Considering that most gamers consider E3’s annual event in June to be one of the biggest dates on the calendar, it came as a bit of a shock when Sony announced its intentions – late last year – to drop out of E3 2019 altogether. But now, thanks to an insightful interview by CNET, we know a bit more about what the executives involved in that decision were thinking.
Shawn Layden, the chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios and essentially the big cheese overseeing PlayStation and its development studios, gets rather reflective and candid in the interview. Harking back to his first trips to E3 back in the PS1 era, Layden recalls that, historically, “E3 served two constituencies: retailers and journalists.”
He remembers there being “a huge educational component” in talking to retailers about the games they had coming up back in those early days, and there were also benefits in talking to print-based “journalists who had magazines and lead time and jockeying for position on the cover.” Back then, Layden notes, “There was no internet to speak of. So a trade show at that time of year for this nascent industry was exactly what we needed to do.”
That, however, has changed somewhat in the years since.
“Now we have an event in February called Destination PlayStation,” Layden notes, “where we bring all retailers and third-party partners to come hear the story for the year. They’re making purchasing discussions in February. June, now, is just too late to have a Christmas holiday discussion with retailers. So retail has really dropped off. And journalists now, with the internet and the fact that 24/7 there is game news, it’s lost its impact around that.”
And here’s the kicker, the part in the interview where Layden really spills the beans about his thoughts on E3: “So the trade show became a trade show without a lot of trade activity. The world has changed, but E3 hasn’t necessarily changed with it.”
He also touches on the fact that an internal decision at Sony “to do fewer games — bigger games — over longer periods of time” has led the company to “a point where June of 2019 was not a time for us to have a new thing to say.”
In order to “maintain its relevance”, Layden seems open to the idea of E3 evolving into a more fan-based event. As he puts it, “We are progressing the conversation about, how do we transform E3 to be more relevant? Can E3 transition more into a fan festival of gaming, where we don’t gather there to drop the new bomb? Can’t it just be a celebration of games and have panels where we bring game developers closer to fans?”
That sounds like a lot of fun to us, but only time will tell if the team behind E3 goes for it. Certainly, they won’t want to see Sony making its absence from the scene an annual tradition. But will E3 change because of these suggestions? We’ll just have to wait and see.