Soapbox: Sony’s Muddled E3 2018 Messaging a Matter of Expectation Management

Sony’s E3 2018 plans have become clearer, but its messaging overall has been muddled today. I was ready to read the company the riot act when Shawn Layden appeared on a podcast earlier, talking about a “different” kind of press conference. As it happens I’m glad I waited, because further clarifications from the company seem to have put proceedings into focus: it’s still hosting its traditional live briefing – it just wants to calibrate your expectations ahead of time.

I think if the platform holder had been clearer from the beginning, this would have been a smart move. It’s clear that after the backlash to last year’s conference, which was filled with updates on titles we’d seen at past pressers, the company needed to get out in front of the hype machine and appropriately align fans’ enthusiasm. There’s nothing wrong with that, and a showcase that opens with Death Stranding and ends with The Last of Us: Part II is still very much worth getting excited about.

Internally, we’d started referring to Sony’s E3 2018 show as Groundhog Day in reference to the inevitable repetition; we tried really hard to come up with a list of new exclusives that it could potentially announce during its press conference – it’s now obviously redundant. But this is why I think today’s announcement is probably a good thing: it lets people know what to expect ahead of time, and puts an end to outrageous speculation.

After all, expectations are always the biggest E3 mood killer – regardless of the company under the spotlight. Whether it’s a thirst for first-party exclusives at Microsoft or demand for a long-forgotten franchise at Nintendo, we’ve all seen how the insatiable hunger of fans can absolutely kill otherwise solid presentations. You could argue that PlayStation’s paying the price for a two year period where it seemed to have a never-ending stream of fan pleasers; it’d probably agree.

But in hindsight I don’t think we should be too disheartened about today’s news – just the muddled way in which it was shared. Even though they’ve been on the docket for what feels like decades, we barely know anything about The Last of Us: Part II, Death Stranding, or Ghost of Tsushima – and these are big-budget blockbusters of the highest order. It doesn’t matter whether we’ve seen them before, they’re going to send shockwaves through the industry.

Spider-Man is perhaps the one outlier – a game that’s already graced Game Informer’s cover. But it’s due out in September and it’s going to sell many millions of copies – it was always going to be in attendance in some form, wasn’t it? Pepper these so-called “deep dives” with new third-party reveals, PlayStation VR content, and indie games, and you’ve got the recipe for a very sturdy presentation – albeit without the shock and awe of past pressers like 2015.

My only lingering concern is the presentation style. We now know that the briefing will take place in front of a live audience, so this isn’t going to be a Nintendo Direct scenario. But if we see a sofa like last year’s pathetic PlayStation Experience, then we’ll be in for a long night. I’m hoping that Sony keeps things brisk, brings out the developers for a bit of context, and shows off the gameplay. If the company’s going to focus on these four exclusives, then let’s really see them in detail.


Do you think Sony’s trying to calibrate expectations by announcing the games it will be focusing on at E3 2018? Are you still disappointed, or do you think it’s going to be able to deliver something good despite the different approach? Hop aboard the hype train in the comments section below.

How hyped are you for Sony’s E3 2018 showcase? (120 votes)

I absolutely can’t wait

26%

I’m reasonably excited

49%

Neither excited nor unexcited

18%

I’m not overly fussed

6%

I don’t care at all

2%

Please login to vote in this poll.

Which of Sony’s four games are you most looking forward to seeing? (118 votes)

Death Stranding

33%

Ghost of Tsushima

40%

Spider-Man

8%

The Last of Us: Part II

19%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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