Funny how things turn out. When PlayStation announced it would take no part in E3 2020 and would instead “participate in hundreds of consumer events across the globe,” we weren’t terribly happy with the decision.
It’s impossible to know, and Jim Ryan isn’t saying, whether Sony always intended to make a big splash in early June, or whether the pandemic threw its original fan-based plan out of the window and so it returned to type as a backup.
If so, this was one hell of a backup plan.
Barring the big stage spectacle, that was an E3 press conference in all but name. In a year when PlayStation said they wouldn’t be doing E3 and when the show didn’t even happen.
Better still, it was an E3 press conference that, by necessity or by design, was shorn of the excesses that a physical event can bring – with Sony’s experimental 2018 outing being the worst offender. Instead it was laser-focused on games, games and more games, with just enough people to give it some engagement and humanity.
“In a difficult situation, Sony has triumphed here by simply delivering an event that lived up to its previous E3 press conferences”
The production values did make some of the presenters look unreal, like they’d been rendered by the mighty PS5 themselves, but overall it shows that you can make a slick event in a pandemic, and we much preferred it to Microsoft’s recent streamer-chic, home office production effort.
While Sony wasn’t silly enough to promise gameplay, as Microsoft did and then apologised for later, with the event largely consisting of very pretty trailers and only a couple of sections, Godfall and Ratchet & Clank, actually had footage that looked captured while in normal play.
That said, it was a great showcase for the upcoming PlayStation, with a myriad of beautiful-looking games. What was less clear is which titles were exclusive to the console and which, especially among the third-party games, would also appear on current formats. There were a couple of timed exclusives too, as Sony uses its warchest from the current-gen to come out swinging in the next.
And all that was topped off with some very fancy branding graphics, culminating in an impressively well worked reveal for the console itself – and we’ve talked to a respected product designer about his thoughts on that.
In a difficult situation, Sony has triumphed here by simply delivering an event that lived up to its previous E3 press conferences. And which thanks to its digital nature was more inclusive and more focused than any of those events. And so while Sony hasn’t done an E3 press conference in a couple of years now, it feels that this event, which was so clearly styled after them, will be the final nail in the coffin for the big bash in LA. But the format undoubtedly lives on.
The E3 press conference is dead. Long live the E3 press conference.