By: Giovanni Arias
In mid-November of 2018, PlayStation announced that they would not be having a press conference at the E3 convention in 2019. This came as a surprise to the entire industry since they are one of the biggest presences there, next to Xbox and Nintendo. The announcement sparked speculation regarding the reasoning behind their decision, to which Sony responded, “As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community.” Many fans were left disappointed with the choice, since the show is one of the biggest events of the year for gaming community, but PlayStation saw the decision as one that will change the way they get information out for the better. Dropping out of the show expressed Sony’s interest in getting ahead of the curve in the way they handle their image and their platform’s future.
Months later, Sony has come out to dive even deeper into what their view on E3 is and why they think it best to move on from the event. In an interview with CNET’s Ian Sherr and Playstation boss Shawn Layden, they explained that the reason they had started going to the convention in 1995 was because of the “educational component” that it offered. It gave them a chance to inform retailers about their product, and that information trickled down to the consumer when they walked into a store to buy a video game. The internet was not as ubiquitous at the time either, so journalists and magazines trying to find the most interesting things at the expo to place on their covers were valuable to competitive companies. It was a great way to establish PlayStation and their games. Now, in an era of entertainment when the internet is the primary method of commerce and press, the purpose of a trade show like E3 seems bygone. Sony’s decision to leave the show was also made in part to avoid the expectation of having to “drop a new bomb” at every E3 conference. This means that they are not obligated to stick to the schedule that E3 dictates, rather they are able to drop big news whenever Playstation sees fit. This enables them to implement their plans, “to do fewer games — bigger games — over longer periods of time.” In Layden’s eyes, E3 is a show that has to evolve into something that celebrates gaming rather than who can garner the most news.
Along with an evolving method of sharing information, the games industry has grown exponentially relative to other forms of entertainment. In an interview with “Game Informer” reporter Andy McNamara, Layden was asked to speak on the evolution of the industry as a whole and explains how much games have been accepted into the mainstream. He explained how games have gone from being a somewhat “niche” hobby, to “being one of the three bright stars. Arguably, depending on how you do the math, the largest one from impact on a financial basis.” In this sense games have ascended to a more respected level, which leaves PlayStation and other companies the opportunity to pave the way for the future of games with products like “virtual reality.”
In the same sense, Layden sees the future of games following the same path of movies in their early days.
“I remember years ago you would see, “This is in Cinemacolor! This is in technicolor! This is in Panavision!” and I just thought, ‘Okay. Get me to my movie.’ I think we’re approaching that for the gaming community where we are just one gaming community.”
Effectively, Sony sees games heading toward a place where consumers no longer care what console/platform they’re playing on as long as the game is what is wanted. This means that while the company is still trying to keep their own brand on top, they see the need to start cooperating with other companies to create a better industry.
This kind of thinking has already been implemented with systems such as “cross-play,” which allow players on different platforms to play multiplayer games, like “Fortnite,” together. Xbox has especially gotten involved announcing the implementation of “Xbox Live” services on mobile devices, and the Nintendo Switch. Evidently, Layden has a pointed out the quick changes in games, prompting PlayStation to lead the charge in both technology and quality of their game line-up.
In terms of the company’s own future with first party games, Shawn Layden had plenty to say about how streaming will fit into PlayStation’s plans. Currently they have “PlayStation Now,” a service similar to Netflix which allows players to play game instantly, though the service is riddled with latency issues. Prompted with this issue, Layden suggested that, for now, these types of services will be dependent on where the customer is located since internet service quality is such a huge variable. So instead, the plan is to keep releasing quality games that will attract new consumers. In 2018 they used the games: “Marvel’s Spider-Man” which had some of the best sales the company has ever seen, and “God of War” which made similar waves in sales as well as being lauded with awards to create excitement for their platform and to grow their audience. Their schedule for 2019 and beyond has games like “Ghosts of Tsushima,” “The Last of Us 2,” and “Dreams” in store before the PlayStation 5 is announced.