Sony announced yesterday their decision to skip the Electronic Entertainment Expo for a second straight year. While it doesn’t come as all that much of a shock, the choice to forgo gaming’s biggest industry convention during a year that the company is launching a new console does sound a death knell for the diminishing importance of E3. The show, which is put on by the Entertainment Software Association, has failed to evolve over time and has recently looked desperate by reopening its doors to fans a few years after making it only available to those working within the industry.
There is one big negative to Sony skipping E3 2020: Its chief competitor, Microsoft, will have gaming’s biggest week largely to itself. While Sony has moved away from doing a big press conference that week, all eyes in the gaming world will be on Xbox boss Phil Spencer and the rest of his team. They will get one huge opportunity to sell undecided consumers on the Xbox Series X and their vision for the next generation of gaming. Beyond the press conference, Microsoft will have plenty of headlines on gaming sites during a week where traffic is at a high.
Essentially conceding the week makes it look like Sony doesn’t have anything huge up its sleeve to rival Microsoft, but it could also be a sign of confidence for the PlayStation 5. Sony knows that it can hold its own PS5 events anywhere in the world at any time and the gaming world will stop and listen to its marketing spiel. When launching a new piece of hardware, and a successor to this generation’s best-selling console, the console manufacturer doesn’t need to fight for headline space with everyone else. Sony can simply put out an announcement a few weeks prior to beat Xbox to the punch or get the last word in a month later to sway anyone that Microsoft was unable to convince.
It’s also important to note that while Sony won’t be at E3, it doesn’t mean that the PlayStation 5 will be out of sight and out of mind. Third-party publishers will still be showing off their new titles for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Ubisoft loves to support system launches, and we’ll likely see plenty of great-looking games for Sony’s next system during that week. These titles might not be huge first-party exclusives, but we’ll still get a better understanding of the system’s launch lineup and a better understanding of what it is capable of from a graphical standpoint.
This decision also shows that the value of a traditional E3 press conference, which was once the height of game announcements, has greatly diminished. Just five years ago, Sony wowed the gaming world by announcing two highly requested titles in Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Shenmue III and reintroduced The Last Guardian to the world after it had spent several years in development hell. However, E3 2015 now seems like one final hurrah to a dated way to announce games as both Sony and Nintendo have embraced punchy prerecorded videos as their way to announce big information to their fanbase. Instead of getting one huge event filled with game announcements, gamers now look forward to dozens of smaller ones, often with just a day or two of notice, spread throughout the year.
Sony isn’t the only gaming goliath to decide that it simply doesn’t need E3 anymore. Electronic Arts left the exhibition in 2016, opting to throw its own event called EA Play some days prior in Los Angeles. This event allowed fans to check out their games during a time when E3 was still limited to only press, and while the publisher kept putting on a traditional press conference for a while, EA eventually stopped doing that and moved to a livestream format last year. Activision, who typically had a sizable booth, also decided to fully give up its floor space last year. While the expo can still be important for meetings behind closed doors, it’s clear that E3 has lost a lot of its importance as a means for press (and fans) to check out upcoming games.
So, while Sony won’t be at E3 2020, it won’t really matter all that much. Whether or not Sony impresses consumers will be dependent on PlayStation 5’s launch lineup and its feature set. Not making some big game announcements in June won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. In reality, it will just divest us of some entertaining press conference memes and epic orchestrated game reveals. Those are both things players can live without, and Sony will use other avenues to make sure that any important news it has will get out to the world when the time is right.