The PS5 will succeed with or without E3.
Sony announced earlier this month that, much like last year, they will not be attending E3 this year. The exact reasons as to why are irrelevant – though if you are curious, the wording of their statement seems to suggest that they aren’t necessarily happy with the ESA (the folks who organize E3) essentially doxxing hundreds of attendees and games media inadvertently over the last year. But the end result is, Sony is not going to be at E3 this year. Last year, we could have assumed their absence was because they were preparing for the PS5, but not ready to tip their hand yet, and that meanwhile, they had nothing new to show. Now, it is a pattern: Sony’s time at E3 comes to an end.
And it’s not really a huge loss, to be honest. A lot has been written and said (and more will continue to be) about how Sony has ceded a very important battle to Microsoft in the war for mindshare, and to be perfectly honest, there is merit to that viewpoint, at least at first glance. Sony has a brand new console launching in the next ten months, and they’re not even going to showcase it at the world’s biggest gaming event? Given how irrevocably linked Sony’s hype E3 pressers are with the show itself, it can’t help but feel that a huge part of the identities of both – Sony, as well as E3 – has sort of died with this announcement.
And yes, there is merit to the fear that a console that doesn’t debut at E3 risks losing the battle for mainstream awareness – to a certain extent. Because while that logic makes sense at first, when you actually think about it, it begins to fall apart.
Let’s first look at the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is currently breaking all manner of records, and is one of the fastest- and bestselling consoles of all time (current numbers suggest it may already have outsold Xbox One lifetime sales in less than three years on the market). The Switch was a console that came at a time when Nintendo’s mindshare was at a nadir, what with it coming on the heels of their worst performing handheld and their worst performing console of all time, both, as well as a few years of disappointing Nintendo games such as Metroid Prime Federation Force and Star Fox Zero. More than anything, one could argue Nintendo, at the time, needed mindshare to keep their brand afloat in the public eye, and give this new system a fighting chance.
The interesting thing is, the Switch was not at a single E3 before its launch. Really – the Switch was announced as the Nintendo NX in 2015, and Nintendo didn’t really say much about it for the rest of that year. In 2016, Nintendo not only didn’t take the wraps off of the NX at E3, they refused to do anything except for dedicate their whole presence at the show to one game. The Switch then was properly revealed in October 2016, well after Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show, and shown off at a private event in January 2017, with its launch in March 2017 following under two months later, and breaking all manner of records. Without having been at E3, or TGS, or Gamescom.
Look at the PS Vita. It was properly revealed at E3 to raucous applause. What did that amount to? Look at the Wii U, which Nintendo revealed at not one, but two E3s. What happened there?
Being at E3 is not important as much as the overall messaging and marketing of your system is in the lead up to launch. Nintendo expertly messaged the Switch so effectively that it literally sold itself (albeit with some help from one very special game) – at that point, they didn’t need to be at E3. It didn’t matter that their mindshare was at an all-time low, either. The Nintendo brand was strong enough that once they had what was an appealing proposition on offer, people were willing to pay attention, letting Nintendo pave the way to the Switch’s success.
And the PlayStation brand is strong, too. In terms of the home console market, it may even be stronger than Nintendo’s brand, to be perfectly honest. And like Nintendo, PlayStation has a frighteningly impressive first party catalog that essentially guarantees that their systems will practically sell themselves. All Sony has to do is say “PS5” and the world collectively loses its mind. That isn’t hyperbole, as the response to the unveiling of the PS5 logo might have demonstrated over the last few weeks. That’s how strong the PlayStation brand is. And, equally importantly, it’s in a very strong place right now: the PS4 is the highest selling console of the generation, and of the decade, and Sony’s first party proposition is incredible. Compared to the situation with Nintendo in 2016, Sony is practically fighting this battle on easy mode.
So yes, I get the disappointment that Sony won’t be there at E3 bringing the hype like they have for the last two decades, or that we won’t see Sony and Microsoft go head to head with their console reveals like they did in 2013 (where Sony trounced Microsoft so famously and effectively that Xbox still has not fully recovered seven years later).
But multiple companies have demonstrated in the last few years that you don’t really need E3. Nintendo doesn’t do E3 pressers anymore, and the Nintendo Direct format is far more effective ate maintaining a rolling schedule of continuous hype, rather than isolating it to one event where you have to go head to head against multiple other major companies anyway.
The PS5’s fate is not contingent on E3, and neither is Sony’s as a whole. I am not saying that the PS5 is guaranteed to succeed in spite of Sony’s absence there – it may well fail and fall flat on its face. That remains to be seen, but if it does falter, it won’t be because Sony didn’t attend E3, it will be because of a multitude of bad decisions made in the lead up to the system’s launch that come together to make it an unappealing system. After all, even E3 could not save Sony from themselves, and the dreaded curse of $599.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.