nintendo announces X is coming out this year they win E3 as far as I’m concerned.

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