News Article

Talking Point: Should Sony Ditch E3 Stage Shows Like Nintendo?

Posted by Sammy Barker

A different direction

Very few people earnestly enjoy change. This author gets the jitters if Chart-Track’s weekly UK sales data isn’t ready to write about first thing on a Monday morning, and don’t even mention routine rupturing Bank Holidays. It was little wonder, then, that the web was awash with cynicism last year when Nintendo opted to circumvent its usual E3 stage show shenanigans for something a little more personal – a format which it furthered in Los Angeles last week. But with the House of Mario exiting this year’s colossal convention in an unexpectedly strong position, has the firm proven that press conferences in their traditional guise are well past their sell-by date?

According to Google, a ‘press conference’ is an “an interview given to journalists by a prominent person in order to make an announcement or answer questions”. There was a time when E3’s increasingly important stage shows reflected that definition, with Sony historically treading the boards to talk sales figures and commercial strategies. Nowadays, in an age where media briefings are broadcast on websites and in cinemas, we zone out the second that a platform holder dares to discuss anything but the very biggest blockbusters or exclusives. The press may still refer to these corporate willy waving contests as ‘press conferences’, but they’re not really.

What you’re actually watching when you tune into the PlayStation – or EA, Ubisoft, or Microsoft – ‘press conference’ is a 90 minute advertisement. Executives waltz on stage in ill-fitting suits – or, sometimes, shorts and leather jackets – in order to tell you how amazing their product is and pretend to be your friend. The likes of Shuhei Yoshida and Phil Spencer may be amiable gaffers – and, honestly, extremely likeable people – but everything that they regurgitate from the teleprompter screen in front of them has been polished, preened, and prettified [Not sure if that’s a word – Ed] by an intelligent public relations team.

There’s nothing wrong with a company trying to sell you its products, of course, but it all feels a little disingenuous in these theatrical presentations. And that’s only part of the problem. Perhaps conscious of the fact that each commercial mouthpiece is merely a sock puppet for their employer, we’re rapidly approaching a point where we don’t even want said suits to talk. Microsoft’s presentation this year was largely successful because its new chief opted to let the games do the talking, only really appearing to reiterate buzzwords in indie developer shirts. Sony’s press conference, meanwhile, came crashing down the second that it started spouting statistics.

And so it all begs the question: why do these so-called ‘press conferences’ even exist? Nintendo gets criticised for not being forward thinking enough, and in many areas those complaints are well founded, but it seems to have realised that stage show shenanigans are a waste of time. And, while its own alternative this year – a pre-recorded broadcast packed with sketches, trailers, gameplay footage, and developer interviews – certainly wasn’t perfect, it was a step in the right direction. At approximately 45 minutes in length, there was no time for tedious pre-ambles, time wasting montages, and Powers concept art – it was mostly killer with very little filler.

Sony’s show certainly had its fair share of the former, of course, but it was the latter that killed its presentation; when group president Andrew House stepped on stage towards the end to debut back-to-back The Last of Us Remastered, Batman: Arkham Knight, Grand Theft Auto V, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End trailers, the conference was at its very best. But the firm didn’t need to rent out a conference hall, dress it with PlayStation paraphernalia, and convince Kaz Hirai to ship out his biggest Bravia display to the United States to do that – in fact, its message probably would have been more effective in a tightly knitted pre-recorded broadcast.

And yes, you do lose a little of the drama this way. The audible gasps when LittleBigPlanet 3’s logo popped up on the aforementioned gigantic screen was a truly amazing moment, as were the cheers during ex-executive Jack Tretton’s used game announcements last year. But with fans invited to these stage shows, and audience plants commonplace as well, we’re once again stepping away from the very idea of what a ‘press conference’ is supposed to be. Perhaps we’re being a little too rigid with the terminology, but if everything that we hate about E3 ‘press conferences’ is when they’re being actual, er, ‘press conferences’, then isn’t it time for a change?

Do you think that Sony should circumvent its annual E3 stage show moving forwards, or do you enjoy the live atmosphere that these events provide? What do you think of Nintendo’s strategy at the Los Angeles convention, and is it something that the platform holder should copy? Cheer because you’re told to in the comments section below.

Do you think that Sony should ditch its E3 stage shows? (67 votes)

Yes, I’d rather see the company broadcast a pacey pre-recorded show


Hmm, I’m really not sure


No, I like the atmosphere and energy that only live events can provide


Please login to vote in this poll.

User Comments (37)



k_andersen said:

I definitely think Sony should take a leaf out of Nintendo's book at next year's E3. Regardless of the quality of the actual announcements (which is obviously totally subjective), the best thing about the prerecorded format was the distinct lack of horrifically awkward mishaps. It made the other 'press conferences' almost seem unprofessional by comparison. Also, if they're going to start showing these things in cinemas, it makes sense to make them a bit more polished.

And while I certainly did miss the reactions from a live audience, the twitter blow-ups that occurred during Nintendo's event were just as entertaining, and 'hype-inducing.'



kensredemption said:

After the "Nintendo's white PS4" fiasco at the L.A. Times during E3, the press has proven to be as useless as Bill O'Reilly at a Klan meeting. It's better if developers appeal directly to the fans. Word-of-mouth through social networks is the best way to convince new consumers to invest these days anyway.



ohhaime said:

I thought Sony just felt rushed this year.They kind of just dropped a bunch of names and a few trailers without really saying much about the things they announced.

What I liked best about Nintendo this year was all the coverage that came after. We really got a good look at everything they announced.



7yL3r8 said:

Pre-recorded is the way to go in my opinion. Everything can be polished to perfection that way. And those Robot Chicken-esque sequences were hilarious and only possible through a pre-recorded event.
I'd also like to see something in line with the Treehouse event from Sony next year. I feel like it spread the news out over multiple days and kept the E3 hype going.



BambooBushido said:

@ohhaime @T7L3R Sony did the same thing as Nintendo they had live conversations with developers on Twitch go to Sony's playstation YouTube channel they uploaded all the E3 Twitch coverage videos there



Paranoimia said:

They should mix the two.

1. Start with an opening montage showing recent and upcoming games.

2. A suit - or someone globally identifiable to PS fans, like Nolan North - giving a brief (5 minutes) talk about figures and/or upcoming services. Just enough to whet appetites of those interested, but leave details for show floor interviews. (I actually like hearing these things, but stick to the highlights - they do go on too long, and there's no need to blurt everything out on stage).

3. Show the games. Stick to video clips unless you're certain of a flawless live play through. Absolutely no CGI trailers unless immediately followed by actual gameplay. Don't show anything that won't be available to buy within 12 months; if that decreases the number of games you can show, just show more of those games, or shorten the show - it doesn't have to be 2 hours long.

4. The suit reappears to thank people for coming, say that questions will be answered on the show floor (or in a specific press-only briefing later on), and says goodnight.



Jazzer94 said:

I think it could be a good idea but it needs to be executed correctly just look how much better this years Nintendo Digital event was compared to last year.



Hokage17 said:

Sony's would have had an outstanding conference if they just would have shut up with all the talk of numbers and statistics, and the whole powers segment was just uncalled for. An idea I've been thinking is maybe Sony should just split their conferences in half on two separate occasions.

The 1st would be all about the games and nothing else similar to what Nintendo did. The second on a different day you can have all the corporate guys on stage talking about tech, numbers, people clicked the share button a bazillion times, etc. At least this way people know what to expect and won't hurt their pacing.



get2sammyb said:

@T7L3R To be fair, Sony did broadcast live from the showfloor — and has done for the past three years — but Nintendo did a much better job of promoting their streams. In fact, I felt the PlayStation Blog team really dropped the ball this year, as no one even knew they were streaming. It's unlike them, because they're usually very good.

So, there was a PlayStation Treehouse, it's just no one knew it was going on...



Mrskinner said:

I always thought E3 was the show for the industry side so the stats actually make sense to be there. After reading all of the negativity, just shows how peoples conceptions of the show have chaned.



N711 said:

Live presentation of games are the best. They should just pre record the stats and talking to make it entertaining .



Oren87 said:

Hell yes! I've been saying for years that the live press conferences are archaic and a waste of time. They are cringeworthy and just awkward at times. I was very impressed with Nintendos showing this year and would love to see 'the big two' follow suit.

One thing that bothers me in these conferences is the insistence on showing the first 5 minutes of a game. It totally ruins it for when you get round to playing it yourself surely? I'm all for gameplay trailers - just mix them up and don't give too much away.



Oren87 said:

@Itachi part of the reason they do that is to fill a 90 minute slot. Just make it a shorter pre recorded show and save the numbers for another time (or after it has finished).



WickedKnightAl said:

First off, they did have a showing on their channel. The internet just chose to ignore it, the same way people seemingly romanticize everything Nintendo does.

Second, the Treehouse requires the conference to be going on as a prerequisite. It's only exciting because it's the E3 Nintendo Treehouse. A stream is a very mundane thing that can be running any time, really. Theirs only looked exciting because they were piggybacking off of hype that was already there.

Third, why not just do both? Sony and Microsoft can easily run their own pre-recorded streams, and maybe sell off specific coverage to GameTrailers, IGN or Gamespot (or keep it exclusive to their own channel, though lending certain segments to the highest bidder could offset the cost of making it). Have their conference and run the pre-recorded stuff exclusively on the internet, to let the kiddies still feel special. Showing they have pockets deep enough to grab some live reactions while setting up a complex program would completely undermine Nintendo only having one of those things.

Pretty much anything Nintendo can do Sony can do better.



ohhaime said:

@get2sammyb @AeroZeppelin
I actually watched some of that coverage but completely forgot about it.

But still the live coverage felt rushed too.From I saw of it, It was mostly just developer interviews which had the Devs listing off the bullet point features of their games.Informative sure but not to entertaining.

Nintendo showed large chunks of gameplay while the Treehouse team talked about what they liked about the games.It was much more entertaining to watch them play because they were actually having fun.



Bad-MuthaAdebisi said:

I have no interest in e3 other than ps4/vita news. It would make more sense to do a quarterly presentation direct to consoles and YouTube.



BambooBushido said:

@ohhaime I agree it wasn't as good as Treehouse they didn't show that much new gameplay and like you say it was mostly just developer interviews with the devs listing off the bullet points of there games informative yes but not to entertaining hopefully Sony improves next year



charlesnarles said:

Waste 'o time. If it's not for investors and devs, then it's for consumers watching at home and needs moar bikinis.



sinalefa said:

I don't watch MS/Sony conferences because they are a snoozefest, with Layden being as uninteresting as Tretton. While they try to act cool and serious, Nintendo shows games and even make fun of themselves to spice things up.

Nintendo's conference was better IMO because it was prerecorded, thus allowing things that were not possible any other way, skipping all PR crap and being shorter. There is no way you can make a 90 minute show and keep a good pace. And the Robot Chicken segments and Iwata/Reggie fighting were a goofy but welcome palate cleanser.

About the treehouse, not only Nintendo but NintendoLife made a much better job than Sony/Push Square. The treehouse live feed was in NL's front page, while much later I realized Sony had something similar because a commentor here told me (thanks @AeroZeppelin!), not someone from the staff.



Tintin said:

Well they have copied everything else Nintendo have done so they might as well copy their E3 set up as well.



Shaolin said:

Personally I'd be happy to see the back of both the Live stage show and a long pre-recorded show. That sounds silly of me right? But what I'd prefer instead is for a larger number of more informative videos to be released daily over the course of E3 so that to the average gamer there would be more to E3 than just those 90 minute press events on the first day.



Demi_God said:

I do think Shawn Layden is a good speaker, the problem here is what he was speaking about. All he needs first is to announce a big game and that will be the start of good things for him.

I think some people here forgot about how it was when jack tretton was speaking before he got popular, it was a boring disaster and he really didn't hit the popularity as much until later on. So basically, what they need to set up for Shawn Layden is for him to announce a few AWESOME! games for the PS4. They should have had him do that with LBP3 and Uncharted 4. Ditching E3 though would be a bad one, more and more people are tuning into E3 events that are showing up everywhere. To ditch the E3 stage show would be very bad. While Sony has had some downer E3 conferences, this one was far from the worst one, they've had quite a few awesome ones as well as mediocre compared to the bad ones which there aren't many of those.



adf86 said:

@get2sammyb I would go a different way if I was Sony , I would prefer if they did a PlayStation Con. After all Blizzad have a con and their just one studio. Over a weekend can pack out a conference hall where people can play the newest games, meet devs and host streaming events, tournaments etc & have an E3 style press conference to reveal upcoming software. It would be unique cos no other console maker does it.



JaxonH said:

While I do feel that Nintendo has tapped into the future of the E3 format, I don't necessarily feel that Sony and MS need to follow suit verbatim. The biggest win of Nintendo's performance was the percentage of time dedicated to showing gameplay for newly announced games. That's what it all boils down to imo. Now yes, there are some other things they did that spiced up the presentation, but I think that if Sony could even just do that much, it'd make a drastic difference. Less time on previously announced games, less time talking, less time on cinematics, etc.

I never noticed how much live presentations feel "corporate" until this past E3. Nintendo's performance really brought out a stark contrast, and it made me realize just how corporate Sony and MS's presentations were. Guys in suits talking about numbers and sales, rehearsed lines with fake applause. Idk, I definitely think it's time for a change, BUT, I think Sony should find it's own way. There's more than one way to skin a cat...

In the end though, what counts is not HOW they convey the news, but rather the news itself.



naruball said:

I'd rather they kept as it's been so far. There's a time and place for everything and E3 should stay a live event. Part of the fun is watching a disaster happen.

They can have digital events before Christmas if they want, but not at the expense of a proper E3 event.



Munkyknuts said:

I like the live format but the shows have become more monstrously misshapen and bloated than something you would see lurching towards you in a survival horror game. I think I'd like to see a hybrid of live and pre recorded....the live atmosphere is a good thing to maintain, but painfully socially awkward fellows (like me) coming on stage and bumbling thru statistics are never going to blow the roof off the place. More killer less filler.



TheLobster said:

Sony is pretty swift on the uptake. I'll miss the live reactions, but I don't think we'll see actual press conferences from them for much longer. One more year at the most. More streamlined is more better anyway.



Fenriswolf- said:

If they go the prerecorded route, why even have an E3 event?? They could just broadcast it whenever an however it suits them. That would render E3 irrelevant and there would be no more of it, then all the crybabies would bemoan the fact that it's gone! ..gamers these days.. Smh



SteveoKenobi said:

I like the big show... it gives a great platform, and you get sometime some genuine surprises. i think Sony could do something similar to Nintendo, have a shorter show and then over week release videos and stagger the announcements...

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...