The Xbox team put on a very good E3 2019 press conference. You could go so far as to say that it was their best E3 conference of the last few years. It was concise, it covered most of the major bases, and it even featured a few surprises. It was a very good modern E3 conference.
That’s kind of the problem, though. It was a very good modern E3 press conference that showed why so many studios are pivoting away from modern E3 conferences.
While skipping E3 conferences isn’t an entirely new thing (companies like Konami did it after particularly embarrassing years), but Nintendo really kicked off the modern trend by pivoting to Nintendo Direct announcements. However, the discussion surrounding skipping E3 didn’t really heat up until Sony announced that they are skipping this year’s show.
Considering that Sony has attended every E3 since the first one (and typically steals the show), it was quite the shock to hear that Sony and the PlayStation team wouldn’t be showing up. PlayStation executives explained the decision by stating that times had changed and they were thinking beyond the boundaries of E3.
At the time, some people thought that they were referring to their elaborate multi-stage E3 show which was awkward and didn’t really fit the flow of the typically great E3 presentation. There were also some rumblings about how E3 had simply grown too expensive and impractical.
After watching Xbox’s show, though, it’s pretty clear that Sony was talking about how the evolving nature of the video game news industry makes E3 more of a pitfall than it has been in the past.
Microsoft put on a great show, but the substance at the core of that spectacle was a bit lacking. We heard Microsoft talk about their next-gen console, but it’s not coming until late 2020. We heard them talk about the next Halo game, which they didn’t show much of, but it’s not coming until late 2020. We saw quite a bit of Gears 5 coming in 2019, but most of the substantial information about the game didn’t really come until after the presser.
This wasn’t just a Microsoft problem. Bethesda most anticipated games (Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI) were nowhere to be found and likely won’t be seen for a long time. As such, many of their other announcements felt a little hollow and not worthy of such a big stage.
What seems to be clear is that almost every studio has their eyes on the future. That’s fine, but it leaves them putting on an expensive spectacle with millions watching in which they’re trying to dance around all of the things that they can’t say.
You can say that this year was an anomaly, but it’s really not. From game delays to inherently slow years, there are just times when it’s simply not practical to throw a big show across three to four days. If Sony had been at this show, they probably would have spun their wheels and talked about projects we already know while leaving fans talking about all the things they didn’t say.
Next year will probably be different for Microsoft as they unveil their next Xbox. However, if Sony were to undercut them by revealing theirs ahead of time outside of the boundaries of E3, then they’d just go to prove that the idea of unloading whatever you’ve got for a yearly show just doesn’t make sense every year.