Sony stutters as greatness remains on the horizon.

Coming into E3 2017 gamers questioned whether Sony could deliver another year of dreams. In the past two years we’ve seen them announce Final Fantasy VII Remake, The Last of Us Part II, Crash Bandicoot Remake and Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding. The answer was no.

This year was a return to a more predictable line up. In a similar vein to Microsoft, Sony presented a solid line up of titles during a sleek and uninterrupted conference with only Shaun Layden taking to the stage.

Layden was keen to make himself scarce as he emphasised the importance of focusing on games. God of War’s cocktail of story and combat looks stunning, Days Gone enjoyed a more effective showing this year than last and Detroit: Become Human’s versatile narrative gameplay is shaping up nicely. However, the latter two titles remain without a release window.

There was a lack of concrete release dates which plagued Sony’s offerings. Shadow of the Colossus is getting a remake and Monster Hunter World was also announced, both with a 2018 release window. Sony also offered up several VR experiences in Skyrim, Final Fantasy XV, Bravo Team, Superhot VR and Starchild. Supermassive Games revealed a prequel to their 2015 sleeper hit Until Dawn with The Inpatient coming to PSVR sometime in the future.

We had to look to Sony’s pre-conference stream show for some offerings releasing this year. Highly anticipated Ni No Kuni 2 is releasing November 7th, Knack 2 is arriving in September and Gran Turismo Sport is coming this fall. Sony has once again left the path clear for 3rd party titles during the holiday season like Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: World War II, both announced to be featuring exclusive content on Playstation 4.

This represents a strategy which Sony may at first have inadvertently stumbled upon. Both Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn missed their holiday season release dates in 2015 and 2016, releasing early in the following year. This allowed Sony to release high quality titles throughout the year, whilst having exclusive content deals with big 3rd party titles makes Playstation 4 the enticing platform to buy them on. Both of the aforementioned titles had their big DLC story updates shown during the conference, with Uncharted: Lost Legacy arriving August 22nd. It seems Sony are going to continue with this effective formula, though it certainly damaged the impact of their press conference showing this year.

Sony closed with a mesmerising demonstration of their exclusive Spiderman title from Insomniac. With flawless transitions from cut scenes to gameplay, grand set pieces and a sleek design the game looks like it could be a special title. The only let down wasn’t the Quick Time Events that cropped up during combat, but that this title is also lined up for a 2018 release window.

2018 is going to be an impossibly busy year for video games if Sony hits these release windows, that’s without even mentioning 3rd party titles like Far Cry 5 and Red Dead Redemption slated to release early next year. This conference lacked surprises and titles releasing this fall, but the style of the presentation and the sustained stream of trailers dropping made for an impressive watch.

Just as they hung zombies from the convention centre rafters, Sony dangled several carrots in front of us, however, greatness must remain awaiting for Playstation 4 owners a little while longer.

Microsoft’s hype train is derailed by the Xbox One X

Prior to E3 much of the hype surrounded Project Scorpio. Would this be Microsoft’s big come back, or another terra-flop? Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, wasted no time in unveiling the latest addition to the Xbox One family: Xbox One X.

Priced at $499 and releasing on November 7th the Xbox One X was confirmed to be Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s PS4 Pro, and it’s more than a match for its competition. Its specs comprehensively crush Sony’s premium console offering. However, given the hype, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that the Xbox One X announcement detracted from what was otherwise a solid press conference from Microsoft.

Spencer announced that they would be showing over 40 games during their press conference, with 20 Xbox One exclusive games. It’s important to note that this conference continued the E3 trend of playing fast and loose with the definition of ‘exclusive’, many of the titles shown were ‘Console Launch Exclusive’ titles rather than outright exclusives.

After a lengthy presentation of Forza Motorsport 7, which looked phenomenal, we got our first official glimpse of Assassin’s Creed Origins. Metro: Exodus blended a tense trailer with a remix of ‘In the House, In a Heartbeat’ (the song you remember from 28 Days Later) to whet the appetite and the refreshing visual upgrade coming to Minecraft was a pleasant surprise. The announcements were slick; the trailers relentless.

We were treated to a plethora of titles which will do a solid job of padding out the Xbox One catalogue. Titles like The Last Night and The Artful Escape were the most stylish offerings from ID@Xbox Games. Ori and the Blind Forest’s sequel was announced and Full Bright’s Tacoma is heading for an August 2nd release date on PC and Xbox One. Although, nothing quite enriches the Xbox One catalogue like the big reveal of backwards compatibility with original Xbox games. It’s a wonderfully diverse offering. Closing the show with Bioware’s beautiful new IP Anthem was almost perfect. However, it needed to be an Xbox exclusive. Microsoft needed that mic-drop moment to capitalise on the momentum they’ve built over the past year. With so much hype surrounding the Xbox One X, that expectation corroded the impact of Microsoft’s show reel.

There remains a dearth of exclusive Xbox games which will entice gamers into returning to the Xbox ecosystem. There was no Bloodborne, Uncharted, Persona, Last of Us or Horizon equivalent. The titles announced look fun, some of them look innovative, but none of them are enough to entice gamers into investing in the Xbox ecosystem. Most of the games are mid-tier games which ordinarily would have made for a good showing from Xbox, but they needed more. If these titles were padding out the existing catalogue without the promise of the “most powerful games console ever” then this conference would have gone down as one of their best showings in years. No console exclusive announced, be it ‘console launch exclusive’ or ‘outright exclusive’ (please stop bastardising the word guys), was a console selling title.

That is where Microsoft is right now, they will be compared unfavourably to Sony on exclusives and nothing announced at the conference stands up as a console exclusive. Microsoft’s new console crushes its opposition in terms of specs, but it’s exposed without upcoming quality content of the aforementioned Sony exclusives. It’s not about ‘winning’ but rather offering a reason to play on Xbox. Timed exclusives are not enough. As it stands, Crackdown 3 and Super Lucky’s Tale will be the two games launching with the Xbox One X and, given the hype, there needed to be more.

Microsoft put together a good conference, however, they remain hampered by the false start which has plagued them this generation. The hype train they unleashed last year with their Project Scorpio announcement derailed what would have been an effective showcase. None of the exclusive offerings were emphatic enough to showcase the strength of the Xbox One X. Had those games been announced for a stable Xbox ecosystem things would look much more positive.

It’s testament to how bad the initial Xbox One release was that the presence and unveiling of the world’s most powerful games console could be seen to be detrimental, but what Xbox needs right now is games, diverse, unique and exclusive games. Whilst their conference provided a quantity of those, it didn’t manage to provide a quality exclusive title required for Xbox One X’s unveiling.