After attending the PlayStation 4 conference tonight, I walked back into Polygon's E3 HQ. I wanted to ask a question: Could anyone recall a Big Hardware E3 media event in which only one person took the stage?
No one had an answer. I tried Twitter as well. Nothing.
Sony Interactive Entertainment America president Shawn Layden was the one and only person to appear on stage at tonight's event. He wasn't on stage for long. He offered very little rah-rah. He basically introduced a long sequence of video previews at the beginning and then said his goodbyes at the end.
This is a weird turn for hardware companies, which generally lather the stage with developers and execs who trot on, have their say, and wander off. There's usually a few bodies on stage handling "fun" game demos.
Even Nintendo, which doesn't go large on packing its stage, often has good old Bill Trinen on for a bit, at least as a foil for Reggie Fils-Aime.
So what's going on?
Layden says he's not interested in hogging the spotlight. In a recent interview with Polygon he told a story about being recognized by a PlayStation devotee, while coming out of a night club.
"It's not something I enjoy particularly," he told us. “The fame. I don't know what that means. I think there's a certain responsibility that goes with it and I'm very judicious about what I write on my Twitter feed."
The real reason is that these events are no longer staid press conferences, doling out pre-packaged quotes to bored reporters. They’re about streaming video direct to avid console owners and to carriers like Twitch and YouTube.
Those audiences are far less obliging about dull blokes wittering on about the amazing hard work of their teams. They want action.
The downside is that these events are now becoming little more than video presentations, with the live audience on hand to provide color. Although not at the same scale, Bethesda’s somewhat sterile event last night was similarly fronted by one man.
These aren't press conferences. They are fan events.
Layden spoke about this shift in our interview. He told us that Sony now makes sure to focus on its games and make it more of a media showcase than a press conference. That leaves out the stuffing, like sales numbers and other analytic tidbits.
It's been a long time since these events were about the press. Now their content is changing to accommodate the new media reality.