This E3 was heavily focused on the console war coming up later in the year. Let’s do a quick recap before we go on.
Sony dominated the previous generation with the PlayStation 2, Nintendo got along quietly with the GameCube but failed to make a serious dent in the market, while Microsoft established itself and the Xbox as a solid contender. The Sega DreamCast, despite being arguably as technically competent as the PS2, got crushed under the weight of public expectations and Sony hype.
When this generation began surprisingly early with the Xbox 360, some predicted that it would follow in the unlucky footsteps of the DreamCast, buried by the public expectations for the new PlayStation. Yet, it turns out that Microsoft’s biggest issue with satisfying demand for their new console. True, much of the fault is Microsoft’s – they rushed the 360 for a holiday launch last year, but the demand for their product is undeniable.
During the previous generation, Sony was coming off a dominant win by the PlayStation against the Saturn and N64. Sega and Nintendo fought from underdog positions, while Microsoft came late to the party. However, the PlayStation 2 did not live up to the hype generated around it. The GameCube’s graphics remained competitive, despite many predictions at the outset that it would be inferior. The Xbox had a clear advantage with its hard drive, graphics, and internet connectivity.
Consequently, while Sony is rolling into the new epoch off a decisive numbers win last time around, they are not the technology leaders and they know it. Microsoft successfully stole that momentum with the Xbox, and the PS2’s own failure to distance itself meaningfully from the GameCube didn’t help matters. As a result, the PlayStation brand name is eroded somewhat, now known more for being popular and having the most games, than for being the best console.
To make matters worse, Sony’s PR machine has been turned against it in recent months. Whereas everyone was expecting the PlayStation 3 to rule this generation as early as a year ago, with all the talk about Cell and Blu-Ray, this year Sony finds the media and hardcore gaming public hostile. Jokes about the hype of years past, like the “Emotion Engine”, are so commonplace they are now cliché. This ties back to the PlayStation 2’s failure to not only not beat the Xbox, but even the GameCube, which had been derided in preview press as underpowered. Worse, the press not only didn’t cut Sony any slack when it came to their pre-rendered movies at last year’s E3, they flat-out called Sony’s bullshit. Predictably enough, this year, the games demonstrated didn’t look anywhere near as good as those overly optimistic renders. Undoubtedly the PS3 looked good, but it didn’t live up to expectations Sony created for itself.
Quite simply, of all the attendees this E3, Sony had the most to prove. They came in with a plan to deliver the goods, the fastest, most powerful console to date. The PS3 was going to have the most graphics and processing power, it would definitely have a hard drive, and its media would be stored on Blu-Ray, the more advanced of the two next-gen disc formats. Perfect, right? Then Sony announced the price.