When Sony announced last week it was planning a Deep Dive on four upcoming games at E3 (Death Stranding, Spider-Man, The Last of Us: Part II and Ghost of Tsushima – the latter which intrigues me a lot but I always did like a good Ninja Game. Hint Sega: Shinobi long overdue!), there was a confused muddle of opinions.
Some thought it didn’t make sense – Sony should be in a stronger position, surely? And of course, others have convinced themselves this is all part of a smoke-and-mirrors end-game where Sony will drop some big major announcement like a PlayStation 5, or a Vita 2… which are both highly unlikely, at least this year, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for another handheld console from Sony at this point. I mean, you could, but you’ll be waiting a long time and most people require oxygen…
But I thought about it the last few days and I think it does make sense.
E3 2018, this year, is about managed expectations. It seems most companies have realised something quite important; there are 364 other days of the year to announce video games. Capcom already announced Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate – unquestionably it would have been a great thing to have in the Nintendo E3 Direct, but we got it revealed a month before E3 even kicks in. Other companies are piling in on this too – Rage 2 has as I write this blog post been revealed a scant couple of hours ago, again undoubtedly it would have been a strong and interesting title to pitch during Bethesda’s E3 Showcase… but nope, it’s been announced considerably ahead of time. Though I suppose having retailers listing it didn’t help…
Then there are the other shows; Tokyo Game Show is a keystone now that video gaming is back on track in Japan, largely because of the Nintendo Switch but hey, who am I to argue? Then there is GamesCom, which several companies have been turning up to a couple months after E3 and realised after massive critical facepalming that it was mostly recycled E3 leftovers. And at the end of the year, you now have The Game Awards – which actually shocked everyone last year by not sucking. Like, at all. I don’t know what His Highness Dorito-Pope Geoff Keighley (I will never get over that) was doing at TGA2017 but more of that at TGA2018 please sir. Also, thanks for murdering Hydrobot.
But that doesn’t get to why Sony is trying to temper expectations.
I think 2017 wasn’t a fantastic year for the PlayStation. Sure, it kicked off well enough; Nier: Automata and Nioh were excellent games – Nioh even one of my top games of the year. But as the months rolled on, I think Sony realised some of its titles weren’t ready for prime-time. E3 2017 was mostly recycled announcements and some laughably embarrassing VR stuff (I mean, I know people like Moss and all and that’s cool but a 2D Platformer on VR is still just… why?), and then there was PlayStation Presents at the tail end of 2017; a chat-show of such disastrously lame proportions that my usual crowd fairly roundly said it was like Sony wasn’t even trying.
Third-parties have their own E3 shows for the most part; and they’re preferring to do their own thing. Social Media has condensed everything down and sped everything up at mach speed to the point of being borderline ridiculous. Nintendo’s E3 Directs focus largely on their own myriad projects lately – and this year sounds like it will be no exception. Everything has changed; dramatically so, with all but the Bethesda conference even happening at… *gasp* reasonable GMT Times! I don’t have to stay up until four in the morning for the Sony show this year! I might even be able to go to bed and get a decent nights sleep! The scandal of it all!
Effectively, Sony is saying – “Here’s our E3 plans and what we’ve got to show.”
That’s not a terrible idea. Sony’s fans seem to have this disconnect where they want surprises but hate disappointments – well, so do all gaming fandoms but Sony’s can be particularly toxic at times on this front. Considering we know very little about Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us, Spider-Man and Death Stranding (which, despite me not being a Kojima fan, still intrigues me a lot), the surprise should be in what we get to see from the games.
Nintendo’s E3 2017 Direct had a few placeholders; title screens and just verbal agreements and that’s cool. Nintendo’s fans seem to be okay with that; whether you agree with crashing Twitter over the announcement of a title screen is kind of immaterial here. Sony’s fans… react differently. It’s a different audience with a different temperament and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly when Microsoft’s fans seem to be holding out for some kind of divine intervention right now). I like Nintendo’s mysterious machinations and I like Sony’s more up-front attitude. It’s nice to see the two companies having different methodologies and approaches. It’s all pretty awesome.
Even if Sony has no additional surprises – it may do – I think there’s a really admirable aspect to detailing in advance what is going to be focused on.
And why shouldn’t Sony put a massive spotlight on four of its biggest upcoming games this year? I mean, it worked for Nintendo a couple years back and that was just a single game – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. E3 is still a marketing exercise. Sometimes it’s been clear that some showcases try to cram in too much and two-thirds of what they discuss gets kind of lost in the aether.
Sometimes less can be so much more.
So yeah. I’m okay if this is “all” Sony has to show; four major games and all four are extremely interesting games in their own right. Getting to see more of them, and actual gameplay for some of them too since Spider-Man is the only one we’ve seen any in-game footage of (even then, come on, that was pretty heavily scripted). Rather than get peoples hopes up for ridiculous things – I mean, I still hold out hope for a Primal reboot but that’s just ridiculous at this point oh god I need that game so much – we instead get a “here’s the four games we’re showing.” There’s an admirable honesty and integrity in that. And it helps that three of them are still mostly mysteries even if we know they’re coming…
That’s not to say that it will be a boring show – actually, I’d argue 2017 Sony was fairly dull. I don’t want “Boring Sony”. That way lies executives who live in fantasy worlds who think we all will take second or third jobs to pay for a games console, or marketing teams who make catastrophic blunders like the Black/White PSP and the four-boobed PS Vita. Controlled, self-aware Sony – the Sony that dropped that thermonuclear diss on the XBox One back in 2013 – is way more interesting than the current successful and kinda safe Sony.
I’m more than willing to give Sony the benefit of the doubt here.
Microsoft, on the other hand… I hope you XBox fans get what you want. And I hope the Vatican officially recognises it as an actual miracle…