If you watched Sony’s PlayStation conference at E3 this year, you may have noticed that it was different than the approach the company has taken previously. For example, there were no developers on stage and it only lasted an hour.
Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's Worldwide Studios, joked it was a far more relaxing E3 this year because of the new approach. Instead of trying to fit every game into a 90 minute or longer conference, Sony introduced an official pre-show, which included multiple game announcements, and followed it up with an hour of trailers and gameplay footage from upcoming titles. Yoshida, who sat down with Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller for the conversation, said this led to a smoother show.
“If you noticed, we had to put many of our games coming out this year in the pre-show lineup because we wanted to make the actual show one hour,” Yoshida said. “There were no technical issues that we needed to be worried about and there was no switching people, so we didn't have rehearsal. We had just one run-through the night before. That was it.”
While Yoshida thought it was a smoother conference, others thought it was strange. In our writeup of the conference, we suggested that Sony’s conferences were no longer press conferences, but fan events, adding that “these events are now becoming little more than video presentations, with the live audience on hand to provide color.”
To an extent, that makes sense. Over the past few years, E3 has become more about streaming, with developers and publishers catering to fans with their own livestreams to show off new games instead of relying on reports from the press, but there was something else missing from Sony’s press conference: release dates.
Miller asked Yoshida about this, too. There were very little release dates announced — instead fans were treated to release windows, a period of time when the game was expected to be released. Yoshida said that was very intentional and came from a long discussion with executives at Sony. One of the most important reasons that led to the decision, Yoshida added, was that they felt bad that they had to keep apologizing to fans about missing specific release dates. As a result, they completely changed their policy regarding announcements.
Because we announced a lot of release dates for games that we had to apologize for pushing back in the past, we got together and discussed this seriously. Because PS4 games are so big and all the teams, even veteran teams making games for the past 10 years, still miscalculate how much work is done at the end of the development; polishing and debugging, for example. So we agreed to not announce release dates until very, very, very, very close to the release date. That puts a lot of challenge to our marketing and sales teams, but they understood and agreed and allowed us to just say seasons like fall or spring until we are so close to a finished beta. So that's the reason we didn't announce the actual date.
Whether or not that’s enough to appease fans has yet to be answered, but it’s an understandable conundrum.
Hopefully, Sony will return to its colorful E3 press conference style next year, but considering Yoshida saw this year’s as a major win for the company, don’t get your hopes up.