Unleashing Scorpio vs. Silence on Neo: Which Approach Worked Best?

The time came and the time passed; Monday 13th June was a great day for the Video Games industry. The two major console manufactures in the industry brought their A-game to their respective conferences and both conferences shined, albeit it in different regards. Great games with the number 4 were shown off (God of War 4, Gears of War 4, Dead Rising 4) and both showed a plethora of other games exclusive to their respective platforms. One stark difference between the two was the inclusion of new console hardware. Microsoft went on the offensive with the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio, while Sony’s upgraded skipped the big stage with Sony opting to let the games do the talking instead. It begs the question, which approach worked best between the two conferences?

Let’s start with the megaton (in regard to hardware), Microsoft rounded off their show with the announcement of the heavily rumoured “Project Scorpio”. Microsoft touted this as “the most powerful console ever” and it’s making its way to Xbox gamers in 2017. Microsoft’s presser ended with a sizzle reel with renowned Microsoft studios and third party developers praising the Console’s 4K and VR capabilities and going as far as to call the machine a “monster“.

Microsoft adopted an approach similar to Sony’s 2013 reveal of the PS4 in which they explicitly put forth a message that this is “for the developers” and their attempt to win over some of the mind-share they lost with the Xbox One being the weaker console on the market since the two consoles launched in 2013.

Many were puzzled as to why Microsoft would announce the Scorpio at this point considering that it’s not due for release until “Holiday 2017” as per the sizzle reel at the end of the show. Gamers have had a few months now to come to terms with the emergence of the “upgradeable” consoles philosophy so reception didn’t seem as negative as the reception of the rumours prior to the official announcement of both Microsoft’s and Sony’s upgrades. However, many did ask the question or even state outright that this would ‘kill’ sales of the other console announced that’s coming August of this year; the Xbox One S.

In spite of this, the Xbox One S shot to the top of Amazon’s best seller charts and while not exactly letting us insight into overall early success of the pre-orders for the machine; it allows us to at least gauge some level of success this early on for the machine, currently retailing at $399 for the 2TB version.

Here’s some food for thought though; putting this machine in the spotlight this early on ensures that developers can being targeting this machine which in turn should result in a healthy line-up of games (both First and Third party) to showcase the graphical prowess of the machine when it does launch next years. Secondly, this dispels all the rumour mill talk that would have ensued were the machine not announced and reaffirms people that they can get a true VR and 4K experience, as long as they’re willing to hold off for a year.

Bringing out the Scorpio was a bold statement on Microsoft’s behalf; the software giant lost a lot of goodwill and mind-share at the start of this generation and the Scorpio is the culmination of Microsoft’s strategy to turn that around once and for all. However, it won’t be easy. Sony’s PS4 came out of the gate strong and dominates the mind-share between the majority of gamers and media people alike. Enthusiasm looks high for Project Scorpio but there’s also a fair share of skepticism. The Scorpio’s wide-appeal success will largely depend upon Microsoft’s excecution of marketing the device but seeing Microsoft go on the offensive like this is reminiscent of the Xbox 360 era; Microsoft’s golden years of dominating the gaming landscape rounded off a conference that treated fans to a great games lineup to go alongside all the hardware talk.

Sony adopted a different strategy from which we have come to expect from a PlayStation conference but it largely paid off for them. Coming in at 1 hour and 15 minutes approximately (shorter than previous PlayStation shows and even the Xbox show) Sony made full use of their time in pushing game after game. They opened big with God of War 4 and they sustained that momentum with strong showings from games like Horzion: Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human and Resident Evil 7.

In terms of software, Sony won in the “wow” factor department. They showed off some highly-anticipated games such as God of War 4 which was to make even the non-PlayStation gamers stop for a moment to admire. Insomniac’s PS4 exclusive Spiderman game was also another high point for the PlayStation conferece; Insomniac has made some great games in recent memory (Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive) so if anyone was to make a Spiderman game then I’m happy it was them.

Naturally, PSVR made its way to the conference but it was nowhere near as cringe-worthy as previous stage demos for the VR headset. Sony pulled off something I thought impossible; a good VR stage demo. They didn’t focus on the cringe-worthy demos whereby people come on stage and play the game and instead opted for a highlight reel that better sold the hype surrounding VR in the gaming landscape.

Kojima had the most bad-ass entrance I’ve ever seen at an E3 conference but showing his game this early left a sour taste in my mouth. He admitted that very same day to Geoff Keighley in the YouTube gaming livestream that he hadn’t even decided on what engine he was going to use to build his next game and it seemed very premature indeed to sell the hype this early. Out of respect of Kojima and his work; I openly admit that the trailer was awesome and got me hyped, but I know this is going to turn sour as I am forced to wait 3+ years for a game that I’m so ardently looking forward to.

Well, let’s get to the elephant in the room. Or, should I say, the elephant not in the room.

Sony Interactive Entertainment president Andrew House revealed to the Financial Times. that “It is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4,” he said. “We will be selling both [consoles] through the life cycle.” The new console was not revealed at E3 with House explaining that Sony instead is waiting to “ensure we have a full range of the best experiences on the new system that we can showcase in their entirety.”

Did this approach work for them? It’s complicated. Sony’s exclusively games-heavy showing was a breath of fresh air what with all the other conferences featuring the typical marketing talk etc. and was a far cry from Sony’s former showings where they often boast sales numbers etc. but instead they showed off game after game and this gave a very good impression for Sony’s show. The downside? Release dates, or lack thereof. With no solid release dates for most of the games shown and the absence of much hyped games from last year’s E3, it felt a little too good to be true that these games will be coming ‘soon’ and yet heavily anticipated and possibly one of the most delayed games in history; The Last Guardian, finally got a confirmed October release date for this year.

The absence of the Neo left a gap in Sony’s conference and it would’ve been nice to see it revealed at the end of the show instead of the end that they did have, that had my Twitter feed incessantly positing the question “Is it finished?” “Was that it?” and other variations of the same question. With the Neo rumoured to release this year alongside the PSVR headset, I noticed a lot of people speculating that perhaps the absence is a hint that Sony’s going back to carry out some hardware revisions to better match Project Scorpio, but this is unlikely to say the least. Developers have been building Neo games for months now and to go back and made any significant change this late would incur a great cost. Therefore, this approach worked in the sense that Sony had a lot of the “wow” moments of this E3 but the absence of their hardware upgrade left me, and many others, puzzled.

Unleashing Scorpio vs. Silence on Neo: Which Approach Worked Best? Let us know what you’re thinking and join the discussion by leaving a comment below.

Have your say!

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  1. I think Sony did exactly what they needed to do at E3, and that is to show their utter dominance in AAA exclusives that the XBOX won’t be able to match. By Microsoft showing Project Scorpio, they guaranteed another holiday season of dominance by the PS4. With Sony biding their time to show off titles built with the Neo in mind, even if they do not “upgrade” the hardware to match that 6TFLOPS of the Scorpio, they will have the mindshare on games alone and even with the rumoured 2TFLOPS extra processing power the Scorpio will supposedly possess, it will be too late, as the Neo will already be entrenched by then and Microsoft will be fighting an unwinnable battle for the consumer’s dollar. That said, it should be interesting to see if Sony will backpedal a bit and up the specs on their successor to the OG PS4. Peace out and great article.

    • I think the brilliance of Microsoft’s overall approach, not just with the preview of Project Scorpio, is that it reassures potential customers that if they jump into the Xbox ecosystem their investment will be secure far into the future. Whether that takes the form of staying on the existing Xbox One, or grabbing the Xbox One S, or next year upgrading to the “Scorpio”, customers can feel confident that they will not lose out. This was greatly reinforced by the addition of the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. That was a huge deal that many overlooked. Being able to purchase a game once and play it on any supported hardware, whether console, PC, or even in some cases mobile, is a game-changer. Especially by bridging the PC-console gap (which they did further by introducing cross-play), Microsoft is leveraging one of the biggest advantages they possess over Sony.

      Microsoft is creating an environment in which the player can scale their experience to fit their expectations or their budget, without feeling they are being left out somehow. Now Xbox players will be able to choose the level of fidelity they wish, from the basic Xbox One, to the super-enhanced “Scorpio” console, or all the way up to PC “Master Race” status if they wish. Yet all will be able to play the same games at the same time, even against each other in multiplayer. Additionally, since all of these devices will run Windows 10 and use DirectX 12, developers will be able to extract maximum performance from each and will have a consistent target to shoot for, just with varying levels of the same resources.

      I don’t see how Sony matches all of this. Just on the financial front alone, I seriously doubt Sony can go toe-to-toe with Microsoft if MS chooses to engage them in a protracted hardware arms race. Sony as a company is still struggling, even with the success of the PS4. Microsoft, on the other hand, just paid $26 billion for LinkedIn. The two companies have dramatically different levels of financial resources, and it looks like Microsoft has decided to push hard on the Xbox front. Sony clearly won this console generation, so Microsoft essentially decided to prematurely end it and reset the chess board on their terms.

      Good luck Sony, you’re going to need it.

      • A 6 teraflop console is meaningless if it has no games….and retreading Gears, Halo, and Forza has already hurt Microsoft this gen. They have very few interesting new Ip’s, while Sony seemingly has them all. And I do mean all of them, seriously. Sony’s first party studios are crushing it…..and unless Microsoft can introduce some games that people actually want to play, the Scorpio will be the most powerful, most capable, most unwanted overpriced brick in store shelves the globe over. Fix your first party studios Microsoft, and get off the Forza, Halo, Gears rotation already. It was old five years ago. Now it’s just plain sad.

  2. Great minds think alike. This new Xbox all its gonna do is make Xbox sales in the US a little higher. Xbox came out 1 year after PS2 and was quite powerful compared to PS2, But Sony always had way more and better games. Xbox games are short and their exclusives list is even shorter. Better software beats better hardware.

  3. You just have to look back at the Kinect 2 to see how Micro$oft supports its hardware and customers is laughable. Kinect is all but abandoned.

    Message for all XBone owners: You better upgrade to Scorpio or else.

  4. I honestly think the success of the Scorpio is going to depend on the price. Im guessing lowest at $500 and if the Neo releases this year at the rumored $400, that’s an automatic $100 difference. Given the history of poor sales for the more expensive console, it’s going to be difficult for Microsoft to attract the casuals. With a possible year headstart as well, a price drop on the Neo might very well happen at the launch of the Scorpio, giving it an even bigger price advantage. Much like the difference in price between VR units, Sony is going to attract the casuals and most of the gaming community are casuals.

    • The Scorpio is going to cost more than 499…..Microsoft is going all out with that console, and it will have a price that reflects what they’re putting into it. I really would not be surprised if it launched at above 600 dollars.

      • Microsoft is going to sell it at a loss, just to have the power advantage. Sony should have a year head start though and that should allow them to make the Neo even cheaper by the time Scorpio launches.

        • I hope you’re right, but I seriously doubt that. Microsoft has a board and shareholders to answer to, and the gaming division is a very small piece of the overall company. I believe they don’t really care about how many consoles they sell anymore, even the Scorpio, because it’s more about Windows 10 for them, even for their gaming division now. So it will be a premium console, with a premium price. I’m sure they don’t expect to sell 80 million Scorpio’s, they just want to ensure they have the most technically competent console on the market so they can beat their chest and market the engineering as some sort of breakthrough.

          • That’s a very valid point. They are pushing this Windows 10 agenda pretty hard and having a beast console will make it much easier to implement UWP. It’s also been said that Sony isn’t Microsoft’s competition. They’re more concerned about Apple, so you may be right.

  5. Curiosity and uncertainty is a great cheap marketing technique.

    Microsoft put cards on the table because they have to.

  6. I really don’t care that much about 4k….the truth is so many people fixate on resolution, when there are many other things (such as contrast ratio, refresh rate, motion blur, etc.) that effect picture quality so much more. If I have a choice between a 1080p oled television and a 4k led or lcd, I would take the lower resolution oled every time.

    Having said that, what I am interested in from the Neo and Scorpio is improved framerates for consoles.

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