Winners and Losers From E3 Video Game Show
While the video game industry was optimistic going into E3, the investment community was a bit more skeptical.
Certainly, the introduction of new consoles would give shares of the sector a boost, but would it be enough to bring back the glory days? Analysts were uncertain. But as E3 draws to a close, some of those industry observers have become more optimistic about the next 12 months and beyond.
"We are incrementally bullish on the upcoming video game console cycle following our initial meetings/conversations at the 2013 E3 Expo," Sterne Agee's Arvind Bhatia said in a note to investors. "We think there is a good chance of double-digit next-gen console-unit growth in the initial years (compared to the same period in the last cycle). This is stronger than our most recent expectation of flat-to-down console-unit sales in the initial years (cycle over cycle)."
(Read More: E3: Scenes From the Video Game Circus)
The optimism comes from a variety of categories. First among them are the console price points. While Sony will have a base price advantage of 20 percent over Microsoft, both consoles fell within the projected range for analysts.
The quality of the games has also buoyed spirits. Some showgoers have described the 2013-2014 game lineup as the best in years—possibly ever. And the quality of the titles on display will hopefully translate into a sales boost—for both current and next generation systems.
Investors are still on the fence, though. Shares of the sector have been down this week, something that publishers say baffles them.
"E3's usually a boost for this industry, particularly when you have new consoles coming out," said Peter Moore, chief operating officer of Electronic Arts. "I think it's a question of 'have video games reached their peak?' [Investors] are getting out of game stocks because they don't know how to model a world where a lot of the information isn't [shared] because it's digital sales. … So any hint of bad news sends [investors] to the exit doors."
One of the things investors will be looking at in the days that follow E3—and as the hype machines cool down—is who 'won' certain aspects of the show. It's certainly a debatable point, and one that history will decide, but here's our take on who seemed to come out on top in a number of categories.
The Public-Relations War
Microsoft shocked people, including some publishing partners, when it announced the price of the Xbox One, coming in $100 higher than most were expecting.
(Read More: Microsoft May Have Flubbed Xbox One Price Game)
Worse, it followed up the announcement with an incredibly tone-deaf reply from Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business (and head of the Xbox division) when questioned about the system's requirement for users to connect to the Internet every 24 hours.
"We have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity: It's called Xbox 360," Mattrick told Geoff Keighley on "GameTrailers."
Sony, meanwhile, came in at a lower base price. And it plainly stated it would put no restrictions on used games and would not require the PS4 to be connected to the Internet.
Never mind the fact that if a camera is added to the PS4, giving parity to the two systems, the price difference is only $29 and that Sony (just like Microsoft) is letting its publishing partners make the final call about whether used games will carry any restrictions.
Third-party Games, The Console Division
Cross-platform games are the norm these days, but there are some timed exclusives that can give a system an advantage. Nintendo is out of this race primarily because Ubisoft pulled back its support of the Wii U and EA is not making any games for the system currently due to weak sales.
Sony has focused its efforts on developers, but Microsoft has sewn up deals with publishers, who often have the ultimate say. Activision is giving the Xbox One exclusive windows for all Call of Duty DLC. And EA is making "TitanFall," the new game from the creators of "Call of Duty," exclusively to Microsoft. Content is king in the gaming world—and Microsoft has ensured it will have lots of high quality games.
Third-party Games, Publisher Division
There were a lot of good games on display, but EA and Ubisoft rose above the crowd. With a pair of new graphics engines, "Battlefield 4" and "TitanFall," which looks to be a monster hit in the making, EA had a steady flow of traffic and got some of the biggest cheers at the show.
Ubisoft, though, has one of its strongest lineups in the past 10 years. "Watch Dogs" shows all the signs of being one of the year's biggest games, "Assassin's Creed 4" could refresh the series and "The Division"—an upcoming Tom Clancy game—has been nominated for several awards. Both companies look set to see notable growth as the new consoles launch.
Microsoft is investing heavily in creating new games, and Sony has a strong track record, but no one comes close to Nintendo in this fight.
Whether it's Zelda, Pikmin, Donkey Kong, Kirby or Mario, Nintendo has a seemingly endless supply of beloved characters to draw from. If the company really wants to boost Wii U hardware sales, it might have to make a difficult decision and bundle a copy of this year's "Super Mario 3D World" with the system. Should it do that, Nintendo could get right back in the game.