Having had a few days to digest their big presentations, it’s clear that Microsoft has badly stumbled in the battle for control of the narrative over the course of this E3. Meanwhile Sony has managed to not only pivot from their February freak-out, but actually win the hearts and minds of the gamer audience. While the actual hardware may tell a different story, the narrative from now until November has been set. But a more important question still remains: In a world where the console itself is fighting for relevancy, what, exactly, is the war they’re trying to win?
Once again the contenders have switched places in the endless narrative of arrogant heir apparent vs. scrappy underdog. That story has been with us since Sega and Nintendo battled for control for the living room back in the 90s. Now Sony settling back in the role of the gamer’s benevolent protector while Microsoft appears to have become greedy and tone-deaf.
But Microsoft may have recognized that there is no winning by playing to a a shrinking base of hardcore players. Their console has gone mainstream, abandoning gamers to tilt at broadening a living room where the game console exists to lets a family dance together while simultaneously making phone calls, until exhausted, they sink into the couch to watch the latest sporting event together.
More fundamentally, we are rapidly leaving behind a living room entertainment experience to be fighting for, leaving the console giants fighting to gain the attention of a tribe of dedicated (but fickle) fans, or searching to entertain a mainstream entertainment market with dozens of options and an impossibly short attention span.