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Analysts split on E3 showings

Microsoft gets high marks for hardware, while Sony's showmanship has at least one analyst thinking PSVR could thrive regardless of quality

With the big E3 press briefings in the books, industry watchers have begun weighing in on what they saw. And much like the GamesIndustry.biz staff, they were split on who had the strongest performance at the show.

Ben Schachter of Macquarie Securities told GI.biz that Project Scorpio sounds compelling, but is a bit too far on the horizon to tip the scales in Microsoft's favor this year.

"In our view, Sony had a much more impressive pre-event and we expect it to continue to dominate console sales this year," Schachter said, adding, "Sony's first party titles were particularly impressive. Games such as God of War, The Last Guardian, and Days Gone looked great."

Wedbush's Michael Pachter did the math and came up with a different conclusion.

"Microsoft announced two new consoles on Monday, while Sony did not announce any, making Microsoft the winner of the day between the two hardware manufacturers in our view," Pachter said. "With that said, we thought that both presentations were highly enjoyable, and it is clear that there are a number of compelling games and devices coming down the release pipeline in 2016 and 2017 that should keep gamers highly engaged."

Pachter went so far as to call the Project Scorpio reveal "a major milestone for the console video gaming industry" as the first hardware to feature 4K gaming and VR capabilities.

"The possibility of being Batman or flying a Tie Fighter will be enough to get many PS4 owners to purchase regardless of the quality of the experience."

Patrick Walker

EEDAR's Patrick Walker came away from the press briefings with two big takeaways, both of them complimentary to Sony.

"First, Sony is really figuring out how to use a press conference effectively in the new games environment," Walker said. "The whole show seemed designed to be an enjoyable streaming show with the focus on content, crowd energy, and exciting visuals. The format seemed to understand that the details will be provided to the online viewer by the web, online chatting, and social media and there isn't as much of a need to walk the consumer through everything being shown. By comparison, Microsoft's focus on hardware news and explaining live gameplay demos felt almost antiquated.

"Second, Sony has answered the VR content question in a really smart way. Sony was already well positioned in the early VR race with a relatively low headset price and an install base of 40 million units. The remaining question was if the quality of the content would be high enough to convince consumers to purchase. Sony is leveraging major brands as experiences in a way that almost makes the quality question an afterthought. The possibility of being Batman or flying a Tie Fighter will be enough to get many PS4 owners to purchase regardless of the quality of the experience."

Superdata's Joost van Dreunen didn't seem to be too impressed with either Microsoft or Sony. Microsoft's first-party lineup was "a bit sparse and predominantly centered on sequels" in his view, while Sony "spent a disproportionate amount of time showcasing its new IP Days Gone instead of providing more detail on the obvious big ticket titles."

As for what van Dreunen did like, he felt Bethesda's showing Sunday night was very strong.

"Notably, Bethesda is getting hip to recent changes in the games market: after its success on mobile with Fallout Shelter, it is now also pursuing competitive gaming with Quake Champions," van Dreunen said. "Bethesda has the ability to take an early lead in the VR market as one of the big publishers throwing their weight behind the new platform, following its announcement of Fallout 4 for HTC Vive scheduled for release next year. Provided these titles develop into the success we expect them to, the question who will acquire Bethesda will undoubtedly re-emerge in the months to come."

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