Following our analyst roundtable looking at Microsoft's E3 presence and what strategy the Xbox team may take with its press briefing, we've now shifted the spotlight to Microsoft's main rival: Sony. While last year's E3 appearance by Sony was marred by the necessity of having to apologize for a massive PlayStation Network breach, that's now long in the past and Sony can focus on one of its strengths: software.
The consensus from analysts seems to be that Sony will put core games front and center, while also trying to bolster its Vita platform and expanding on its growing digital initiatives.
Here's the Sony-focused analyst roundtable:
David Cole, DFC Intelligence
With Sony I think it will be all about games and I think they should be showing a lot of first party content for both the Vita and PlayStation 3. When you talk about exciting new games that consumers will actually play this holiday season the Sony platforms should have the most interesting lineups. Some of these titles may look very familiar to Nintendo audiences as Sony is putting a major focus on its classic game characters from many key first party titles over the years. In other words, Sony versions of Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart. I also think Sony will have a pretty big focus on lower priced PSN exclusives for both systems. It will be interesting to see if there are some gems that are only available online.
The Vita really needs a strong showing and once again it is all about games. The Vita is a cool system that was given an unfairly harsh reception by the media. I think there will be some major third party products such as Call of Duty for Vita. I also think that Sony will try and highlight how well the Vita handles traditional console genres like first-person shooters, fighting games and platform games like Little Big Planet. With Sony this year's E3 is all about highlighting great content that will encourage consumers to buy Sony game systems.
Billy Pidgeon, M2 Research
Sony's E3 2012 showing will concentrate on software and online services. I'm expecting a strong emphasis on hardcore titles with big reveals on first party titles that should include several surprises in addition to those we know about. There will be more surprises from third party publishers, including exclusive titles as well as features.
Sony Computer Entertainment has been focused primarily on core gamers and I don't believe presentations will stray far from this theme. As the PS3 installed base has potential to expand much further into the hardcore enthusiast sector and PS Vita is in its first year, I think it's a sound strategy to concentrate on the hardcore sector.
"We are likely to see hardware bundles priced for value (if not an across the board PS3 price cut), but I think it's very unlikely that Sony would tease next generation hardware at E3 2012"
While new PS3 titles will build out the platform, strong PS Vita titles are even more important to Sony now. We know about several, including Call of Duty and Killzone in the important FPS category, but I expect to see more as yet unannounced first and third party PS Vita titles revealed at E3. Sony will also demonstrate how PS Vita multiplayer is a unique mobile experience for core gamers, and I expect Sony will show how they've built on this strength with new features at the show.
I expect to see Sony making the case that multiplayer gaming and services on PlayStation Network are a better experience in contrast to Xbox LIVE. For instance, Sony was the first of the three vendors to bring free-to-play games to online consoles, on PlayStation Network and in Home, so I'll be looking for more multiplayer online firsts and exclusives from Sony at E3 2012. Microsoft scored big with Minecraft this year, and it would be great to see Sony even the score with a Diablo III exclusive.
I am expecting software surprises, and we are likely to see hardware bundles priced for value (if not an across the board PS3 price cut), but I think it's very unlikely that Sony would tease next generation hardware at E3 2012.
Jesse Divnich, EEDAR
Expect Sony to come out swinging with plenty of demos of their core IPs.
With the Vita, expect Sony to showcase several games with the cross-play feature. It truly is a unique feature, one that none of their competitors can implement.
The biggest title they will likely showcase will be God of War: Ascension. I know many consumers are anxious--and concerned--about the new multiplayer component within the God of War franchise, so I would expect Sony to showcase how the multiplayer works and quite possibly have a live demo on the show floor.
I don't anticipate any price cut announcements for the Vita or PlayStation 3--but I've been wrong before.
Lewis Ward, IDC Research Manager
In Sony's case I'd like to see a vision laid out for making PlayStation a "non-proprietary" brand. What I mean by that is a plan to make a wide variety of PlayStation games and Sony Entertainment Network content not only available on Sony's own hardware - including tablets and smartphones - but on an array of certified third party devices. So the PlayStation Suite concept taken to a new level, and before the end of 2012. If they do that, I think Sony will have staked out a unique vision, but I also think it has be backed up with PSN-based social networking services that's cross-platform for it to be really compelling.
"Will a Vita price cut be forthcoming? Hard to say, but it would all but certainly provide a positive uptick in terms of sales, media coverage and industry attention"
I'm afraid the Vita news may underwhelm... I personally think the Vita's an excellent gaming device but I get the sense that soft initial sales has many observers ready to pile dirt on the platform unless they knock our socks off on the exclusive handheld game front at E3. Maybe this will happen but I'm afraid it's a bit of a long shot.
Scott Steinberg, TechSavvy Global
Our analysts anticipate that Sony will make a great deal of noise this year around its software offerings, including both core and casual product for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, as it looks to retrench its position as a global gaming leader with an eye towards premium and innovative software and hardware products. We fully expect that much of the presentation will be devoted to touting the future roadmap for Vita-based software and feature content, and new product and feature offerings on both the retail and digital fronts for PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Network.
A full-scale launch announcement for the Orbis, or PlayStation 4, is unlikely, with the manufacturer more apt to double down on touting a blockbuster lineup of first- and third-party software, carefully designed to reinforce the impression of strong developer support and must-see content that will drive continued interest from gaming fans, and fuel newcomers' continued desire to buy Sony-branded hardware. New debuts in core franchises such as God of War and LittleBigPlanet and appearances by brand-name developers such as Rockstar, Naughty Dog and Quantic Dream may be part of the presentation.
Outside of digital entertainment focused announcements, key software launches, and upcoming plans for the PlayStation Move, the company's likeliest focus this year looks to be simply shoring up its position and reassuring both partners and fans that the future will be bright for PlayStation-branded initiatives. Will a Vita price cut be forthcoming? Hard to say, but it would all but certainly provide a positive uptick in terms of sales, media coverage and industry attention.
Please stay tuned for our final installment with analysts talking about Nintendo's E3 game plan.