As they say, it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it: in this case, we talk about confidence. It makes the difference in events like this — whether you see it in someone comfortable being on stage or a company comfortable with the message it’s presenting, you can tell when a press conference has confidence, and when it doesn’t. On this first day of E3, the console war between Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PS4 was front and center, but you could tell something about both of the conferences. Microsoft was trying to redefine itself, playing it safe and trying to make it through the day without becoming an object of derision. Sony, on the other hand, was just enjoying being Sony.
One of the chief criticisms of Microsoft’s press conference was that the company took gamer feedback almost to a fault: it focused so heavily on specific games that you could have walked out of the Galen Center without knowing whether or not the company actually made a console. It wasn’t bad, so much — some of the games looked great, even if many weren’t exclusives, but it was decidedly safe. There wasn’t much that felt exciting coming from Microsoft, and you could feel that in the presentation as well. It was timid. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but you could feel it in the room. For a company that needs to re-invigorate its console, that doesn’t feel great.
Sony, on the other hand, appears to have a solid grasp on the art of the E3 press conference, especially after last year’s knockout round. People like Andrew House and Adam Boyes were just sort of strutting across the stage, enjoying knowing the fact that they had made a hit console. They smiled and made jabs at their competition when they felt like it. It allowed Sony to stretch out a little bit, as well — Microsoft may have the reputation of being entertainment focused, but Sony is the company that spent time talking about their TV and social offerings. As is only appropriate, the company moved past first and third-party games to spend time talking about new products and services. The show had the feeling of forward momentum.
It isn’t even close to the conference last year, when Sony announced DRM policies and a low price to deafening applause in the room and on the internet. But today was very much a continuation of the narrative that we have seen so far — Sony swaggering forward, Microsoft putting itself together. There’s still room for things to change as we move forward to the holiday season, but it’s palpably clear where the momentum is.