"Industry Momentum Will Drive E3 2019 to New Heights" reads the headline of the first official news to come out of organisers ESA ahead of next year's E3. It features quotes from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Epic Games (Fortnite) on what a glorious event it is and how important it is for the industry. Here are a couple of quotes from two of the people we most associate with E3 from the announcement.
"E3 is an outstanding opportunity for us to share new games and experiences with fans and business partners from across the globe," said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America President and COO. "Every year, we discuss what will be the best way for us to take advantage of the next E3 show in order to bring smiles to people's faces."
"E3 is an incredible platform to showcase the vibrancy and creativity of the video game industry. The ESA continues to expand the event's reach to fans and the industry, both in attendance and online, and we look forward to what's ahead at E3 2019," said Phil Spencer, executive vice president, Gaming at Microsoft.
Sounds like good times are ahead, right? But the real headline is that Sony won't be there for the first time in 24 years. No PlayStation press conference, no Sony presence on the show floor, no external PlayStation event. The leading console manufacturer won't be there during E3 2019 in any capacity.
E3 is a massive expense for any company participating, none more so than Sony whose footprint at the LA Convention Center was a lot bigger than anyone else's in 2018. They may have saved a little by scaling down the press conference, and this year, they're saving a lot by not being there at all. Has E3 played out its role for Sony?
Yes and no. It's easy to say that they're looking for a different way to reach out to their fans, but it's also likely a result of where they are in the generational cycle and what games they've got coming up (that they can talk about at E3 2019). One can only speculate about the true reason (or more likely reasons), but Death Stranding, The Last of Us: Part II, and Ghost of Tsushima would likely be the main focus again and none of them would make for particularly good games to have playable on the show floor. They are the kind of games you'd probably want to invite people into a theatre to watch a demonstration of. And given the somewhat lukewarm reaction to Sony's presser in 2018 (not just by media who were forced to stand for the first section), it would have been a hard sell to put them forward once more as the highlights of another E3 press conference.
In all likelihood, they represent the last batch of major first-party releases to land on PS4 as all signs point to a new console launching in 2020. Sony knows they need to come to E3 with something major and new and if the plan isn't to reveal PlayStation 5, well, then maybe it's better to stay at home and focus their efforts on these three major titles with bespoke press events and possibly something akin to a Nintendo Direct or Inside Xbox.