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access_time June 5, 2014 at 9:00 AM in Features by Drew Robbins

Sony Needs to Put the “4” in 2014 at E3

Video Courtesy of IGN

It was the shot heard around the world.

In a single moment on the grandest stage of them all, Sony seized the brass rings that had eluded them for an entire console generation and created what would ultimately become a sizable lead over their fiercest competitor. Nearly a year removed from E3 2013, Microsoft is still working to exorcise the demons brought about by this snapshot of history, and Sony is seated comfortably on this industry’s version of the Iron Throne; however, as anyone who has spent even a negligible amount of time following the year-to-year happenings of the “console wars” could tell you, it doesn’t take much more than a second for a king to be dethroned and his heir crowned.

Microsoft and Sony are coming to E3 2014 on opposite ends of the spectrum, with the former looking to reverse the fortunes created by a series of about faces and the latter hoping only to hold on to the advantage first garnered at last year’s event. Microsoft is desperate while Sony is content – ironic given how their positions were inverted only a year prior – but now is not the time for complacency. If Sony wants to continue to build on recent successes, then they need to do at E3 2014 what they did in 2013: Steal the show. They need to make 2014 the Year of the PlayStation 4.

Despite what recent sales numbers may indicate, Sony is riding the slimmest of leads into E3 2014. After a year of picking away at their original design documents, Microsoft has released in the Xbox One a console that is nearly identical to the PlayStation 4. Most of the differences between the two systems are the result of the misguided perception that Microsoft is still clinging to its Draconian DRM policies -which just goes to show how affective Sony’s most recent E3 press conference really was – but these fallacies are sure to fall off of the radar with the passing of time. Without these mistruths to direct the masses in the direction of Sony’s newest monolithic piece of hardware, what does Sony have that Microsoft can’t also lay claim to? Superior specifications don’t hold the same weight in the public sphere as do such issues as consumers’ rights and competitive pricing.

Sony needs to show at E3 2014 what the PlayStation 4 can have that the Xbox One might not: A defining, first-party experience that hits store shelves before the calendar turns its final page, before the ball drops in Times Square, and before anything of its kind sees the light of day. Sony needs to show at E3 2014 that 2014, not 2015, is the year to jump on the current-generation bandwagon with their console.

The statement seems obvious enough; announce exciting new games for your system, and then the people will come to your system in droves. It’s about more than that, though.

Neither Sony nor Microsoft has announced a release schedule in which the current year features prominently. If E3 comes and goes without that statement being amended, then the two companies will enter 2015 with positions similar to those that they hold now. I don’t think Sony can stand to let Microsoft hang around long enough to still be in a close proximity by year’s end. Sony needs to use this year to get ahead while they still can, before their competition shapes up and before the imaginary differences distinguishing the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One become too distant of a memory for the general population to recall.

What this proverbial ace in the sleeve may look like is beyond me. Uncharted 4, with its developer’s recent turmoil, seems an unlikely candidate to save the day, and other known quantities such as The Last Guardian are hardly the types of experiences that carry with them the universal appeal needed to “win” a trade show like E3. Perhaps uncertainty works to Sony’s favor in this case. The allure of something new may be just what the PlayStation 4 needs to wave in the face of the Xbox One’s predictable entourage of first-party franchises. At this point in the game, anything, even an iteration belonging to one of the company’s lesser franchises, would help set Sony and its PlayStation 4 apart at E3.

Beyond that, it is entirely possible that PlayStation Now could rear its mysteriously-contoured head at this year’s show and set the stage for another year of competitive advantage. Regardless, Sony needs something – anything – to make the PlayStation 4 an appealing concept this year. Their lead is anything but permanent, and it won’t take much time for their dynasty to unravel under the pressure of a stiff opposition if Sony chooses complacency over urgency at E3 2014.

Last year, Sony made a pronouncement so loud that its echoes still permeate across the Internet. As those murmurs begin to fade, it is time for Sony to take the stage and make magic one more time. If not, E3 2015 could be lead into with a narrative from an entirely different point-of-view.


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