Microsoft have now set out their stall for the next year and a quarter, saying that they will “transition all external and internal events to a digital-first experience” until July 2021.
That’s a pretty big deal when considering that the company would ordinarily be ramping up for a number of major press conferences and showcases right now, as the planned Xbox Series X launch nears. Not only that, but things like smaller [email protected] showcases, the XO fan fests, and events for the company’s Surface product line will also be handled differently. It also implicitly rules them out from attending E3 2021, which is intended to take place next June.
It's official: All Microsoft conferences will be digital-only through July 2021. pic.twitter.com/wTBb7Z6pQB
— Ginny Caughey (@gcaughey) April 6, 2020
The oddity is that this statement hasn’t come from Microsoft, but from Twitter user Ginny Caughey, who posted the new guidance from Microsoft, seemingly relating to Microsoft’s March 2021 MVP Summit.
Eurogamer are reporting that this primarily relates to Microsoft’s own organised events – this would rule out XO20, and a large scale press conference for E3 2021, for example – and there’s enough leeway in how they will “continue to evaluate the situation and look forward to connecting in person when the situation allows” to suggest that they could attend certain events such as Gamescom 2020, which is still planning to go ahead this August.
Still, this is a blow for Microsoft’s public presence and their ability to make a splash with the Xbox Series X. Certainly, they have online streams and reveals that will be able to shift formats, but where these would ordinarily be in front of large audiences and followed by press and influencers then getting hands on to experience the new hardware and upcoming games, that’s now much more difficult to manage.
Sony are facing similar problems, and as we race toward the anticipated launch of both next-gen consoles this Christmas, it will be interesting to see how both companies navigate these unexpectedly tricky waters.