Last year, Sony had what may well have been the greatest E3 press conference of all time- a press conference that will always be remembered for bringing legendary, long awaited games such back to life. It was the conference which saw the revived The Last Guardian, the long awaited Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and the more than a decade in the making Shenmue 3 debut on stage. It was the conference which saw Sony confidently debut new IPs, in Media Molecule’s Dreams, and Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn. It was the conference that, in spite of all of this movement, still found the time to show off some previously announced games, and the time to let third party titles have their time in the sun.
In other words, it was the perfect conference back then- excitement and anticipation was running high, and people were riding high on the wave. Media outlets and gamers the world over fell over themselves to proclaim Sony the winner of E3, and it was a title that they absolutely deserved- in the moment.
You see, the ultimate effectiveness of a press conference at E3 is just how well it holds up after the fact- the purpose of an E3 presser is to lay out the plans a company has for its immediate future. If the company manages to keep its promises, then yes, that E3 conference has held up. It did not lie to its audience- it made promises, and then it delivered on those promises.
"Sony’s E3 2015 press conference is exceptionally difficult to judge. The biggest reason for that is that Sony, simply put, cheated- they sidestepped any such judgement of their E3 showing by mostly showing off games and titles that are due in late 2016 or beyond."
By that standard, Sony’s E3 2015 press conference is exceptionally difficult to judge. The biggest reason for that is that Sony, simply put, cheated- they sidestepped any such judgement of their E3 showing by mostly showing off games and titles that are due in late 2016 or beyond. As a result, we cannot meaningfully say whether or not they kept their promises, because unlike most E3 conferences – and certainly, unlike Microsoft’s showing at E3 last year – they did not make many concrete promises at all.
For instance, they promised that The Last Guardian would launch on PS4 in 2016. As of right now, it hasn’t, but we’re not even a full five months into the year, and the game is still slated for a launch for later this year- plus we’ve seen a whole lot of the game recently, which seems to indicate that it’s on track for for its promised 2016 launch. Ditto with Horizon– they debuted it, and they promised a 2016 launch. While there have been rumors about a delay of the game to 2017, so far, the game is still officially set for a 2016 launch.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake was announced, and… that’s it, there wasn’t actually much of a promise made there. We were told it would launch first on PlayStation 4- and you know what, when it eventually launches in 2017, it might. As of right now, it is certainly only slated for 2017. But again, it’s hard to assess the effectiveness of a promise that hasn’t yet been made good, or defaulted, on. The same is the problem with Shenmue 3– it was announced, and true to Sony’s word, we got a Kickstarter campaign for the game, one which broke all records with just how much money was pledged to it. As of right now, the game is in development, due to release in 2017, and definitely coming to PS4. So it met the promises it made- except it didn’t make much promises to begin with.
No, to assess the effectiveness of the showing, one must look at the smaller announcements made, not the big ones that grabbed all the headlines. It was in the smaller announcements that Sony got more specific, that they made promises that we can look back on and see if they did live up them a year later. These are the announcements that don’t seem as exciting in retrospect- for instance, Sony showed off games like Destiny: The Taken King, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and Hitman, promising exclusive partnerships and content for each of those games on the PS4. Or, on the PlayStation ‘exclusive’ front, they showed off Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4, or Capcom’s Street Fighter 5, promising both for this year- release dates that were met. One year later, then, we can confirm that all of these promises were in fact kept.
"To assess the effectiveness of the showing, one must look at the smaller announcements made, not the big ones that grabbed all the headlines."
One big major third party announcement Sony made was regarding Call of Duty- starting with Black Ops 3, which launched in November last year, Sony announced that PlayStation would be ‘the new home of Call of Duty,’ ending the multi year long timed exclusivity partnership for Call of Duty DLC that Microsoft had had for Xbox- instead, all DLC would come 30 days earlier to PlayStation now. This was another promise they kept, as they did with their promises regarding exclusive bundles and content for the other big shooter from last year- Star Wars Battlefront got multiple PS4 only bundles, and it also launched on PS4 with content not available on other platforms, including PS4 versions of classic Star Wars games such as the SNES title Super Star Wars.
Speaking of Star Wars, another Star Wars game where Sony managed to snag some exclusive content for PlayStation was Disney Infinity 3.0, which Sony promised would be ‘best on PlayStation,’ apart from promising that Boba Fett, who would be in the game, would be exclusive to PlayStation at launch. These promises weren’t necessarily kept as well as Sony’s other promises, though- Boba Fett’s figure was definitely exclusive to PlayStation, but Disney Infinity figurines are platform agnostic- meaning that you could play as him in Xbox or Nintendo versions of the game just fine, too.
In the end, Sony’s conference becomes hard to judge- if you were to only look at the big announcements, your The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or Shenmue 3, you’re still waiting to know whether or not Sony did what they said they would. Get into the smaller announcements, and we find that everything Sony said they would do, they did, with very minor technicalities tripping them up. In that sense, they come out of this exercise better than Microsoft does.
"Going into E3 this year, Sony would be well advised to stick to showing things that fans will actually be able to play within reasonable timeframes, instead of showing off games that are scheduled for a nebulous future."
But that is also missing the context to last year’s E3. Sony used those big name announcements to ‘win’ E3, to gain mindshare, to ensure that their platform and their showing would overshadow Microsoft’s. It worked, and they got their victory- but to do so, they broke the rules, they circumvented them, they made it impossible for them to be held to account a year later. Their biggest, show stealing announcements have still not come to pass, and on a sheer technicality, they can’t be taken to task for that.
No, while Sony may have kept their smaller promises, they reneged on their larger ones by never making them- and going into E3 this year, they would be well advised to stick to showing things that fans will actually be able to play within reasonable timeframes, instead of showing off games that are scheduled for a nebulous future. Their tendency to do the latter is why we get games like Agent, which are still padding some desperate fan’s list of PlayStation exclusives due out later this year.