Sony has just made one of the biggest E3 announcements yet, in a manner of speaking. Months before the event, Sony stated that they will not be attending the upcoming E3 2019 showcase. This will be the first time in the Electronic Entertainment Expo’s history (24 years) that the company will not be representing the popular Playstation gaming brand at the conference. It has not only been an unexpected shock to the loyal gaming fans, but also to media outlets and influencers. I guess you could say that Sony created quite a “DualShock” of reactions in the gaming community. The most important question now is what does this news mean for Sony’s future competition going into the next-gen console cycle? Does Sony have a wildcard plan or are they simply out of first party games to show off?
Hardcore Sony fans, for the most part seemed disappointed and frustrated, and the internet just about broke itself by this sudden announcement, at least in the gaming community, but with good reason. This isn’t the first convention that the gaming juggernaut has abandoned recently. Early this year, fans got the first glimpse of bad news as Sony said they were not holding the highly anticipated annual Playstation Experience that they began in 2014. Now with E3 also scratched off the list, gamers seem especially worried that Sony might not have anything, in the form of software, to show the community. Most of the first party line up has already been released over the past year and the remaining unreleased titles, either have little enthusiasm surrounding them within the community (Days Gone) or have unannounced release dates not expected in the near future (Death Stranding, Last of Us Part 2).
While it is out of character for Sony to appear empty handed, especially in the first party department, it isn’t that far-fetched given the last few years of announcements. As gaming enthusiasts, we were all spoiled by a large list of seemingly great titles that have mostly been released now, and some delayed indefinitely. This is why we saw a slow down from E3 2017 and through to the overall disappointing PSX 2017, that had a drastically different tone to the show than people wanted. It was still enjoyable, but we didn’t see a bunch of announcements as usually occurs. Mainly the show focused on the titles that were considered on the edge of release at the time, like God of War and Detroit: Become Human. They focused on community involved demos with more of a talk show formula to provide gamers with a behind the scenes perspective from the developers. It was clear that Sony was lacking in the surprise factor of the show, but that was an acceptable and understandable shake up from the routine formula. This slow down was inevitable, especially with what is presumably near the end of our current console cycle. Although we don’t quite know yet when the next generation plans to release for any of the competitors, which might add to the fears of so many gamers, not knowing when the next industry leap in gaming will appear.
Nintendo showed the world that a company doesn’t need a strong presence at E3 in order to make an impact. They took an absence from the stage the past couple of years in substitution for long duration video streaming, which featured gameplay and news about select titles. Most notably is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which had a nightmare of delays from the Wii U and finally launched as a system seller on the Switch, a console it was never intended for. The game demoed online during E3 2016 and had great reception, both pre and post launch. Sony undoubtedly took notes on Nintendo’s success. Even Microsoft has recently pulled a page from their book, by holding a separate event across the street during E3 2018 (Microsoft Xbox Experience). Perhaps conventions are simply not as important as they used to be. Plenty of developers have experimented over the years with alternative marketing strategies during the recent Electronic Entertainment Expos with proven results. Electronic Arts and Bethesda are other companies that have held separate events during the E3 showcase. Sony is not staring at a blank white board of ideas. The most logical reasoning is that we are within a few years of the next console generation. Both Sony and Microsoft are unofficially hard at work on the gaming technological enhancements that are expected with each iteration into the next generation. Obviously, Sony isn’t going to reveal games for a console not yet announced. Their strategy seems to be slowing down with newer announcements and trickle what they can of the remaining and already known titles for the PS4. I am confident that Sony isn’t out of cards to play. Instead of playing their hand each year to make a solid show, Sony is patiently folding for the appropriate moment so that they can theatrically slam down a strong hand to win the race of the next generation with an onslaught of titles. The Last of Us Part 2 and Death Stranding are almost certainly going to be cross generational games, but Sony is quietly building from their deck of seemingly strong titles to sell the PS5 for whenever it is ready to be revealed and launched. After all, despite the Playstation 4 outselling the Xbox One by an estimated 2:1 margin, Microsoft has been proving to be quite the worthy adversary going into the next generation, using many surprising and impressive moves to win over gamers and potentially reinvent “the game”. What looks like a concerning drought by Sony could actually be a well planned preparation and counter attack to launch into the next generation of the “console wars”. Expect both Sony and Microsoft to bring plenty of firepower in the coming years.