E3, the annual deathmatch for video game consumer sentiment, wraps up this afternoon.
It was a big year for the Electronics Entertainment Expo, as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 made their debuts on the E3 stage. There are a few more presentations for individual games today, but the major companies have all had their turns on the stage.
So how did audiences react to the long-awaited next generation of video game consoles? And which publishers impressed the most? Here’s a quick roundup:
Microsoft (MSFT) had the most buzz coming into the conference, but mostly squandered it. Gamers were upset about the recent Xbox One reveal, feeling that Microsoft ignored them in favor of Xbox-as-entertainment-center users. Microsoft’s E3 conference didn’t do much to win them back: The console’s always-online requirement, banning of used games and $499 pricetag were strongly criticized by the community. But, hey, new Halo teaser, right?
Sony (SNE) was the big winner of the conference, rubbing all of Xbox’s failures in Microsoft’s face. The PlayStation 4 can be played offline. It plays used games. And it’s $100 less than the Xbox One. It was a well-played move by Sony, basically telling gamers, “We care about you, and Microsoft doesn’t.” Judging by hyperbolic Internet reaction, it worked.
Nintendo (NTDOY) didn’t have a main stage presentation this year, opting instead to broadcast its Nintendo Direct presentation during E3. The company — whose WiiU console sales have been extremely disappointing — announced two big titles for the system: Mario Kart 8 and a new Super Smash Bros. entry. Both series are perennial bestsellers, and could help boost WiiU sales. Nintendo also announced new installments for the Zelda, Super Mario and Donkey Kong franchises. Overall, it was a solid, if extremely conservative, showing from the company.
Electronic Arts (EA), the reigning Worst Company in America, surprised the audience with a Star Wars: Battlefront 3 announcement — good news for everyone mourning the death of LucasArts. Less shockingly, the announcements were heavy on sequels and sports games, including Battlefield 4, Dragon Age 3 and a follow-up to Mirror’s Edge. But overall, an uncharacteristically good presentation from a company that could benefit from better consumer sentiment.
Activision Blizzard (ATVI) didn’t announce a bunch of new titles, but the ones they showed off were huge. Skylanders SWAP Force looks to continue the dominant success of the kids’ game franchise. Destiny, co-published with Halo creator Bungie, has been one of the most talked-about games since its reveal. And expect huge numbers from Call of Duty: Ghosts, the next installment in one of the best-selling game franchises of all time, and the first on the next generation of consoles. (The previous game in the series, Black Ops II, earned more than $500 million in the first 24 hours — the biggest entertainment launch ever. And that game didn’t even have Riley the dog.)
GameStop (GME) doesn’t present at the conference, but rumors of next-gen consoles restricting used games still made GME a focus of investor concern. The stock dropped about $5 in the week following Microsoft’s Xbox One announcement, which did nothing to quell those fears. However, Sony’s adamant proclamation that gamers should own their games and should have the right do what they like with them — including trade or sell them — essentially helped preserve GameStop’s (immediate) future. The stock gapped up almost $2 to start the next day’s trading.
Otherwise, stock reactions have been varied. Electronic Arts has fallen 10% since Monday, while Sony is the biggest gainer, up about 4% this week (but remember: Sony is a many-tentacled octopus, so PS4 is hardly the only thing moving that needle). The rest of the stocks mentioned here have moved, but not by much.
But at least the announcements at E3 at least gave investors something to think about.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.