The PlayStation 5 will not be at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo — raising questions as to the future of the once-hyped trade show.
Sony confirmed earlier this week that it will not be in attendance, and will instead showcase its games and hardware at “hundreds” of consumer events throughout the year.
“After thorough evaluation, SIE has decided not to participate in E3 2020,” said a Sony Interactive Entertainment spokesman to GamesIndustry.biz. “We will build upon our global events strategy in 2020 by participating in hundreds of consumer events across the globe. Our focus is on making sure fans feel part of the PlayStation family and have access to play their favorite content.”
The spokesman went on to say that E3 2020 “isn’t the right venue” for the company.
Sony skipped last year’s E3, but many chalked it up to the company simply not having the games to showcase at such a large event. Everyone knew the next-generation consoles were coming in 2020, and software development and resources always shift well ahead of launch in order to prepare a strong lineup. Sony still had “Death Stranding,” “The Last of Us Part II” and “Ghosts of Tsushima” for the remainder of the generation, but it would be understandable to think that those games simply aren’t enough to dedicate to entire conference.
This week’s announcement shows there was more to that decision than simply not having enough to show. It exposes a long-rumored issue with the Entertainment Software Association, which hosts E3 each year. Industry journalist Jason Schreier has dropped hints for months that there are issues within the ESA. According to Schreier, Sony initially skipped last year’s conference due to disagreements and tension with ESA. That seems to have carried over again this year, as well.
Last year’s E3 was a bit of a letdown. Despite, for the second year in a row, allowing the public to purchase tickets and attend the event as more of a consumer exposition, rather than trade show, much of the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center was empty last year. Later that year, the personal information of thousands of journalists even remotely related to ESA was leaked onto the Internet in a massive doxing campaign. It makes sense why many would be cautious about dealing with ESA.
E3 was once the premier video game event of the year. It served as sort of a Christmas in May or June, as everyone in the industry converged on southern California in order to showcase what they had been working on. It was also an extremely stressful time for developers and publishers, which had to rush out builds and demos to show off their new games. A good E3 presentation could put a game on the map and really set the anticipation amongst fans. A bad E3 presentation could sink a project and kill any sort of hype it had.
That command and power over the industry has waned in recent years. The show just isn’t what it used to be, as other shows like Gamescom in Europe have stolen some of its thunder. The ESA missed an opportunity years ago to pivot into a more consumer-friendly exposition — opting to still stick to its rigid trade show roots. But as more publishers abandoned the show, ESA only finally opened it to the public — when it was already a shell of its former self.
Sony had always done well at E3 over the years. It was at E3 in 1995 when Sony first announced the plans for the American launch of the PlayStation. The PlayStation 2 also debuted at the trade show. The PlayStation 3’s unveiling generated plenty of online discussion — and parodies (giant enemy crabs) — but still set the tone for the system’s launch.
Perhaps Sony enjoyed greater success with the unveiling of the PlayStation 4 at a separate event in February 2013. With the entire industry watching, the company debuted — on its own terms — what would be the most successful console of this generation. Sony didn’t need to separate itself from an industry’s worth of signal noise. The PS4 was the star of the show and it captured all of the hype.
This latest issue has shined a bright light on a dying event. The ESA continues to struggle to please everyone. While some publishers, like Sony and EA, want to make E3 more open and inviting to the public, others want to keep it as restricted as possible. The ESA seems paralyzed with indecision and is killing what was once the biggest electronic entertainment trade show in the world.