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PS5 reveal met with conspiracy theory that presenters were CGI

Something is not quite right here...

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Shuhei Yoshida Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

While most people watching the PlayStation 5 reveal were probably busy considering the highlighted games, or worrying about the launch price, a contingent of the viewership had different concern. Were the human beings talking about the next-generation console even real?

“The PS5 reveal people all look like CGI renders,” one tweet read.

“Am I the only one wondering if the people in the PS5 reveal were CGI?” another worried.

“The speakers are CGI, right? I feel like im going crazy,” another viewer said.

Part of the reason this belief spread is that the showcase began by telling people that what they were about to see was captured on the PS5. Some took that to mean everything within the livestream was made via the console, ignoring that the slide specifies “game footage.”

An announcement in the PS5 reveal that the livestream had footage rendered on the console. Image: Sony

Perhaps some people are primed to expect this type of trickery. Back in 2013, when Kojima Productions unveiled The Phantom Pain, it did so via an elaborate ruse. A fake studio, along with a fake head honcho were made from whole cloth in an effort to obscure that the project was related to Metal Gear. That, too, was met with the suspicion that the human in front of us wasn’t real, but rather CGI. (The question has never been settled.)

And why not? While the industry hasn’t yet achieved total realism yet, we’re certainly making strides, especially with the upcoming console generation. But above all, wouldn’t it have been a flex for Sony to have ended its reveal with a twist about what we saw? Folks were expecting a gotcha moment to tie everything together.

It also didn’t help that there was, indeed, something uncanny about the presenters. The emoting and movement by presenters seemed very precise. Faces looked unreal, and the lighting looked off. It almost seemed as if the visuals were altered somehow, or spruced up.

Sony has a history with showing off photorealistic, real-time rendered digital humans at console events. Both the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4 had showings that featured such prominent tech demos (both of which featured older men rendered against black backgrounds).

Polygon reached out to Sony to ask if footage of presenters had been fiddled with somehow, or if perhaps there was anything notable about the lighting. Was there something unusual about how the presenters were filmed or post-processed?

A representative only told us that “the presenters were all taped at home,” which we assume has to do with the worldwide pandemic going on right now (Microsoft’s recent Xbox Series X reveal was similarly recorded at home). The funny thing is, the reveal trailer ends with a collection of smaller developers with varying backdrops that reinforced the idea that they were indeed recording at home. The footage quality, which was not consistent, also made this apparent.

But, you’ll note, the presenters — who came from bigger studiosall had a unifying look and background. This would suggest that at least some of the footage has indeed been altered for the sake of achieving a consistent brand aesthetic, even if this wasn’t achieved by CGI specifically.

It’s no wonder, then, that even after the livestream did not end with a kicker about the graphics, folks are still doubting what they saw. Even if they were actual humans, presenters still looked unreal somehow.

“Still unsure if all the real people we saw in the PS5 thing were actually real or just CGI,” one Tweet says.

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