After several barnstorming E3 and PlayStation Experience press conferences, last night’s E3 2017 showcase felt like a bit of a let-down. To be clear, it absolutely wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination: God of War and Spider-Man seem super exciting; there’s loads to look forward to for PlayStation VR again, and; Shadow of the Colossus was an incredibly welcome surprise – the kind of announcement that’s plastered a permanent smile across the faces of everyone here at Push Square Towers.
So why wasn’t this year’s show as good as previous ones? Well, we reckon it comes down to a few things: presentation, variety, and familiarity.
Let’s address the first point to begin: Sony whiffed the spectacle of its E3 2017 press conference a little bit. Muting the crowd sucked the atmosphere out of every announcement; watch this video of The Last of Us: Part II being revealed at PSX 2016, and notice how the cheers completely change the feel of the reveal. The crowd definitely was vocal – you could make them out most during God of War, for example – but they weren’t miced up and so it sounded like there was very little interest in the room. A mood killer.
The platform holder also tried to top the orchestra from last year by wheeling out screens and, at one point, even cutting to people dangling from the roof of the Shrine Auditorium to represent the zombies in Days Gone. But while we’re sure that worked better in the theatre itself, the constant cuts away from the direct-feed footage of the video didn’t play particularly well on the live-stream. A smaller issue, but an issue nonetheless.
To its credit, Sony absolutely did deliver on back-to-back trailers and gameplay; chief Shawn Layden was on-stage for a maximum of maybe five minutes during the hour-long show. But while we do believe this is the way forward for press conferences which are increasingly becoming live adverts, we reckon that the showcase could have done with a couple more breaks. Last year we had Hideo Kojima walking on stage, for example, and while it only added a couple of minutes at most to the runtime, it helped to break things up and segment the show a bit.
Which is necessary when you’re showing similar sorts of games. Sony’s first-party is the best in the business, but there’s a sombre vibe to virtually all of the big blockbusters that it’s putting out, and that got a little bit exhausting over the course of the presentation. The thing is, it has loads of games in its portfolio that could have mixed things up a bit; the likes of Knack 2, Gran Turismo Sport, Everybody’s Golf, and Matterfall were all in the pre-show, and maybe could have done with being in the press conference itself.
And when you’re showing a bunch of thematically similar games, an air of familiarity doesn’t help. The likes of God of War, Days Gone, and Spider-Man all look absolutely exceptional – but we’ve seen them before. This is the danger when you announce games a little early, of course – or when you opt to throw huge announcements like The Last of Us: Part II into shows like PSX 2016 instead of E3.
But it’s not all doom and gloom: the manufacturer only need make a few tweaks to significantly enhance its showing next year. Next time it needs to make sure the audience is miced to add a little extra atmosphere, and while it’s absolutely right to focus on back-to-back gameplay and trailers, it needs maybe one or two more teleprompter moments to break things up.
Most importantly of all, though, it needs to better demonstrate the breadth of its portfolio, because it has so much in its stable that it could be shouting about. This isn’t a case of the games not existing in the first place – it literally has content on its platform for absolutely every taste. But it opted to put a lot of those titles in its pre-show or (in some cases) not even bother mentioning them at all, and while we ended up with a laser focused press conference as a result, it was a little dry and samey in the end.
Do you think that the small tweaks outlined above could significantly improve Sony's showcase next year? Or do you think it got things spot on yesterday? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.