If you have been following the E3 2016 festivities, you are well aware of the clinic that Sony put on during their PlayStation press conference on Monday night. The console maker and publisher put its foot on the gas and did not relent for the entirety of the 70 minute run time. Rather than let suits and developers gush about their games, Sony chose to let the games do the talking.
The industry needs to take note, because Sony just provided the blueprint to the perfect E3 show.
E3 has been slowly waning in terms of industry importance. Just this year we saw major publisher EA ditch the show in order to put on its own even across the street. Nintendo has taken ownership of its message over the last few years through Nintendo Directs. In addition, smaller developers and publishers such as Disney Interactive have been no-shows. These factors have coagulated into a feeling that E3 is becoming obsolete and is instead giving way to tight, focused shows that target the fans.
Many journalists and personalities point out that E3 is the moment where the larger media turns its attentions to the gaming community. This creates an environment where publishers feel like they need to spend time on certain games that mainstream audiences resonate with such as Just Dance and Madden. This attention also leads to a section in many conferences where a suit comes out and talks about pricing or sales, and often leads to celebrities giving half-assed appearances for an undoubtedly healthy check.
Sony has single-handedly proven that these conferences still have value.
Not only did Sony not make the usual E3 errors, it proved that the show can adapt to a new era of online viewership and community while still providing the necessary mainstream bullet points. In fact, the success of the conference can largely be attributed to the company’s confidence in its brand identity.
Sony has arguably the most passionate fanbase in the industry. Built on the back of PlayStation’s large developer stable, nothing gets the PlayStation player quite as jazzed as a brand new exclusive. Sony delivered, opening with five exclusives that were either brand new games or brand new IP. This five hit flurry of punches all connected and left both the live and virtual audiences reeling with excited stupor.
The opening salvo showed that Sony was speaking both to its most passionate fans and the industry as a whole. It definitively proved what makes PlayStation 4 stand out from its competitors. God of War, Days Gone, Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian and Detroit: Become Human are all distinct games with limitless potential that fans can easily get behind.
No only that, but all of the games were presented in a perfect way. Gameplay trailers were the primary voice of the conference, which highlighted Sony’s quest to make PlayStation the best place to play games. This focus allowed the conference to move at a rapid pace with a clear message. Rather than getting bogged down in specifics and systems, the games organically showed how their mechanics worked and why we should be excited to play. What was shown was also far enough along to keep 2017 in the realm of possibility. Everything that was shown was substantial enough to elicit excitement for the coming year.
Exclusive games are Sony’s identity, and they effortlessly spoke for themselves. In fact, the most noticeable aspect of Sony’s show was how little talking and personal showmanship the presentation actually included. In contrast to Ubisoft’s show, where it seemed the talking would never stop, there were fewer than 5 of these segments and each lasted for no more than a minute. When people did talk, they made short announcements that succeeded in continuous escalation of energy and hype. The most extravagant addition was a live orchestra, which added grandeur to every game it backed.
Too often E3 press conferences either lead to more questions or leave us squirming in our seats from sheer awkwardness or straight-up boredom. By focusing on games, Sony gave us the answers we craved and made us hungry for more. VR suddenly became a compelling games platform. Call of Duty actually looked interesting. Kratos became a father and a compelling character. Crash Bandicoot returned! If anyone was questioning Sony’s direction, they certainly aren’t now.
Because of the epic crescendo that began with the God of War score, the huge announcements and surprises hit on an even higher note. What could possibly be better than Batman Arkham VR and Horizon? How about an exclusive Spider-Man game developed by the beloved Insomniac! Even better still? A grand entrance from Hideo Kojima himself with a tease for his new game, Death Stranding, that’s what! Pure press conference perfection.
Rather than bringing out Lavar Burton and Pele, Sony treated Crash and Kojima as its celebrities. A game character and game creator for gamers. And who would have thought that gamers actually wanted to see games? As E3 becomes more of an online consumerist show, it is imperative that these developers and publishers come to the realization that their fans are tuning in and talking to their friends in real time. Sony gave us more to cheer about in an hour than Ubisoft gave us in two. Plus, this conference proved to the fans that Sony is working tirelessly to bring what gamers want to play to the PlayStation platform.
EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft and Nintendo all have one thing in common; they are all chasing Sony for the E3 crown. And most of them didn’t even have bad showings (well, besides EA). South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Watch Dogs 2 look incredible, Xbox Scorpio looks to bring gamers into 4K and The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild is probably the best looking game at E3. However, they all gave the same shows that we are growing tired of seeing. Sony cut the bullshit, built on the message it has been cultivating since February 2013 and gave us incredible things to look forward to. That’s the new E3 blueprint.
The marketing speech of the night was making PlayStation “the best place to play, for gamers.” Judging by its conference, Sony has already succeeded.
(Published June 16, 2016, Middle of Nowhere Gaming)