Today Sony announced that it will not have a presence at E3 2019 skipping the show for the first time in its 24 year history. Game journalist, industry websites, and gamers have all been a buzz as a result but in reality this is neither a shock nor is it as big of a news story as people are making it out to be.
As reported by Game Informer Sony was quoted saying “As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community,” the company told Game Informer in a statement. “PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019. We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can’t wait to share our plans with you.” Of course people are spinning this out in many different directions but it is clear that Sony has a game plan that E3 does not need to be involved in. And with the gradual decline of the E3 expo it is no wonder Sony has decided to look elsewhere.
E3 has seen sharp declines over the past few years in regards to developer participation. Microsoft and EA this year both declined to have booths on the main floor opting for other venues nearby as a substitute. Nintendo has been producing directs instead of large scale press conferences since 2013. And Square Enix didn’t have a conference until this year (which was less a conference and more a 30 minute recap video). To see Sony bail from the E3 stage is business as usual for the gaming industry. Large companies no longer benefit from the E3 stage as they can produce and generate there own hype and conferences without a middle man. E3 needs Sony more than Sony needs E3 in essence. From the statement made to Game Informer it would seem that Sony is poising itself to have its own experience not unlike its other competitors. And yet this has not stopped writers, bloggers and gamers from speculating why Sony has bailed out.
A reason for leaving
The most likely scenario is that Sony has decided it will run its own show of course based on the information provided. However it is also equally likely that Sony has little to show for the next year. Most of its great studios have released games over the past two years (God of War, Persona, Horizon, Spider-Man, Yakuza, etc) so inevitably Sony was going to see a slump in 1st party titles as games such as Last of Us and Death Stranding continue to be developed with no release date in sight. It isn’t a new phenomenon; Nintendo and Microsoft both experience similar lulls in 1st party releases. Instead of producing a conference with little to no substance it would be in there best interests to cancel entirely. This would make sense as Sony had recently canceled PSX weeks prior to this announcement. It does raise the question as to the quality of games being released next year however. With Days Gone scheduled to be released in Q1 of next year it is concerning that Sony has marketed the game very poorly since E3 2017.
And of course we need to address the rumors of the PS5. Many believe that Sony is skipping 2019 in preparation for the next generation and all signs point to 2020 as the year. With Microsoft confirming the next generation of console is in development Sony would understandably have to respond in kind. While Sony and Microsoft would never admit it openly they are still business rivals. And with Sony decisively defeating Microsoft in console sales this generation Microsoft is poised to mount a comeback next generation. I could potentially see this as a reason Sony would hold off on E3. After all who wouldn’t want to blow people away with a new console at E3. But I doubt they are skipping a year of E3 just to announce the PS5 next year. They are so far in the lead in console sales they can afford to stop large conference pitches as they wind down the generation. If anything skipping E3 is just cost effective to their strategy.
No big deal
Regardless of what happens this announcement by Sony changes nothing in the grand scheme of things. Playstation will still sell like gangbusters, Microsoft will still trail behind, and Nintendo will still rocket forward. E3 2019 will not shake the gaming industry enough that Sony’s absence will matter unless Microsoft decides to come out swinging with a next generation announce which this writer does not see happening (watch this statement age poorly). The only business to truly suffer negatively from this is E3 which is quickly becoming less and less of a relevant body in the gaming industry. Now the gaming industry waits on baited breath as to Sony’s next move. Will they transition to Nintendo’s direct approach? Will they have there own conference ala Playstation Experience? Or will they stay silent as 2020 approaches? Only time will tell.