At this point in time, it looks as though Sony's relationship with E3 is over. The Electronic Entertainment Expo has been running since 1995, and PlayStation has been in attendance every year. That is, until 2019, when the Japanese giant broke its 24-year streak. It announced it would be absent at E3 2020 too, although it would later be cancelled altogether.
The show would be running around now, and while we are getting our fill of announcements, the lack of E3 is certainly felt among enthusiasts. With this in mind, we thought it would be fun to take a look through the history books, and pick out some of Sony's defining E3 moments.
"$299" - E3 1995
At the very first Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1995, Sony was there to promote its upcoming PlayStation console. Held in the Los Angeles Convention Center, the inaugural E3 show was wildly different from how we think of it today. It was much more industry-focused, smaller in scale, and press conferences were as flashy as a cardboard box.
It's also where Sony made history with its first major E3 upset. SEGA had announced that its new Saturn console would retail for $399. Sony, during what was otherwise an incredibly dry conference about what to expect from PlayStation, retaliated aggressively. Steve Race, a Sony Computer Entertainment boss at the time, took to the stage to deliver the shortest speech in history. He simply said "$299" and returned to his seat amid applause and cheers. It was a major blow to SEGA, and proved Sony was not messing around.
"$199" - E3 1996
With Nintendo, SEGA, and Sony competing in the console space, things got pretty heated. The PlayStation had a great launch in the US, outpacing the Saturn by a considerable margin. Nintendo was also struggling with the Virtual Boy. The time came for E3 1996, where Nintendo would impress with N64 tech demos.
But this is a list about Sony's E3 ups and downs. Apparently, all the hardware manufacturers had agreed not to make any pricing announcements in the vein of Sony's aforementioned "$299" stunt. That didn't stop the PlayStation maker, though; it declared the PS1 would be dropping in price to $199. The move forced Nintendo and SEGA to price match with the N64 and Saturn respectively.
PlayStation 2 and Metal Gear Solid 2 - E3 2000
Sony had announced its plans for a Next Generation PlayStation at E3 1999, but it was at the following show that the platform holder really had something to show. The PS2 had gotten off to a bumpy start in Japan, but software demos at E3 impressed. One game in particular stole the show, however.
Konami's PlayStation 2 exclusive Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was on display, and it had the attention of everyone in attendance. The looping video preview was a technical showpiece for Sony's hardware, and was the overwhelming hot topic of E3 2000.
EyeToy, Tiger Woods, and PSP - E3 2003
E3 quickly became a flashier show through its early years, and eight years in, we really start to see something more familiar. In E3 2003, Sony was still using its press conference to tout the huge sales figures of both PS1 and PS2, but Kaz Hirai also introduced us to Gran Turismo 4 and other titles.
The conference had its ups and downs. It was during this hour-long show we were introduced to the EyeToy camera, and the bundled software was shown off in a goofy but hilarious live presentation, and even Hirai got in on the action. The fun stopped when the conversation turned to online play, however. A lengthy segment saw Hirai talk up the potential of online multiplayer, culminating in an overly long Tiger Woods PGA Tour demonstration between the game's namesake and Cedric the Entertainer.
But it would all come good in the end. Ken Kutaragi himself took to the stage to make the unexpected announcement of PlayStation Portable. We didn't get to see the device itself, but Kutaragi's enthusiasm for the "Walkman of the 21st century" was infectious. It was a great showstopper.
PSP unmasked - E3 2004
Sony started E3 2004's presser with bravado, as Kaz Hirai boasted of PS2's huge success. While much of the presentation is quite dry, there is one notable point in this year's showcase.
Namely, the official unveiling of PSP and its final design. Hirai goes into detail on every aspect of the handheld before we finally get a glimpse at some of the software. A montage of games shows us snippets of Hot Shots Golf, Ape Escape, Metal Gear Acid, Tony Hawk, Ridge Racer, WipEout Pure, and more. EA's Don Mattrick takes to the stage to confirm a handful of PSP titles before things go downhill with a focus on UMD's multimedia potential.
Things slow down even more with a technical and slow presentation from Masa Chatani about Sony and IBM's partnership on 'Cell' processor based workstations, and how this will shape the future. Important as it might be to hear about next-generation tech like this, it's a dreary end to the conference.
PS3 announced - E3 2005
For Sony, E3 2005 was all about PlayStation 3.
We're quickly reintroduced to its underlying Cell technology, as well as support for Blu-Ray discs and backwards compatibility. We also learned about its tech specs, which compared favourably against Xbox 360.
This E3 was an important one for Sony. The first half of the show was very heavy on the tech talk, but the company quickly turned things around. Phil Harrison took to the stage to show us what PS3 is capable of, and he started with a bathtub full of rubber ducks. "This demo uses LOD," he says. "Lots of Ducks." Classic. He then shows us PS3 simulating hundreds of thousands of leaves, and then a gas station exploding with real time physics. These and other tech demos were all incredibly impressive at the time. One outlier was an inexplicable collision of Gran Turismo and Sony's Spider-Man movie franchise, but things were quickly brought back to games.
Fight Night Round 3 kicked off a look at PS3 software, but Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII PS3 tech demo grabbed much of the attention. Seeing Midgar realised in state of the art detail spurred on the call for a remake that wouldn't be answered until 15 years later on PS4.
Then came a group of back-to-back trailers and showcases of in-development PS3 titles, and it was a real eye-opener. This is where the infamous Killzone 2 and Motorstorm target videos originated, as well as the debut of games like Warhawk, Resistance, Heavenly Sword, and — yes — Nioh. It was a very impressive showreel.
This was followed by a surprise hardware reveal, and an optimistic Spring 2006 release window. A very important E3 in PlayStation's history.
The one with all the memes - E3 2006
There are usually only a handful of Sony's E3 presentations anyone ever talks about, and 2006's show is one of them. Unfortunately, it's talked about because of a number of unusual, cringeworthy, and straight up poor moments throughout the two-hour runtime.
It was at E3 2006 that Sony really went to town with PS3, showcasing all sorts of games in an effort to impress the audience. The first was Gran Turismo HD, a tech demo that used enhanced Gran Turismo 4 assets. This is followed by an AR card game, The Eye of Judgment, and then a talk about PS3's network features. Then, the first of several infamous moments.
Kaz Hirai pulls out a PSP and demonstrates playing a digitally downloaded PS1 game on the system. It loads up, and is revealed to be none other than... Well, we'll let Kaz do the talking. "It's Ridge Racer!" he exclaims. "Riiiiidge Racer!" The audience rightly laughs. It's a harmless moment, but it's the first of many that people reference to this day.
It isn't long before this is followed by something even better. Bill Rich took to the stage to demonstrate Genji: Days of the Blade, "an action game based on Japanese history". The game's stages are allegedly "based on famous battles which actually took place in ancient Japan". These quotes are important, as minutes later, Rich makes a mockery of his own words when he introduces us to a "giant enemy crab". You need to flip it on its back and "attack its weak point for massive damage". Just incredible.
On a more positive note, the software announcements keep on coming, and that includes a gameplay demo for Resistance: Fall of Man and our very first glimpse at Uncharted. We also see the likes of Assassin's Creed, Ridge Racer 7, and Metal Gear Solid 4.
Eventually, Ken Kutaragi is wheeled out to introduce us to the SIXAXIS controller's gyro capabilites, demoed with Warhawk. It precedes perhaps the most damning moment of the whole conference, though. Kaz Hirai returns to reveal launch details of PS3, including price. It was at this point we learned the 60GB PS3 would cost an eye-watering $599.
Looking back, it's not a terrible press conference, but Sony was heavily criticised at the time, especially for that sky high price tag. It's a real low point for the company that had been flying high for so long.
Agent, The Last Guardian, and God of War III - E3 2009
This E3 presentation had some slow points, but overall was a great show from Sony. On the software front, the company impressed with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Gran Turismo 5. Sony also promised a brand new, PS3-exclusive title from none other than Rockstar Games. Named Agent, it was talked up to be a big deal. Little did we know at the time the game would never happen.
The Last Guardian also made its official debut at E3 2009, back when it was a PS3 game. It's notable here because of what would happen later.
Sony ended things on a high, though, with a gameplay demo of God of War III. Showcasing unbelievable visuals and a new level of violence, it was a climactic end to the show, and proved the PS3 still had plenty more to give. Perhaps more than others, E3 2009 represented a real upswing for the struggling console, with Sony committing with rock solid first party support.
The Kevin Butler speech - E3 2010
It's not often people will whoop and applaud the arrival of a walking advert, but the E3 2010 audience went nuts when Kevin Butler gatecrashed Sony's conference. The character had proved extremely popular in a string of PlayStation advertising, and there he was, in the flesh. What would he do? What would he say? It turned out he would make an impassioned speech about video games.
It followed the official unveiling of PlayStation Move, which was obviously viewed as a copycat motion controller stolen from Nintendo due to its similarities. Butler waltzed onstage in an attempt to put a stop to these comparisons. "I say it's time we focus on what really matters: the games," the fictional Sony suit said, before delivering a funny, rousing speech about gaming. It got the crowd going like nothing else.
PSN Outage and PS Vita - E3 2011
Before 2011's E3, a huge PlayStation Network issue occurred. In April of that year, a vast number of users had their personal information exposed, forcing Sony to shut down PSN while it solved the problem. It made international news, being one of the largest data breaches in history, and resulted in nearly a month of downtime. It was disastrous.
At E3, Jack Tretton wasted no time in addressing what had happened. He thanked industry and retail partners for their support, and apologised to consumers "personally and on behalf of the company". It was important to highlight the issue before the company could move onto more positive subjects.
One of those was PS Vita, Sony's brand new handheld system. Towards the end of the conference, Kaz Hirai announced the name of the device and went over some of its key features. We also got our first real look at software, with demos of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Warrior's Lair, and ModNation Racers: Road Trip, among others. It received a substantial amount of focus, and the result was a great debut for the handheld. The Vita would go on to become somewhat of a sore spot, but this was clearly a big moment for Sony.
PS4 and the used games victory - E3 2013
E3 2013 was a big one. Coming a few months after the February PlayStation Meeting, we all knew PS4 was coming, and Sony delivered a pretty stellar showing. After going over upcoming games for Vita and PS3, the attention quickly turned to the next-gen console.
A blowout of PS4 games includes titles of all shapes and sizes from a wide variety of studios, but it's when Jack Tretton returns to the stage that the crowd really goes wild. He announced that "PS4 will not impose any new restrictions on the use of PS4 game discs", and before he can even finish saying it, the audience explodes in applause. "Guess that's a good thing," he joked after seeing the reaction. "When a gamer buys a PS4 disc, they have the rights to use that copy of the game; they can trade in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend, or keep it forever." Even more uproarious applause. "In addition, PlayStation 4 disc-based games don't need to be connected online to play..." An even bigger response. "...or for any type of authentication. If you enjoy playing single player games offline, PS4 won't require you to check in periodically." The crowd rallies again. "And it won't stop working if you haven't authenticated within 24 hours." Yet more cheering.
Sony's conference followed Microsoft's by a matter of hours, and this segment of PlayStation's show was a direct reaction to Xbox One's restrictive, online check-in procedures. It was an immensely powerful moment, a huge blow to Microsoft, and arguably a reason why PS4 went on to be so successful. It also happened to spawn a very cheeky viral video, in which Sony staff instructed viewers on how to share games on PS4. If you want to learn more about how that video came to be, we have the full scoop.
The holy trinity - E3 2015
Another huge E3 for Sony, and arguably one of its finest showcases. Yes, it was at E3 2015 that Sony showed us the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn, Dreams, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. It's a rock solid press conference, with exciting software from start to finish.
However, a trio of huge surprises made this an E3 for the ages. Sony opened the show with the long-awaited return of The Last Guardian. It had moved from PS3 to PS4, and it instantly won the crowd over. The show went on for another half an hour or so before the second megaton landed. Final Fantasy VII Remake, a game everyone wanted but no one thought would happen, was announced. It was only a teaser, but it didn't stop the audience from going absolutely ballistic. But Sony wasn't done: it had another ace up its sleeve. Shenmue III, another wishful-thinking game, was unveiled onstage. It might've been debuted with a Kickstarter campaign, but that didn't matter — the fan favourite Dreamcast series was coming back after nearly two decades.
Sony could've just shown those three and dropped the mic, but it wrapped them with plenty of other great trailers and reveals. All in all, it's got to be one of the best E3 pressers in the show's history. We got the chance to speak to Adam Boyes all about the story behind this particular E3 conference, and it's well worth checking out.
Return of the kings - E3 2016
Many believe E3 2015 to be Sony's best conference, but 2016's show is no slouch either. While it couldn't hope to match the trio of bombshells from the previous year, Sony came out swinging, showing off outstanding PS4 exclusive games. It started things off with a very theatrical reveal of God of War, to which the audience went wild.
It wasn't the only thing to make a grand return, however. Much later in the conference, Shawn Layden walked onto the stage with a bandicoot-shaped shadow in order to announce Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. This was also met with lots of applause. Then we saw the return of none other than Hideo Kojima. The legendary game designer made a grand entrance, and simply said, "I'm back". The crowd was in a frenzy.
This is without mentioning other grand reveals like Death Stranding, Marvel's Spider-Man, and Detroit: Become Human. Once again, Sony had put on a blinding show, and it showed the company was bringing its A-game with all these exclusives.
The final show - E3 2018
The last Sony appearance at E3 was a strange one. Once again, it brought some excellent software to show off, but the format was a little bizarre. Firstly, a small portion of the gaming press was ushered into a purpose built set in order to show off an extended gameplay demo of The Last of Us: Part II. It was impressive, but we then had a 10-minute break while these attendees made their way to the main event. This time was filled with an interview between Shawn Layden, Sid Shuman and others, but it was an odd move.
Once we were in the main theatre, Ghost of Tsushima was introduced by Cornelius Boots, a musician playing a traditional shakuhachi. It was a great performance, but again, it meant the pacing was a little off — especially compared to previous years. Anyway, once the gameplay demo concluded, things got rolling.
We saw the debut of Control, Resident Evil 2, Nioh 2, and more. In the end, it was another solid press conference. Little did we know at the time it would be Sony's last. There's every chance the Japanese giant could return to E3 in the future, but it's proven this year with the PS5 reveal event and two great State of Plays that it can manage without.
What's your favourite Sony E3 moment? What are some E3 highs and lows you'll never forget? Reminisce in the comments section below.