Sony has confirmed what rumors suggested – PlayStation will once again not have a presence at E3, skipping 2020’s convention in favor of hosting its own (and probably taking part in other) events ahead of the PlayStation 5 launch.
This marks two years in a row that Sony is skipping E3, even though conventional wisdom suggested that Sony would never be absent in the same year it’s launching a new console – but Sony doesn’t need E3 to make the PS5 a success. E3, on the flipside, sure needs Sony to succeed as a showcase of the industry’s future, for fans and journalists alike.
Why Sony Leaving E3 Doesn’t Hurt the PS5
Now that it’s 2020 — this, the year of next-gen — Sony’s efforts will most assuredly focus on the PS5, both in terms of the console’s launch and its post-launch lineup. The overall message: why people would want to upgrade to this new system. Sony’s decision to skip E3 is a clear sign that, at the very least, those at Sony don’t think it needs a presence at the show to convince you of the merits of its new hardware.
And the company’s statement proves that. The full statement reads (emphasis added by IGN):
After thorough evaluation SIE has decided not to participate in E3 2020. We have great respect for the ESA as an organization, but we do not feel the vision of E3 2020 is the right venue for what we are focused on this year. We will build upon our global events strategy in 2020 by participating in hundreds of consumer events across the globe. Our focus is on making sure fans feel part of the PlayStation family and have access to play their favorite content. We have a fantastic line up of titles coming to PlayStation 4, and with the upcoming launch of PlayStation 5, we are truly looking forward to a year of celebration with our fans.
Instead of focusing on one big coming out party, Sony is deciding to spread its message to “hundreds” of events over the course of the next year, meaning E3 is going to have another massive hole to fill – one that felt impossibly deep last year.
For a pretty healthy stretch since the PS4’s launch in 2013, Sony seemingly dominated E3, both in terms of its announcements at the convention itself and the community discussions that followed each year – particularly compared to Microsoft’s faltering steps along the Xbox One’s path. Hell, we still talk about the “This is how you share games” video Sony made to pummel Microsoft in 2013. And that’s not even mentioning its subsequent years with reveals like God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and many other conversation-dominating titles.
But the news cycle in 2020 is a very different beast than it was even just a few years ago. With the constant deluge of gaming news and releases (on top of all the other crap happening on the internet competing for your attention), a big splash at E3 could be easily forgotten a week or two later. Microsoft will undoubtedly lean into the Xbox Series X at E3, Nintendo will show off its Switch lineup, and third party developers will all compete for airtime. In the midst of that, Sony would be just one of many headlines circulating the gaming community. Even if the PS5 were the biggest topic of the bunch, it would still share the spotlight with everything else, and likely be judged against the others as well (and we’re certainly no strangers to that kind of conversation and analysis).
Should Sony hold its own series of events — a precedent set with PSX and then formalized with the State of Play streams — Sony would control when and, perhaps more importantly, against what its message is delivered. With these, Sony can remain the focus of multiple press cycles that their own marketing teams created themselves, while steering clear of the competition’s messaging and, in turn, let shows like Gamescom, E3, and PAX do the work for them by showcasing non-exclusive offerings. Everyone, as far as Sony is concerned, wins.
IGN’s Top 25 PlayStation 4 Games
Given Sony’s pattern of announcements over the past year, I fully expect the company to lean into its Nintendo Direct-style format for future PS5 news, offering us teases every few months – even if they don’t quite have the pizzazz of the old E3 press conferences.
Another big benefit to this strategy is one of the most obvious: money. Renting out E3 show floor space, a theater venue (not everyone can own their own, like Microsoft), and the various other costs that go into a full production around E3 is not cheap – the show floor space alone costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for the week. Even if self-curated events measured anywhere close to E3 expenses, it’d at the very least be one that directly benefited Sony and Sony alone.
Lastly, it’s easy to assume E3 would be useful to Sony because of the ease of access to mainstream press, whose attention would be the most focused on gaming that week as compared to literally any other time of year. But Sony’s plan with the PS5 thus far has shown it doesn’t need E3 to reach mainstream platforms — the company can just do it itself.
The first official information around the PS5 came almost exclusively from Wired, an established tech publication, while further information has come from the PlayStation Blog and Sony’s own CES show. Pushing advertising for the PS5 online and on TV with an ambitious ad and press cycle can go a long way. And yes, maybe that means a bit more pressure is on Sony to generate the same level of audience E3 draws itself, but if the PS5 rollout so far is any indication, it’s more than willing to put up with the costs to dole out information in this way.
What Sony’s Absence Means for E3
Sony pulling out of E3 again – alongside several other companies downsizing or removing their presence from the show floor – marks the end of the era where E3 was the main hub for gaming news in the industry, and the calendar week everything else revolved around.
Nintendo eschewed its traditional conference years ago, though it still holds a presence on the show floor in addition to its yearly E3 Direct. Microsoft has moved out to the Microsoft Theater next door, operating as part of but E3, yet on its own terms and territory. While it was nice to see an E3 show floor where smaller developers and publishers were able to stand out, without Sony last year, E3 felt quite barren compared to years past (seriously, there were moments where the only thing missing was tumbleweeds)..
And as for that mainstream attention? Well, a lot of it is owed to E3 in part because of the universal magnitude of the week — E3 is often not just about the hottest new games, it’s about technology and trends, too. All topics that the mainstream press is willing to engage with (albeit at arm’s length) to capitalize on their audience’s entertainment interests. If more and more companies continue to pull out of the show, especially major console makers, those magazines and TV stations may be less inclined to tune in. It’s unclear what the future actually holds, of course, but it’s easy to imagine those headlines being just as much about the increasing obsolescence of E3 this year as they are about the actual games and hardware being revealed.
Lastly, and perhaps worst of all, Sony skipping E3 means that the event might be that much less exciting. Aside from the lack of energy that the Playstation powerhouse brought to the show in years past, the decision deprives us of that classic story of two heavyweights going head-to-head. We all remember how exciting Sony and Microsoft’s last major console spar was, and while that conversation will, of course, still happen, Sony’s absence makes the “stakes” of this year’s E3 that much lower.
Rather than the Xbox Series X and PS5 trading major blows over the course of an intense week, one where every fan’s eyeballs are glued to the conventionk, the contest will be spread out and less dramatic. While we’re sure no one would argue that it’s good these State of Plays and Inside Xboxes foster less animosity within the community, we can’t help but mourn a bit of friendly competition between the two titans. It likely won’t impact the PS5’s reception — that will be dependent on what Sony has to show during its own presentations — but it will mark a massive shift in how the ESA, press, and fans approach the industry’s (former?) Super Bowl from here on out.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s News Editor, PlayStation lead, and Beyond! host. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.
Link Source: Click Here