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Reaction: There Is One Thing That Sony Could Learn from Microsoft at E3 2013

Posted by Sammy Barker

Taking notes

This year’s E3 was very special for PlayStation. Despite dominating the industry with the PSone and the PlayStation 2, the company has assumed the role of an underdog at times during this generation. While the PlayStation 3 has played host to some phenomenal games – and posted some impressive sales figures in the process – there’s never really been daylight between the current flagship console and the Xbox 360. But with a series of knockout blows during its media briefing on Monday, the company really stunned its closest competitor, putting it in a promising position prior to the PlayStation 4's launch later in 2013. And yet, in spite of a positive showing, there’s one area that we’d like the Japanese giant to address before it returns to Los Angeles in twelve month’s time.

And that’s the importance of presentation. These annual keynotes are big budget affairs, with unthinkable sums of cash invested into fancy pyrotechnics, light shows, and cinema screens. But despite the briefings being broadcast to millions of viewers on the Internet – and, in Microsoft’s case, on live television – Sony frequently slips into corporate mode. It’s gotten better about this over the years – you're showing your age if you can remember the times when it used to dedicate almost a quarter of an hour to sales figures – but it still struggles to match the breakneck pace of Microsoft’s glossy presentations.

While a poor keynote will be judged as such no matter how slick the production values, a truly strong lineup can be elevated by great pacing and a confidence in your products that doesn’t demand words. We frequently come back to it, but one of the greatest moments in recent PlayStation press conference history came at E3 2012, when Sony showed God of War: Ascension and The Last of Us in quick succession. There was no pause for words from SCEA executive Jack Tretton – the platform holder simply showed both games back to back. And it felt like a statement of intent from the company; it knew that the titles were incredible, and so it didn’t need to say anything at all. Microsoft pretty much did this consistently during its own 90 minute presentation.

Whether the titles for the Xbox One appealed to you or not, it was pretty impressive the manner in which it bookended live gameplay demonstrations with trailers. It was really breakneck stuff from the Redmond-based firm – and it’s nothing unusual for the organisation. Regardless of the implications that “TV, TV, TV” had on its next generation console’s unveiling, its entertainment-focused offering was similarly swift, and moved along at a compelling pace. And it’s something that Sony really needs to imitate.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing developers and executives out on stage to talk about their products. We like SCEA president Jack Tretton, and it was certainly nice to see Worldwide Studios gaffer Shuhei Yoshida onstage during this year’s PlayStation briefing. But both figures had a tendency to talk too much – and it resulted in the conference starting with a desperately lethargic pace. The fact that Microsoft’s briefing is annually broadcast live on television may have implications behind these decisions, but there’s nothing to stop Sony from stealing its format. After all, as we mentioned earlier, millions of people watch these press conferences online – and we can guarantee that they don’t tune into see their favourite suits chat branding and ecosystems. There’s plenty of time for corporate speak in closed door meetings with retail partners and shareholders. E3 briefings have very much become as much about the fans as they are the media.

And Sony seems to recognise that by giving its most passionate followers front-row seats, and even directly talking to the consumer on the subject of topics such as DRM. But it just needs to nail that final third, and throw the sales pitches out of the window. The games almost always speak for themselves, and while we understand that Tretton needs to take to the stage to anchor the whole event, we can do without the soliloquies and monologues in 2014. The platform holder’s listened to every other piece of feedback tossed at it over the past six months, so let’s hope that it takes this one on board too. Let’s have a slighter smoother presentation next year, please.


Were you happy with the pacing of Sony’s press conference this year, or do you still think that there’s room for improvement? Do you actually like hearing from Jack Tretton and crew, or would you rather it let the games do the talking? Let us know in the comments section below.

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User Comments (20)

Wesker

#1

Wesker said:

I can't say I agree. Those Microsoft presenters seem too far removed from gamers, whereas some of the Sony guys are really likeable and come across as being sincere. I find the whole branding and public relations of Microsoft to be heavy-handed and patronising. I certainly wouldn't hold them up as a standard.

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

@Wesker I totally agree that the PlayStation presenters are much more amiable. The passion was spewing from Adam Boyes during the indie segment of this year's conference, and that's lovely to see. However, while I agree with your point about the Microsoft execs, I think that they get away with it because they're hardly on stage.

Tretton, House, Yoshida, and Boyes all got a lot of stage time during Sony's press conference, and that's what I wished they'd cut down. It's not that I don't like them — I really do — I just think the constant chatter kills the pace of the conferences.

BornOfEvil

#3

BornOfEvil said:

While I like Jack, I thought that he should have walked on stage, grabbed a mic and said "No used game DRM. No check-ins/always on. No mandatory camera." Then just dropped the mic and walked off stage as the audience exploded with cheers and applause behind him.

BrianC6234

#5

BrianC6234 said:

@Wesker I agree. The Microsoft people come across as creepy even. Not even real gamers. Sony does a much better job.

ObviouslySheik

#6

ObviouslySheik said:

They should practice giving all of their current consoles equal time in the spotlight. That's all.

Epic

#7

Epic said:

I noticed all this not stop.
Just game after game that's what I liked.
and Nintendo did the same but made it better with only showing gameplay in games except for Smash Bros mix of CGI and gameplay.
In my honest opinion Sony may have "won" the E3 but they had the worst conference they only showed few games, talked about TV and almost didn't mention Vita.
The only Epic moment of the presentation was when they started to salt the wounds of microsoft and showed the price the rest in my opinion was just good.

PS: Remember FF XV and Kingdom Hearts III aren't exclusives so that's why that didn't wowed me.

MadchesterManc

#8

MadchesterManc said:

I dont understand why M$ are being commended for thier E3 conference as much as they are when they had to have 'all about games' otherwise they'd face even more of a backlash. Practically NOTHING was shown during thier reveal and the backlash after that meant they HAD to show a lot of games at E3.

Here in the UK Sony's conferences are always on at about 2AM. If the pacing was bad or Tretton n co was a chore to listen to, id know because id be asleep lol I like Sony's conferences. They always seem more relaxed without a need for a flashy circus show like M$ tend to do (usher anyone? lol) and everything is explained very well that needs to be.

Itachi

#9

Itachi said:

I think Microsoft nailed it with quantity but Sony and Nintendo had better overall quality. I almost fell asleep watching Xbox One games cause with the exception of Metal gear Solid 5 and Titan fall, none of their games looked all that interesting. Sony on the other hand showed Kill Zone, Infamous, Final Fantasy 15, Kingdom Hearts, Destiny, Watch Dogs, Assassins Creed 4, Knack and a bunch of interesting looking titles. I agree they did talk a little too much but I thought Sony had the better showing overall. And at least the people they had on stage were likeable unlike microsoft's guys who looked like it was just another day in the office.

shingi_70

#10

shingi_70 said:

I like Phil SPencer and Phil Harrison but that's about it from the xbox guys.

Its so freaking crazy how honestly I feel with out the DRM Microsoft probably would have won E3.

rjejr

#11

rjejr said:

MS guys are creepy, but who even remembers them after a few days or hours or weeks when everybody is getting hyped for Forza, Halo and TitanFall? (Not me personally, but I'm not the X1 target audience.)

I think the biggest problem this year really was all the great PS3 titles coming out. Next year there should be very few of those and a bunch more PS4 games to talk about. I have no idea about the Vita.

BornOfEvil

#12

BornOfEvil said:

@rjejr I'm hopeful, maybe even confident, that the Vita will survive until next year. The PS3 will have nothing in the works and they'll just focus on Vita and PS4.

I know most people are thinking that the Vita will be dead by next year - some are even hoping it will - but I think that Tearaway, Mercenary, Jump-Stars Victory Versus (Japan only) and Freedom Wars will keep it relevant. I'm just hoping that Sony has Sucker Punch's second team or another first party studio working on something big.

ShogunRokAdmin

#13

ShogunRok said:

Another really well thought out article, and I concur absolutely. This year's presser started off so slow I was afraid Sony were going to botch their chance completely.

MadchesterManc

#15

MadchesterManc said:

A lot of people were hoping before the conference that Sony wouldn't spend too long focusing on Casual orientated content. I dont recall even a mention of the Move or anything like the Wonderbook, yet people are still complaining? I dont get it :P lol

rjejr

#16

rjejr said:

@TheRealBatman - I think the Vita needs a price drop more than games. Even if $249 was a fair price when it launched these things always have a price drop eventually and I think its time.
And if you get PS+ its got a bunch of games right there.

BornOfEvil

#17

BornOfEvil said:

@rjejr Announcing a simultaneous system and memory card price drop would have Vitas flying off shelves. As for games, it just needs a system seller, which is something Sony never really had.

Zombie_Barioth

#18

Zombie_Barioth said:

@rjejr
Thats the thing with the Vita, its as much as a home console by itself. Most people just find the idea of a handheld costing the same as a home console ridiculous. Its been that way since the Gameboy.

It doesn't help that Sony mainly targets more mature audiences with their handhelds, and those that would buy one for their kids aren't going to spend $250 on a handheld.

Slapshot

#19

Slapshot said:

Very good article Sammy, even though I have to respectfully disagree with you in regards to the talking points. I personally thought that Sony did a fantastic job with its conference in regards to its pacing. The speech segments were targeted and brief, and no single game got overplayed - Sony's brick wall moment that was Wonderbook from during last year's conference or Nintendo's terrible presentation of Nintendo Land.

When Jack Tretton came on-stage this year and immediately humbled himself (and PlayStation as a whole division) to those who keep him in the position that he is in, that wasn't only honest, it was intentional. From the start of the conference to the end, it was blatantly obvious that this entire conference's tone was intentional and I'll point out a few key points for better understanding.

For starters, well, I've already mentioned it: Sony made it obvious that it knows that the gamers are what keeps PlayStation going. Secondly (and most importantly), throughout the entire conference we didn't hear Sony telling us how "innovative," "ground-breaking," "revolutionary," "magical," or any other enlightening words overused that are intended to set Sony up on a higher level, like we saw with Microsoft's conference and Xbox One unveil. This creates a disconnect between the company and the consumer; belittling the consumer, instead of the consumer seeing the product and deciding for themselves.

Games, games and more games. The conference was long and there were a lot of games shown off. Very few got in-depth presentations, but that was because of the time limitations. Most of them were third party, but this was another intentional part on Sony too - it shows the faith that developers/publishers have in the PS4; a stark contrast to both Microsoft and Nintendo right now.

Sony could have talked up the new PlayStation Eye, the DualShock 4 controller, PlayStation Move, and all the new casual titles it has on the way. But it didn't. Why? Because it wanted the world to see that it knows that the core gamers already understand that these things will be available on the PS4,and that Sony knows that the only way it will continue to thrive in this dynamic market is to support its core fan base first and foremost; Again, a stark contrast to what both Microsoft and Nintendo are currently doing.

I'm going to sound like a jerk here (and this isn't aimed at your Sammy), but while gamers do indeed want to see nothing but games in these conferences - it's time that gamers start getting involved with this industry, it is time that they start listening to a bit of what these guys talk about on-stage. These console are becoming extremely complex and the install price is quite high - we need to be briefed on these consoles and most importantly, we need an understanding of what the platform holder's desires are within the industry with these consoles that we are investing in.

In all honestly, I love the glitz and glamour of E3, but I also want to start getting keynotes from these platform holders as well, where we get to see these consoles functioning in a much more intimate setting - gamers can go back to playing their video games - and us industry types can get a much better understanding of the consoles, and what possibilities they hold over the next 5-10 years.

It's great to see that you're putting up tough criticism here on a Sony fan site, Sammy! Keep up the fantastic work mate! :)

Massive-_-Chaos

#20

Massive-_-Chaos said:

I don't think Microsoft should be considered a console. It is now a DVR. Games are what they want to restrict. No matter the reason, people don't want these restrictions or policies.

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