It's good to be king.
Sony has an easy job at this year's E3 press conference: The PlayStation 4 is winning the console race with 40 million units shipped as of March of this year, and the hardware continues to provide better visuals for many multiplatform games while exclusives continue to sell well.
Sony doesn't have to launch new hardware if it doesn't want to, and the company gets to continue to focus on games and the core platform of the PlayStation to keep people happy. Sony is sitting where its competitors would like to be, which means the press conference on June 13 at 9 p.m. EDT can focus on delighting existing customers and keeping the momentum rather than making up any lost ground.
Sony's show takes place after Microsoft's as well, which means the gaming giant will know what it's up against before the show begins. And Nintendo? Heck, Nintendo has a Zelda game this year. That's not a hard act to compete with.
So let's talk about what we're likely to see, what we're maybe somewhat less likely to see and what might be a bit of wishful thinking. Before we begin, you can remind yourself what Sony showed last year with the video below.
Update: Since publication, Sony has confirmed that an updated PlayStation 4, thought to be codenamed "Neo," is coming but did not give a launch date or price. However, Andrew House, the president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said "PlayStation Neo" will not be shown at E3. The original text of this article follows:
We'd consider this much more hypothetical if the reports weren't so numerous and consistent. The PlayStation Neo is rumored to be an updated version of the PlayStation 4 architecture aimed at providing even more graphical horsepower to games, which would allow the hardware to display 4K video and gaming content and bring the system closer to the higher-end gaming PCs that are currently required to power VR rigs.
Games released moving forward would likely include "standard" graphical modes for players with the original hardware as well as options to use the added horsepower of the Neo for higher framerates, resolution or better graphical fidelity in VR. This would give existing fans a reason to upgrade while offering a higher-end option for players jumping in for the first time, while also competing with PC-based VR systems.
A higher-end PlayStation 4 means that it's time to drop the price on the existing hardware, or to offer a smaller, redesigned PlayStation 4 for the players who don't want to be on the cutting edge.
This might seem obvious to the extent it could have been a bullet point further down this article, but the lower-priced options are where consoles often see the most movement in their lifeline. We're speculating about a hardware redesign here, but lower price? That's a pretty safe bet.
You likely have a PlayStation 4 if you're an enthusiast, and the system launched at a lower price than the Xbox One while offering more power for games. That puts it in a good position to continue to place pressure on its rival when it comes to price, and the power of having the hardware with the lowest price on store shelves for the holidays is hard to overestimate, no matter how many things you pack in with your bundle. A budget option will do much to get the fence sitters to finally commit to the PlayStation platform, and for Sony to continue to pull ahead in the sales race.
This may not be a huge deal if you love gaming enough to read Polygon or follow E3 news on a daily basis, but the silent mainstream gamers love an inexpensive system that has been out for a few years. This is where Sony will see its base expand, and the lower the price, the better.
The "complete" bundle for the PlayStation VR will be sold for $500, and pre-orders have been open for some time. E3 gives Sony the chance to give us a solid release date, along with confirmation on what games will launch with the hardware.
This all fits together in a very nice way: A lower-priced PlayStation 4 will decrease the overall price of a PlayStation VR bundle that includes the console itself, and it's very likely that Sony will announce a bundle that includes PlayStation VR and PlayStation Neo for those players who want more performance and are willing to pay for it.
The Oculus Rift with a minimum-spec system costs around $1,500, although the launch of the next generation of GPUs will likely drive that price down a bit, and Sony should see the current cost of a gaming PC and the Rift as the ceiling for Neo and PlayStation VR pricing. If Sony can beat that package by a few hundred dollars, it will have successfully launched a high-quality, affordable VR system that will launch via Sony's enviable distribution system into stores like Walmart and GameStop.
While everyone is talking about VR, and competitors are struggling to get systems shipped, Sony may deliver the lowest-priced option for players who just want to plug in a few wires and begin. Ease of use and low cost are Sony's biggest weapons here, and it's very possible PlayStation VR becomes the VR platform to beat as both the Vive and Rift struggle to fulfill existing orders.
The PlayStation VR is also, by far, the most comfortable headset on the horizon, especially if you wear glasses. Sony has many advantages when it comes to launching a "mainstream" VR product, and E3 is the time it drives that point home.
Sony's 2015 press conference was less a series of announcements and more of a collection of owls flying in from Hogwarts. Some of the news may have made us happy initially, but its time to make things like The Last Guardian a bit more real. Maybe allow people to play it, or even see more of the game in video form?
Sony had an amazing show last year, but now it's time to take The Last Guardian from something that exists to something that proves itself as a game that's still worth caring about outside of nostalgia.
The Gran Turismo series has always pushed the limits of what the PlayStation platforms can handle graphically, so it's tempting to speculate that the series' first outing on the PlayStation 4 may also be coming to the Neo. Especially since Gran Turismo Sport will include support for the PlayStation VR.
There has to be something shown for the long-awaited entry in the franchise, even if it's just in video form.
Dark Souls 3 has shipped three million copies worldwide, an impressive number. From Software makes mainstream games with a huge audience, and it has a lot of possibilities for announcements during Sony's show. Will we see Dark Souls 3 DLC? Any hint of what else the company is working on?
"Dark Souls 3 will mark the last game where the development project began before I became president," Hidetaka Miyazaki told GameSpot late last year. "The next title will be a game that was conceived while I was president. I believe that From Software has to create new things. There will be new types of games coming from us, and Dark Souls 3 is an important marker in the evolution of From Software."
This is all well and good, but we're still not ruling out a Bloodborne sequel. Moving onto new things is great and well, but the world of gaming loves a sure thing, and these games sell in huge numbers while still somehow feeling niche to each fan.
Update: Since publication, Bungie confirmed that Destiny's next expansion, Rise of Iron, will launch Sept. 20 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. PlayStation has been the game's lead platform, so some stage time still is anticipated for Destiny. The original text of this article follows:
We know there is a sequel to Destiny coming. We know there is another expansion coming. Bungie and Sony could dominate the news cycle by showing off both during the press conference, even if it were just in video form.
Destiny's ongoing content strategy could allow Bungie to do some neat things here by setting up the story and updates of the sequel in the first game's last update, and it would be a huge coup if Sony locked up the announcement along with some exclusive content for the PlayStation 4 ... and it's not like there isn't a history of Sony and Bungie working together for E3.
Sony's portable system may live on due to ports of successful indie games — the Vita is one of the best ways to play Downwell, for instance — but there is little value in Sony bringing it up during the press conference. Don't expect much.
For more details on E3's live streaming schedule make sure to check out our one-stop shop for the show's streams.