The Dangerous Precedent of Sony Skipping E3

E3 has come and gone and, in my opinion, it wasn’t all that great. There were only a handful of really stellar looking games. The Outer Worlds looks like it’ll be a grand Fallout/Elder Scrolls experience in spaaaaaace. Cyberpunk 2077 upped the ante by adding John Wick… er, I mean, Keanu Reeves. Final Fantasy VII Remake looks like it’s going to be a fantastic revamp of the classic game and probably the highlight of the entire week.

Like every other E3 before it, there are times when the news weren’t because something was announced or revealed. Rather, you notice when something isn’t. This year, there were notable absences, such as Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil 2, Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield, Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 3 and Nintendo’s Metroid Prime 4, just to name a few.

But the biggest and most notable absence has to be Sony. It was a big shock when Sony announced last year that they wouldn’t be showing up at E3 2019 as they’ve been a mainstay of the trade show for years. Their official reasoning is that they’re looking for “inventive opportunities” to connect with the gaming community. It may have been a good decision, though, as Sony didn’t look like they had anything really huge this year like they did during previous E3 shows. Sony’s E3 2018 show could be deemed as an experiment from the traditional keynote as they only featured four games. Too bad it was an experiment that failed.

To be fair, Sony has been trying out a couple of more “inventive opportunities” with their State of Play shows… which is pretty much a ripoff of Nintendo’s Treehouse/Direct shows. Even so, their absence at this year’s E3 did make the trade show more empty. And, honestly, this sets up a scary precedent for future E3 shows.

Now, Sony isn’t the first game developer or publisher to skip out on E3. Nintendo has stopped making the traditional keynotes in favor of doing taped segments for years already. In fact, Activision didn’t go this year as well. But it was definitely weird that Sony, the same manufacturer of the PlayStation console, the very thing that makes them truckloads of cash, didn’t go to E3. The annual week-long event is probably the best time to showcase what you have in store for gamers in the future. There’s always going to be a lot of buzz around anything spectacular that’s showed during E3.

But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Sony just didn’t have anything high-profile enough or maybe they just didn’t have enough content (ie. games) to show. I don’t think that’s the case, by the way. That have have been the case last year and they made the choice to not even try this year as they didn’t have anything show this year. So, why even bother putting together a fancy E3 keynote without anything to feature? Makes sense, right?

But what if every company follows this line of thinking? This would not only be bad for E3, but for the gaming industry as well.

Think of it this way: without anything pushing game publishers, developers and, more importantly, video game console makers, to keep on putting together creative and innovative games, why would they even try? Yes, they’re in it to make money and they do that by selling their wares to gamers. But gamers would like to see what the games are like before they purchase them. E3 has always been a venue where developers, publishers and game manufacturers try their best to show that, well, they have the best stuff for their target market: gamers.

E3 has always been a way to build up hype for their upcoming products and they race to put their best foot forward. It may just be a teaser trailer or a full-blown demo, but E3 has historically been the place when to release them. You know why we’re always so interested to see who “wins” E3? It’s precisely for that reason.

So when a company like Sony decides “Hey, we don’t need to do this because we don’t have anything to show,” then the company doesn’t care about getting gamers excited for what’s down the pipeline. It sends a message that they don’t need to try during the year’s biggest week for games. This can make competition stagnate because, if one company isn’t trying all that hard, the others will adapt as well to the trend and think it’s okay not to try too hard, too.

You can say that Sony is just skipping out on this year’s E3 and that is true for the most part. But it’s generally been like Sony thinks it’s won this year’s console generation with the PlayStation. Despite me being in the PlayStation camp of the entire console war, I do want Sony to keep trying their best to impress me. Remember that E3 2015 when Sony revealed both Shenmue III, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Final Fantasy VII Remake? What about in 2016 when they showed God of War and Spider-Man?

You can tell they were trying their best to keep the excitement going for those upcoming products because it was E3! Other companies tried to show off what they had as well and things felt good because everyone was trying. I don’t really believe that companies really care about “winning” E3. But they probably like to hear that they did.

It’s actually when game companies compete against each other is when their games are actually at their best. Sony not attending E3 makes it seem like they’re not going to even try. You can say they have nothing to show but that’s not really true. They could’ve shown more of Death Stranding and not just release a simple trailer before E3. The Last of Us Part II should be well into development. Why didn’t they show more footage and gameplay? What about the upcoming Catherine: Full Body, a game that is a PlayStation 4 exclusive? Why not show that?

Of course, Sony could just be building up to something really big for next E3 but that doesn’t give them the excuse to just not show anything this year. It feels like a cop out to just raise your hands in surrender and not attempt to show gamers that you will have the goods.

But what if other game publishers and console manufacturers follow this same like of thinking? There may come a time when we may not even have an E3, not in the way we remember, anyway. Or maybe companies just release trailers and gameplay footage sporadically, basically only showing up when everything is polished instead of pushing themselves to try their best all the time?

I do think Sony giving up on E3 this year is a one time thing. But I just don’t like the thought that it starts a trend.

Why do you think Sony skipped this year’s E3? Let me know in the comments section below!

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3 thoughts on “The Dangerous Precedent of Sony Skipping E3

  1. (This will be a long one and my English is not that great, i can read far better than i can write, but please bear with me on this one)

    Let’s say you have a product that costed millions of dollars developing and now you want to show this to the public. Which is the best way to do this?

    a) Make the announcement calmly on a schedule and timing of your choice
    b) Scream out this in the middle of a lot of people also screaming, in a place where if people decide that you didn’t “won” everything will be buried and the hype will be dead before it even begins?

    The problem with E3’s “winner” culture is that companies have little to gain and much to lose. Best case scenario, you have the same result you would have doing things on your own timing. Most likely scenario, marketing will come out with 1/10 of the strength that could.

    From a marketing point of view, E3 is a nightmare for business because it is an advertising crushing machine. Of course it’s fun for fans to point out “who won” and make a full Nelson Munchz in the face of “losers” (HA-HA). Now if it were MY millions invested in this game, not so much.

    E3 was born at a time when it was important (putting together all the gaming press in one place was a great help before the internet), but not today. You can not make a big game without leaks and E3 is pretty much just a checklist for us to cynically judge who won and who lost.

    In my opinion, this is bullshit. What E3 should be today is not this grinding ads machine that we have become accustomed to, but to move to a format more like a Comic-con: to approach creators, to make a panel with people who matter in the industry, and perhaps show some neat bonus materials.

    It is not by chance that the highlight was precisely the presence of a super charismatic actor (or at least internet thinks so) involved in the production of a game and the video of how will be the gameplay of FFVII. All other announcements, well, would not make ANY DIFFERENCE if have been made at E3 or on August 15, September 10 or February 4.

    This current format of E3 has become a white elephant that most harms companies and leaves everyone with that feeling you had (“E3 has come and gone, in my opinion, it was not all that great”). No one is happy. What E3 can be, however, is an event for fans of the Comic Con model, something much more fun as an experience.

    Trailers can be released any day of the year, but imagine a panel with Del Toro and Kojima talking about Death Stranding. Avengers had a cool trailer, but imagine how much cooler it would be to have the game’s voice actors (who are just the best voice actors in that IMHO industry, Square got a fantastic team here) talking about it. Or anything that people far more clever than me could come with, actually. The point is: this could be an event to celebrate our culture as gamers, not a few hours long infomercial

    E3 can be much more than it is today and everyone has much to gain with changes. And the first step is just what Sony has done: drop it as the “ads grinder machine”, no one benefits from it.

    • I’m all for revamping E3 but they have to be careful about what direction to take it. I’ve read somewhere that they may go focus on eSports and… I don’t think that will benefit anyone. The Comic-Con idea could work, though.

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