As usual, Microsoft is firing first with its press conference this E3, but it’s doing so even earlier than anticipated. While the company usually rules the headlines on the Monday morning of the biggest week in gaming, this year it’s putting itself even further ahead of Sony’s traditional Monday evening conference (assuming it takes place at that time again), airing on Sunday, June 11th, at 2:00 PM PDT. It’s surprisingly early announcement of a press conference date indicates that this is going to be a significant showing for the company.
The picture of project Scorpio is a pretty good indicator, too.
— Xbox (@Xbox) February 15, 2017
This E3 is shaping up to be the biggest batle between Sony and Microsoft since 2013, the year where each had to convince gamers to buy a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One respectively. Microsoft’s more powerful, 4K-focused Xbox One is looming threateningly over Sony’s comfortable first-place position in this generation’s console war. PS4 Pro may already be offering enthusiasts enhanced performance and visuals, but Microsoft is positioning its device as a far more powerful iteration. It’s going to be a hugely interesting battle, and VR is going to play a big part in that.
Project Scorpio is reportedly capapble of “high fidelity VR”. Nearly a year on from its reveal and we still don’t know what that really means. What headset or headsets might Microsoft support on its console? How will experiences differ to those on PlayStation VR (PSVR)? Microsoft has a lot of questions to answer, especially with the reveal of its Windows 10 VR headsets.
Just how it tackles them, and Sony’s response, is likely going to be VR’s biggest story at this year’s show. Microsoft has a unique opportunity on the hardware front; if it utilizes PC-based headsets then there’s a good chance it will support devices with higher specs and better tracking than PlayStation VR, which is a device that allows you to lean into your virtual worlds, but doesn’t accommodate room scale and struggles with occlusion.
The added power of Scorpio could also give it a leg up. Last E3 Bethesda strongly hinted that Fallout 4 would support VR on Microsoft’s console, but there’s no such word on PSVR support. It’s a massive game to say the least, and it’s possible the PS4 (and original Xbox One) couldn’t handle it running in VR. A possible power gap could mean Scorpio is treated to many of the Rift and Vive games that haven’t seen PSVR ports yet.
In other words, Microsoft could be about to put Sony’s PSVR in a corner.
But Sony isn’t defenseless, however. With hardware out of the way, it only has to show us one thing at this year’s show: games. That’s an area that the company has handled very, very well on its wider console over the past few years. It’s past two press conferences have made the dreams of many a gamer come true; The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a new God of War, an exclusive game with Hideo Kojima, Resident Evil 7’s surprise reveal. This is a company that understands how to get the hardcore fanbase into a frenzy of excitement, and it needs to apply that to PSVR at this year’s show if it’s to drown out Scorpio.
While the rivalry between HTC and Oculus is currently VR’s biggest, I get the feeling that’s going to change this E3, as both major console makers welcome the technology into the fold. That might sound like an attempt to stoke the flames of fanboyism, but it’s really a statement of anticipation; rivalry eradicates complacency, and there’s no room for that in the VR industry right now.
So grab the popcorn and get comfy; it’s going to be one hell of a show.