PlayStation skipped E3 2019—but got third-parties to do the talking for it.

PlayStation isn’t at E3 2019, but the company still has a big presence there.

When it was announced that PlayStation would be skipping E3 2019, I understood the stance. Sure, the event pulls in a lot of eyes for big gaming reveals, but every company is attempting to steal the limelight nearly simultaneously. With Sony’s next-gen console looming and only a handful of known first-party games in the works for PS4, it made sense to save any announcements for their own event. However, what I didn’t foresee was PlayStation mapping out a major presence at E3 2019 through exclusive partnerships and piggybacking off of other reveals.

Square Enix Advantage

Final Fantasy

PlayStation E3 2019 Square Enix

The clearest example of PlayStation casting its shadow over E3 2019 is Final Fantasy VII Remake. The game made massive waves when it opened Square Enix’s E3 2019 press conference, finally giving us a better look into the return of Cloud Strife. Of course, FFVII Remake is going to be a PlayStation 4 timed-exclusive, which means that the audience eager to play the title has to do so on Sony’s hardware. The wording indicates that it won’t be locked to PS4 forever, but if the deal is anything like Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy, then it could be there for up to a year before Xbox owners get a crack at it.

After Square Enix had briefed audiences on Final Fantasy VII Remake, it showed off a medley of games that will also be coming to PS4. These looked great, but the ending was the real kicker. It was confirmed that Square is partnering with PlayStation for Marvel’s Avengers. What does this deal include? Namely, exclusive content for the PlayStation 4 title. This effectively makes the PS4 version of Marvel’s Avengers the best one. We don’t know much outside of the general outline, putting Sony ahead with two of the biggest third-party games of 2020.

Sony’s partnership with Square Enix secured a presence at the beginning and end of the publisher’s E3 2019 conference. When Square Enix was on stage discussing its biggest games, the console manufacturer being name-dropped was PlayStation 4. This isn’t an automatic win for PlayStation. Marvel’s Avengers will still be coming to platforms like Google Stadia, PC and Xbox One at launch on May 15th, 2020. It will then likely then be joined by Final Fantasy VII Remake on those same platforms after a period of exclusivity.

Major Third Party Releases

Cyberpunk 2077

PlayStation E3 2019 Cyberpunk 2077

Despite those games having a window of exclusivity or bonus content, it still isn’t a huge edge. Gamers will get their hands on the Avengers content and FF7 eventually, right? Sure, eventually. Meanwhile, one of the biggest games discussed during Xbox’s E3 2019 press conference has no exclusive ties to the platform. I’m speaking, in particular, of Cyberpunk 2077. In a show lined with cinematic trailers, CD Projekt Red was afforded the opportunity to bring Keanu Reeves out on stage to create a standout moment for the show.

As Keanu stole the spotlight, a “breathtaking” reality settled in. There’s no deal in place for a timed-release or exclusive content for Cyberpunk 2077, which means everyone wins, including PlayStation. I won’t try to claim that John Wick stole the spotlight from Gears 5 and Halo Infinite. What I will say is that promoting Cyberpunk 2077 like that doesn’t explicitly promote Xbox as the place to play it. Especially not when looking at the promotional deals Sony has made with partners for major games releasing in 2019 and 2020.

PlayStation’s partnerships will help fill the gap in the build to the next generation of consoles. On the other hand, Xbox is making long-term plans through studio acquisitions. These are exciting developments for the brand, but it also means that Microsoft will have to hold its cards close to its chest for a long time still. Meanwhile, almost every single noteworthy title at E3 2019 that is not being published by Xbox or Nintendo is coming to PlayStation 4. At this point, the platform is unavoidable and Sony knows it.

Riley's Take

Author

I don’t necessarily believe that a company can definitively “win” E3 2019. After all, it’s not like there’s a committee or a judging panel that crowns victors on each day. I do believe, however, that Sony made a strong strategic decision by foregoing the annual gaming event in order to save valuable marketing dollars. I also believe that the decision saves face for PlayStation, given its limited first-party lineup arriving in the next year.

If The Last of Us: Part II was releasing this year, maybe PlayStation could have justified an E3 2019 appearance. Even then, it’s clear that Sony has all of its ducks in a row through various partnerships. Major publishers have been praising PS4 at conferences, while the company’s logo is present at the end of almost every third-party game. The initial decision to pull out of E3 2019 was met with criticism from fans, but it’s clear that PlayStation was never that far away from the limelight during the show.