When the curtain rises next June on what’s become the biggest date on gaming fans’ convention calendars, one of the Electronic Entertainment Expo’s biggest stars won’t be on stage. Sony reportedly has bowed out of the massive expo, after also dropping its annual PlayStation Experience event earlier this year.
Game Informer reports that Sony will forego its E3 presentation next year in favor of “exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community.”
“As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community," Sony said to 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.”
For fans, it’s a whopper of a letdown, as Sony has never missed an E3 presentation in the expo’s 24-year run, and indeed has provided some of the most memorable — and meme-able — moments in the event’s colorful history.
How much does an E3 no-show really mean? Although it’s an industry event, it’s also a de facto fan con, offering up an outsized, anticipatory atmosphere unlike any other on the yearly U.S. gaming schedule. And in recent years, internet fan wars arguing which major company “won” E3 with rollouts of impressive game titles, hardware reveals, and surprise announcements have mostly favored Sony.
With all that good will from fans built in, plus a scorching sales run for the Playstation 4 that shows Sony to be anything but unstable on the gaming front, why would Sony take an E3 rain check?
It may be a case of resetting sky-high fan expectations, which peak at E3 as new projects — often years away from becoming reality — receive momentary hype that simply can’t be fulfilled by the time the next E3 has rolled around. Today’s sensational announcement becomes next year’s progress report, and expectations begin to mount faster than console makers, publishers, and developers can meet them.
Taking a cue from Sony’s reasons for bowing out of this year’s Playstation Experience, Variety notes that Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, said there simply weren’t enough games to put in front of fans this year.
“Now that we have Spiderman out the door, we’re looking down in 2019 to games like Dreams and Days Gone, but we wouldn’t have enough to bring people altogether in some location in North America to have that event,” Layden said at the time. ”We don’t want to set expectations really high and then not deliver on it.”
Sony isn’t the first major console maker to scale back its E3 presence. Nintendo set the example back in 2013, foregoing a stage presentation in favor of its then-new Nintendo Direct event, which allowed the company to dish out new gaming info on its own terms, and without the instant feedback of a live convention audience.
Another factor may be the console’s shifting role in the gaming landscape and at E3 itself, as the event taps ever deeper into the growing popularity of mobile gaming, esports, open-platform indie titles, and other game markets. The ESA tipped its hat to the boosted role of emerging platforms in its announcement for next year, promising an event that “will include an expanded presence for burgeoning video game sectors, including esports and the independent video game development community.”
At the very least, Sony’s absence from E3 2019 shouldn’t be a sign that there’s anything amiss with the maker of the world’s biggest-selling gaming consoles. The PlayStation 4 is closing in on the PlayStation 2’s all-time sales title, even as Sony prepares behind the scenes to launch its confirmed next-generation successor.