With E3 2019, Sony is caught between a rock and a hard place, and that’s its own fault.
Last week, Sony announced that it would be skipping E3 in 2019. Why the announcement was made so many months ahead of time is anyone’s guess, but there are immediately so many takeaways from this announcement—does this mean Sony is currently going all in on PS5 development but, without announcing the console which it doesn’t feel ready to yet, doesn’t have anything new to show? Does it mean no new game is coming to the PS4 other than the ones Sony has already announced? Why is Sony skipping another major event after already cancelling PlayStation Experience this year? Why have Sony been dropping the ball so much on conferences over the last two years? What is this new format Sony is planning on adopting to communicate with fans next year, that they alluded to?
It’s a veritable rush of questions that come rushing in when you think about the announcement, and all that it entails, but I think the end result, the final takeaway from it all, for me is that with E3 2019, Sony was caught between a rock and a hard place. No matter what it ended up doing, it would have ended up disappointing a lot of people.
We know, even though Sony hasn’t announced it officially (because why would they) that we are in the final years of the PS4’s life. At this point, most of Sony’s development teams have most likely started to work on projects that will come out on the PS5, and there are no new announcements to be made for the PS4. But since they are not yet ready to officially announce the PS5, they can’t show off any of the games for it either. Which means that they then have to come to E3 with a lineup of games that has already been announced, and borders on overexposure at this point to begin with.
We know, even though Sony hasn’t announced it officially (because why would they) that we are in the final years of the PS4’s life.
This was the exact position Nintendo found itself trapped in in 2016. Back then, the Nintendo Switch (codenamed NX back then) was not ready to be revealed, and neither was any game coming to it. Nintendo had no further new games in development for the failing Wii U, and the ones that were coming to the system had already been announced and shown off. In 2016, Nintendo chose to minimize its presence at E3, bringing only one game to the show, and no press event or even Direct. Of course, given that said one game was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo still dominated E3 entirely on the back of just that one game (and since it was also confirmed to be coming to the NX, it also acted as a sneak peek to the upcoming console).
But Sony can’t do that, for multiple reasons. Even if The Last of Us Part 2 or Death Stranding were going to be cross gen games for PS4 and PS5, the company has shown them off so many times at this point that bringing them to another event doesn’t necessarily elicit excitement (remember, Breath of the Wild got properly revealed at E3 2016; before then, we had seen all of a few dozen seconds of it in off screen shots and clips).
So even though Sony actually has a fair few games coming up for the PS4–Dreams, Days Gone, The Last of Us Part 2, Death Stranding, and Ghost of Tsushima—these are all also games that we have been seeing for atleast over a year at this point. Sony has brought them to multiple E3 shows, The Game Awards, Paris Games Week, PlayStation Experience, and bringing just these games, with nothing new to show fans again to a show wouldn’t go down well with Sony’s fans, who are used to bombastic new announcements at their shows. Their show this year was already panned, for its bland format, yes, but also because Sony themselves had nothing to show.
So Sony’s choice is either to come to the event with nothing new, and the same handful of games it has shown off across a half dozen events in the last three years, or to not show up at all. Theoretically, Sony could try to have a show with just third party announcements and games, with smaller updates on their own games, but again, without them having anything new to announce, they would only get panned, unless there’s a major third party announcement that they could time with their show.
But even that is unlikely, because third parties themselves presumably don’t have many major unannounced projects meant for this generation of hardware to show. If there are many major third party games coming up in that vein, they’re probably going to be for the PS5 and the Xbox Scarlet. So they run into the same problem of not being ready to be shown off just yet. That, plus in the last few years, third party publishers have increasingly preferred to announce their games on their own schedule, rather than being beholden to Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft.
"One thing I will say is, that all of this is Sony’s own fault. For years, I have been railing at the company’s propensity to announce games years and years ahead of schedule, and that tendency is what has landed them in the tough spot they are in right now."
So Sony’s choice is—either show off the same old stuff, and disappoint and anger your audience (as they did at E3 this year); or not show up at E3 at all, and use smaller, direct means of communication with fans for updates on their upcoming games (such as Nintendo with Nintendo Direct), but disappoint everyone by not attending, and set off a chain of speculation. It’s clear they have chosen the latter.
One thing I will say is, that all of this is Sony’s own fault. For years, I have been railing at the company’s propensity to announce games years and years ahead of schedule, and that tendency is what has landed them in the tough spot they are in right now. If games like Days Gone, Dreams, Death Stranding, and The Last of Us 2 had not been announced multiple years before they were ready to be released, Sony could have had major new announcements for E3 the last two years, as well as next year, and for PSX. Instead the company chose to announce them early, and we got a spate of disappointing shows, and then two flat out no-shows.
In the end, this will not amount to much, of course. Sony will eventually announce the PS5, and then it will have many exciting new games coming to the system, and all will be well, and everyone will be happy. But I do hope that the last couple of years have taught them that they simply cannot afford to announce games literally half a decade before they are ready to be released, and that spacing out announcements is better for them, and for fans, in the end.
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.