Sony at E3 2014: Can it hold its lead?

The PS4 has outsold the Xbox One, but Sony must remain on the offensive to stay on top. Here's a look at how it might do that.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to gaming, it's been a good year for Sony. It took advantage of some Microsoft missteps and came out of last year's E3 with momentum that carried over into the launch of the PS4, which has continued to outsell the Xbox One at around a 4-3 rate since both consoles hit the market in November.

The big question, of course, is what will Sony do to maintain its lead? It's a pertinent question, now that Microsoft will be releasing a Kinect-less version of the Xbox One that retails for the same price as the PS4 and presumably revealing some of its own new goodies at E3.

The simple answer is that it needs to stay on the offensive. With that in mind, here's a look at what to expect from Sony in advance of its press conference on Monday (June 9), the same day the $400 Xbox One is shipping.

Join CNET's live coverage of the PlayStation press conference: Monday, June 9, 6 p.m. PT

Games, games, and more games

At launch, while Microsoft was busy billing the Xbox One as a home entertainment hub, Sony kept things simple and stuck to the message that the PS4 was first and foremost a gaming machine. Never mind that the Xbox One probably had the slightly better slate of launch titles; the Sony message seemed to resonate with consumers (again, it helped that the PS4 was $100 less expensive than the Xbox One).

As I said in my "How Sony can up the PS4's game in light of the Xbox One price cut" piece, we've yet to see any truly compelling PS4 game exclusives. Infamous: Second Son is a great-looking game that's fun to play, but it's not a system mover. (Titanfall had more sizzle and helped move some Xbox One units, though that was partially due to the game being bundled with new systems for a limited time.)

There isn't that much to get excited about right now, and the list of Sony exclusives this holiday season looks pretty meager. A lot of people are talking about Bungie's Destiny (Bungie is the developer that brought us the Halo franchise), but that title will also be available for the Xbox One. The Last of Us Remastered is an exclusive, but its also just the graphically enhanced version of the PS3 hit.

Sony does have plenty of top-notch game studios in its stable, so it should have some impressive trailers to trot out. We're waiting for a real preview of the new Uncharted, not the lame teaser like the one below. And who knows which other Sony franchises will make the transition to the PS4.

We should also see a host of impressive indie titles. Sony has had a better relationship with indie developers than Microsoft, so expect Sony to play that relationship up and talk about the wide variety of indie titles headed to PS4 this year and next. In that vein, Edge of Reality just announced that Loadout, its cartoonish PC shooter, will be available as a free-to-play PS4 exclusive later this year.

Potential PS4/Vita Bundle

Sony isn't expected to lower the price of the PS4 anytime soon, but to remain aggressive in the wake of Microsoft's Xbox One pricing moves, it could offer some attractive bundle options.

Rumor has it that it will announce an Ultimate Gamer Bundle that includes the new Vita Slim and some game titles. It's unclear how much it will cost, but it should be a little less than the cost of both consoles combined.

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Rumor has it that Sony may announce a PS4-Vita gaming bundle at the show. Amazon France

Flesh out the details on PlayStation Now

At launch, Sony had hinted at backward compatibility through its upcoming cloud-based streaming game service, PlayStation Now, which will be available on the PS4, PS3, Vita, and select Sony Bravia TVs.

There was some hope that you'd be able to use your existing PS3 game discs to unlock cloud-based digital versions. There's some precedent for this in the video world. For instance, for a relatively small fee, Vudu allows you to convert a decent selection of DVDs and Blu-rays into cloud-based digital versions as part of its In-Home Disc to Digital program. (Vudu is owned by Walmart.)

Unfortunately, as it stands now, it appears that PlayStation Now won't give you any sort of credit for already owning a title. It's also unclear whether it's a subscription service like PlayStation Plus or if it will simply be a marketplace for older, non-PS4 titles, and indie games.

But things should become more clear next week. The questions are how affordable it will be and whether it will it be seen as another reason for consumers to choose Sony over Microsoft.

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The PS Vita TV and DualShock 3 controller. Screenshot by John Chan/CNET

Shine some light on PS Vita TV

Sony announced PS Vita TV last fall and it has already come out in Japan. It's an Apple TV-like microconsole that streams video and also plays Vita games and serves as a PS4 extender (you could argue that it has more even more in common with Amazon's Fire TV).

At around $100, it's an intriguing device, but Sony hasn't said when it would come to the US and other markets and how it will really tie into the whole PlayStation ecosystem. Back in January, it also announced a new cloud-based video service, which it said would allow users to access TV content through PlayStation consoles, as well as mobile devices like iPads and smartphones. Now's the time to show us what that video streaming service and PS Vita TV are all about.

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Previewing Project Morpheus. James Martin/CNET

More Morpheus details

Sony recently trotted out Project Morpheus, its virtual-reality headset that it said would one day become an accessory for the PS4. That's not expected to happen anytime soon, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Sony showing off Morpheus again if only to display the PS4's cutting-edge credentials.

As we've seen before at these shows, it's all about the impression you make and not necessarily real, tangible products.

 

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