At E3 2014, Microsoft Played Catch-Up While Sony Leapt Ahead

Sony and Microsoft, the two biggest current home console makers (Nintendo is today, but the Wii U hardly compares anymore), have both had their chance to impress via splashy E3 conference keynotes, and both came out with very distinct shows. Sony actually discussed hardware, for instance, and showed a forward-thinking approach that left Microsoft looking like a bit of a laggard.

Microsoft did what it needed to do in terms of presenting games, games, and more games to an audience of Xbox One owners who needed to feel reassured about the value of their purchase. Microsoft has fallen off the pace of its main competitor Sony in the home console wars, and part of that was a launch sales pitch that split focus between gaming and home entertainment, and left the core early adopter audience feeling a bit cold. Microsoft’s E3 and pre-E3 announcements were all about doing a bit of a rollback and adopting a more Sony-like stance for its Xbox One marketing – ‘we like gamers, and we won’t make you buy a camera with your gaming console (anymore).’

Sony had leverage and leeway to do something different, and that’s just what they did. The PS4-maker unveiled new upcoming versions of its hardware, including an all-white edition, and also talked about its coming fall launch of the PlayStation TV, a $99 home streaming device that previously debuted as the PlayStation Vita TV in international markets. For $139, you get it with a dual shock controller, a memory card and the Lego Movie video game, and the streamer will work with many current generation PlayStation Vita titles out of the box.

The big news is that it’ll provide access to PlayStation Now, which is a Netflix-style subscription streaming game service that grabs content from the cloud. This will house a library of over 100 PlayStation 3 titles, as well as original content designed for PlayStation TV. Plus, if you own a PS4 already, you can stream your gaming experience to the PS TV in any other room in your house.

Of course, Sony’s PlayStation TV gives it a lot of potential in terms of becoming a home entertainment hub, but Sony is still pushing the gamer angle that served it so well when it launched the PS4, and ironically that puts it in a better spot to deliver a truly useful and successful home theater PC than anything Microsoft has done lately. And PS TV has the potential to appeal to more casual gamers and to those who already own PS4s at the same time, which makes it essentially the opposite of the Kinect in terms of add-on tech.

Sony definitely won last year’s E3, and early indications are that it won this year’s show, too. We still have a while to wait for PlayStation TV’s North American arrival, but it could be a hot holiday seller, and drive Sony’s platform advantage higher still.