Sony’s E3 Showcase Was Disjointed, But Was It What Gamers Wanted?

Well, that felt a little bit odd, didn’t it? Sony’s E3 press conferences of the last few years have brought trailers by the bucket load, lighting up your eyes with dozens of game announcements and barely slowing down to take a breath. This year was different, and Sony Worldwide Studios Chairman Shawn Layden forewarned us that it would instead hinge around four long “deep dives” into Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part 2, Spider-Man and Ghost of Tsushima. Great in concept, and with space for third party announcements between, it’s difficult to say that Sony managed to pull it off.

I’ve been rather critical of Sony’s E3 pressers over the last few years, leaning far too heavily, I feel, on speculative, long term game announcements. Unfortunately, as great as it is to be able to announce a big game two or three years in advance, especially when it’s coming from an industry luminary like Hideo Kojima, that game is then hanging around for what seems like forever, dragged out every year for a little update. It means that you can end up where Sony are right now, with no new first party games to announce, and yet with a gallery of games that they aren’t prepared to pin release dates on, Spider-Man excepting.


That doesn’t mean that these games don’t look excellent, though. The Last of Us Part II’s lengthy demo was exceptional, blending an exquisitely rendered cutscene that showed a moment of beauty in Ellie’s life with a desperate, soul destroying fight for survival that takes the first game’s brutality and dials it up several notches. It was impressive and the perfect demo for a game that is surely at the top of many people’s wish lists.

Ghost of Tsushima is the newest of the four games, and having only just been announced at Paris Games Week last year with a brief teaser, it was intriguing to see what this game was actually all about. It definitely feels like a Sucker Punch game, from the character animations and ability to clamber up the scenery, through to the finer details of the visual style. However, it’s a very, very different setting for them, and I was impressed by the nuance in how Jin moved in and out of combat, from drawing the sword and striking the enemy in a single motion, to cleaning it in the crook of his elbow and sheathing it once more. The battle against Masako was an excellent twist, changing almost to a side-scrolling fighting game like Soulcalibur for a few moments, while the world around them continued to evolve.

Similarly, it was great to see Death Stranding and finally have a hint as to how all of the strands that Kojima has revealed previously can tie together, with Reedus’ character Sam traversing the world with boxes stacked on his back, before showing the more horror-based elements of the game with the bottle baby revealing these shadowy beings floating all around.

None of these games were given release dates, they weren’t even given release years, and only the fourth game of the bunch, Spider-Man, is in the final stages of development. It was a good way for Sony to end the show, with something tangible, something bombastic, something that’s brighter, breezier and coming out in just a few months time. But wait, Spider-Man wasn’t actually the end of the show! Hundreds of thousands of people stopped watching as the video stream kicked back to the Sony video presenters behind a desk to natter about what we’d just seen and try to hype the games up further, except then they decided that they could reveal just one more game, FromSoftware’s Déraciné for PlayStation VR – PSVR was otherwise given barely a mention at this year’s conference, sadly.

And this was really the crux of why it all felt so disjointed. The opening segment for The Last of Us II was introduced by Shawn Layden in a big tent designed to look like that in the game. His microphone had a touch of feedback. Once the demo was done, all of those people then had to be shuffled off to the main auditorium, while the talking heads gabbed with Layden, and dropped a couple of more incidental third party announcements – Black Ops’ map remakes and freebies and a weird game from the creators of Rick & Morty. Then it was off to see Ghost of Tsushima and all the rest, but because of these logistics, precious little time was actually left for third parties.

It seems that Sony have ceded an awful lot of ground to Microsoft for this year’s E3. They had Resident Evil 2’s remake, the first reveal of Control from the makers of Alan Wake, the umpteenth trailer for Kingdom Hearts III that we’ve seen at E3, a blink and you’ll miss it Nioh 2 announcement, and that was just about it. Sure, you could watch Microsoft’s conference and know that all the big third party games there were also coming to PlayStation, but symbolically it says that games like Metro: Exodus, Cyberpunk 2077, Fallout 76, FromSoftware’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Dying Light 2 are closer to Microsoft than they are to Sony.

But perhaps, as the PlayStation 4 heads into the final third of its life, this is the press conference that Sony needed and one that delivered a lot of what gamers will have wanted for a long time. They’ve knowingly been gazing off into the future with their press conferences for quite some time, but we’re now at a point where all their studios are either working on things we know about, or where they’re still rather early in a project. At this point, it was important to let those games announced over the last few years flourish, instead of teasing something else that we won’t see for years to come.

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  1. People criticised Sony last year for showing too many games and this year they focused on a handful of games and are criticised again. Meanwhile, MS show 50+ games (mostly Multi plats and exclusives years from release) and it’s their best E3 ever. Double standards.

    • It’s not content that’s at question, but delivery. Sony used to do some all encompassing well paced conferences until recent years.

    • I was critical of Sony last year for showing too many games in brief and without pause, and they’re constantly guilty of showing games that are, as far as we know, two, three, four years away from release. Microsoft this year had many small breaks to actually then talk about what they’re showing and what their plans are. It was a very similar pace to last year. Of their first party announcements, only Halo Infinite is a long way from release – Forza is this year, Crackdown 3 in Feb, and Gears 5 in 2019. The real positive from Microsoft was more about seeing them increase their investment in first party development.

      I think the actual content that Sony delivered here was good, and three of these games got their first gameplay reveal (two after years of teasing). That was good and what we expected and wanted to see, but the show felt disjointed in its presentation and Sony are in a weird place right now precisely because of their early announcements that dominated the last few years.

      • I don’t think they are in a weird place though. We’re seeing more of the games we want to play. Game’s that are actually being released in the next year or so. We don’t need to know what Sony’s plans are in the future – I think we can be fairly certain that Sony aren’t going to throw in the towel and abandon PlayStation after the PS4 – not whilst they’re at the top of their game. We wanted to see real games not dreams of a the future and or more of the same.

        Microsoft showed us Gears, Forza and Halo. Being surprised by any of those games would be like being surprised that Nintendo are releasing a new Mario game. Then there was Crackdown 3, which we first saw four years ago ( maybe five?).

        We’re five years into the current gen now – this should be the time when the current gen gaming should be at it’s peak, with amazing first and third party games that utilize the full power of the current gen hardware.

        MS’s show felt like the kind of E3 presentation you’d expect to see at the beginning of a console lifecycle – only without a new console. Filling their roster with Multi-plat games, which will also be available on PS4 was a cheap (probably very expensive) trick to hide the fact that they had nothing new or outstanding to show, other than the same three games we all expected.

        I realise some of these Multiplat games will look better on Xbox (for the million or so people who own an XB1X) but for the vast majority of gamers, who don’t own a Pro or an X or an S, the multiplat games will look better on the original PS4. Because that’s where the majority of the market is.

        I guess what it comes down to is, do you want to see the goods, or do you want to see a masterclass in PR spin and corporate BS.

        I hope I don’t sound too Randy because I don’t mean to.

      • *Ranty…

        I hope I don’t sound RANDY 🤪

      • Not saying what Sony showed was bad, it was what these games needed, but the way it was put together as a 90 minute presentation was poor but very scattershot outside their big four. Microsoft were more traditional, but in structuring an E3 presentation were more successful.

        And you can’t have it both ways. You say you don’t want dreams of games, but that’s exactly what Sony have presented for the last few years with the games that they showed here, because they’ve been talking about games two years before they’re releasing. That’s good for hype (or spin and marketing BS as you call it), but meant they had no new first party games to announce this year, which at E3 is actually very unusual.

  2. Ubisoft was the most disappointing this year imo. I thought Sony’s was good, but then I’m really looking forward to 3 of the 4 games they focussed on.

    Will be buying a Switch at xmas for my son, so interested to see what Nintendo have to say too.

    • My E3 top 3:

      1. Ghost of Tsushima
      2. AC Odyssey
      3. Spiderman

  3. I’ve been little disappointed with E3 as a whole. An awful lot of games on show are 2019. I saw a list of 2018 releases and it was okay but not spectacular imo.

    Post release support on current games, plus FH4 and Spiderman are the main highlights. Not sure about RDR2, maybe I’m missing something lol.

    2019 however,that looks like a cracking year!

  4. “the final third of its life” I’d say the conferences as a whole have felt like this is the last hurrah for this generation, rather than just the final third. As you said in your article yesterday, Microsoft are clearly building for the future. EA were talking about how they see the next generation playing out hardware wise too.

  5. I think Sony’s show was ok, some of it was excellent (e.g. The Last of Us), some disappointing (no Bloodborne 2, no Alien:Isolation 2, missing release dates, and does the PSVR still exist for Sony..?). As MS had already shown all the games I’ll be playing on my PS4 or 5 (The Division 2, etc.), Sony didn’t need to.

    Of course, MS had a better conference in terms of more trailers, but they also desperately have to. Finally, they started to make an effort, which is a little late about 4 years into the console cycle, but better late than never.

    Sony sold more than twice as many consoles than MS, they ‘won the war’, they don’t need to care about every single battle. (Even if I dislike the term ‘console wars’.)

    • I know A:I got nothing to do with Sony, but I somehow expected them to show at least a PSVR version of that.

  6. I liked what I saw but when you have one of the final conference slots I feel like a limited showing is inevitable.

    From everything in the showcase there wasn’t one game shown I had zero interest in. From that standpoint, a success surely?

  7. Worst show I’ve seen from Sony in many years. The content was fine for the big four but the format of the show was an absolute fucking train wreck! Firstly, why hasn’t anyone had the stones to tell Layden to simply not appear on stage. He’s, at best, average and at worst, just awful. Weirdly enough he’s quite a bit better when being interviewed but those filler segments were so shockingly dull that the five of us in a Skype call together couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

    I hope to god that someone smart suggests they run it passed people first (who aren’t elbow deep in Sony) for feedback before doing anything like this again.

    Once again, the content from the games was great but bloody hell, learn from this.

    • I agree about Layden, they need to get someone with charisma (remember how much everyone loved Jack Tretton) and if they don’t have someone then they should go down the Ubisoft route and get someone else in. Aisha Tyler has been great (although not everyone’s cup of tea) and this year I was surprised at how much Joseph Gorden Levitt made the other presenters look so awkward.

      • Jack Tretton was one of the best and still an industry guy. Funny how rare that is as each year passes.

        I’m not completely sold on a non-industry type but when Layden takes to the stage, I can’t help but feel that it’s the better idea.

      • Jack Tretton was amazing imo. Such a shame he left.

  8. TLOU was violence porn a lot of the time. It simply seems unnecessary to go at such lengths to to tell a story about hard times. I just don’t buy into Neill Druckman’s ideas anymore. Disappointed.

  9. Switching to a seated panel 20 mins into the presser killed the momentum quite a bit, thankfully they had some good stuff to show but overall i thought the whole thing felt a bit flat, neither here nor there. It was almost like Sony felt they didn’t need to try too hard. And maybe they don’t. Maybe they know that another generation of gaming depends on all industry players bringing their full game to the event.

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