Three steps forward, but one step back.
Sony’s E3 press conference last year was great- at the time. A year later, it doesn’t hold up half as well, when you stop and realize that literally none of the new games that Sony announced back then have been released yet. It was a big issue, endemic of a larger problem that Sony’s conferences had begun to trend towards in the last few years, but was most evident last year.
It wasn’t that there was something wrong with the conference- it was structured great, there were loads of ‘oh shit!’ moments, and some big announcements. At the time, Sony had indisputably won E3, and the conference did its job in getting people to buy PS4s en masse. But, you know, it doesn’t matter- Sony made promises that they never fulfilled. People bought PS4s, yes, but Sony failed to keep up their end of the bargain.
I had argued earlier this month that Sony need to change their approach to E3– and by and large, that is what Sony appear to have done this year. Their conference wasn’t the best they’ve had in years, but on the whole, it had far more substance than their showing last year did. Here are three things Sony did right this year, and the one thing that they (still) managed to get wrong.
"Sony’s conference wasn’t the best they’ve had in years, but on the whole, it had far more substance than their showing last year did."
One of the big problems of Sony’s conferences has perennially been their tendency to fluff things up. Sony are notorious for having conferences that go on for far longer than they need to, padded out with unnecessary segments, detours into projects that don’t belong at E3, and a never ending deluge of montages. To be fair, this is a problem that they have worked on over the last year- their E3 show in 2015 as very well paced, as were their Paris Games Week and Tokyo Game Show keynotes, and this year’s E3 presser just continued in that same vein.
For starters, it was the shortest E3 conference Sony have had in years, coming in at just 60 minutes. It was also incredibly paced- pared down, trimmed to the absolute essentials, with absolutely no filler. We moved from one game to the next, trailer to trailer, gameplay demo to gameplay demo. No pointless, rehearsed self congratulatory speeches, no awkward bantering, nothing slowing things down. The focus was squarely on the games, and the people in the suits only came on when it was necessary to move things along from one segment to the next.
That’s admirable- and a stark example of what these game conferences and keynotes should be like.
This part is important- Sony could have the best paced conference in the world, and it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t have great things to show. If it was all stuff that no one was really interested in seeing, then no one would care. But Sony’s E3 conference was full of major games and announcements, and games that looked incredible at that. They showed off God of War, The Last Guardian, Days Gone, Detroit: Become Human, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7, Spider-Man, and Death Stranding, which is Kojima’s new game, revealed today against all odds. They even managed to get most people interested in their VR segment, by showing off major games for the PlayStation VR that people would care about- games like Resident Evil, Star Wars Battlefront, Final Fantasy 15, and Batman. Heck, even the much reviled Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare looked decent today.
Sony moved from game to game to game today, yes- but that would have been meaningless had the games sucked. Happily, that was not the case.
"If the purpose of these E3 shows is to sell viewers on their products, then Sony have inarguably done a far better job this E3 so far than anyone else has, including, yes, Microsoft."
AND THIS IS WHY YOU NEED A PS4
Look, I am pretty intrigued by Microsoft’s direction for the future of console gaming, a future without exclusives, a future where you buy a game once and play it anywhere. It seems to be ideal, a platform agnostic future that puts the content, and the player, at the center. I like the idea- but as of right now, we’re not there yet. As of right now, we have to contend wth the fact that exclusives are a thing, and that they are used to sell people on your hardware. And on that front, Sony is winning the battle.
So many games that Sony announced today were exclusives- most of the games mentioned in the previous section, in fact. God of War, The Last Guardian, Days Gone, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, and Spider-Man. They even had some great, major exclusives lined up for their VR push- Final Fantasy, Star Wars, and Batman are all PSVR exclusives, at least as of right now. And the best we know, Resident Evil 7 is, too, for its VR functionality, at any rate.
If the purpose of these E3 shows is to sell viewers on their products, then Sony have inarguably done a far better job this E3 so far than anyone else has, including, yes, Microsoft.
… BUT THEY HAVEN’T YET LEARNED ON THE RELEASE DATES ISSUE
Look, I know I keep coming back to this, but this is a problem. As I have reiterated multiple times, when not one single game that Sony showed off at their E3 show last year has been released yet, there is a clear and definite problem on our hands here. I don’t care if what Sony has to show is great, if I can’t be assured that I will be playing it some time within a reasonable timeframe- and as things stand, owing to precedence, I can’t be sure of that.
"The bulk of what Sony showed still came with no release dates attached."
Which is why concrete release date announcements are necessary for Sony. Unfortunately, on this front, they’re… not necessarily doing well, not even now. I mean, yes, they announced a release date for The Last Guardian (seven years after it was first announced, incidentally), and PlayStation VR and Resident Evil 7 both got concrete launch dates. But the bulk of what they showed still came with no dates attached. When is God of War releasing? No clue. Detroit? Ditto. How about Days Gone, Death Stranding, or Spider-Man? Nope, no release dates. Even the PSVR games, like Batman or Star Wars, don’t have any dates attached to them.
For all we know, they won’t be out for years to come; or they could be out by this time next year. But that would involve me giving Sony the benefit of the doubt, and on this one issue, I am no longer doing that- they have given me no reason to. As it stands, this one major issue that Sony consistently have is the one major issue that they failed to address with this showing. And that takes their otherwise excellent show tonight down a notch for me.