Recently, our dear editor talked about his disappointment with the State of Play event. I want to disagree slightly, but I don’t want to defend PlayStation per se. I want to explain what I really like and appreciate about the format change, how I think it can be better, and where it’s failed.
First, let’s start with where we agree. It was underwhelming, and not just because it was missing a Batman game announcement. I think it’s right to wonder if arrogant Sony is coming back. Chris is also right that the games themselves weren’t amazing, and we already knew about The Last of Us Part II.
There are two reasons for the letdown. First, Sony has been teasing us forever with The Last of Us Part II, and we had leaks, even sanctioned leaks, from voice actors saying it would be included. It spoils a lot of the surprise, and deflates the show’s big ending like a sad, old balloon. If you do want to keep the surprise, keep the frickin’ surprise. Stop letting people drop hints and leaks.
Expectations are the second big problem with State of Play. They pop up unexpectedly, promise me the Moon, and under deliver. Part of this is because we, the fans and Sony, are still figuring out what these things are. It’s not meant to be a replacement for the bombastic E3 show with it’s line of jaw-dropping announcements, and it might be good for Sony to start taking a page out of Nintendo’s book by saying this is an indie show or for a particular set of games.
Regarding the new format, although it is a little impersonal, I like it. It’s a quick, “Just the facts, ma’am” presentation. The E3 shows were bloated and getting worse. Although Sony’s personalities are better than many, I still don’t need for them to tell me how great the trailer we just watched was. It would be weird if they didn’t. Chris is right that they are cringey, but that’s not where it ends. The problem is that they artificially put themselves between me and understanding and watching the games without providing any new info.
Who’s watching this stuff anyway? Enthusiasts and journalists. The general public is not taking the time to sit down and watch a presentation. When they like something, they’ll seek out more info about that particular thing. (Shameless plug: if you haven’t looked at our other articles and reviews on PurePlayStation.com, you really should.)
Personalities can be great for bringing in people, but it’s risky too. Remember Jared from Subway? They’re hoping you don’t think about what he did with his foot long. The “Can You Hear Me Now?” Verizon guy is making ads for Sprint now. Personalities can push people away from a company just as easily as they can connect you to it. All you have to do is take a stroll through a Twitter feed to find something to hate about someone. And poof! You need a new host.
I’m not a full misanthrope (yet), but I don’t miss presenters and crowds at all. EA’s 2018 E3 press conference was made drastically worse by the presentation, not the actual games. (It was some real garbage.) Bethesda’s clap happy 2019 crowd would have clapped just as furiously if Pete Hines announced he was going to put a cigarette out on a random person’s genitals. I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm they had for what I saw. It was faker than usual, so I shut it off. Gaming presentations are becoming more like the over produced shows on MTV and network reality shows, and I don’t like the style.
If you are going to have a show, then go full, balls out crazy like the Devolver Digital 2019 E3 show. It had a story, great writing, and more buckets of blood than a slasher film. They committed to the gag, it’s completely self-aware, it worked, and it lasted around twenty minutes. Most companies don’t have the courage or lack of self-restraint to pull something like this. It’s amazing, and it delivered the game announcements too. Bring it for 2020, Devolver.
There is opportunity for them to pull a very special episode of Blossom State of Play, and here’s where I sync back up with Chris a bit. If you want to do this right and stick with the spirit of the new format, have a State of Play that’s focused on one thing. Why doesn’t the team at PlayStation do a video interview with Hideo Kojima about Death Stranding? They could talk to the voice actors in The Last of Us Part II after they reveal a new trailer. This type of direct discussion would be far better than a two-hour monstrosity that tries to appeal to everyone with ESPN roundtable style commentary after every trailer.
Bring in the creators, not the PR people, but the people who wrote the dialogue, music, and story. Talk to the artists, animators, and composers to learn why a particular decision was made. Do this in a way that makes me feel we’re having a conversation with the person, not watching them perform for treats or prizes. Keep is short. You can do this semi-regularly, since you have big games coming out all the time, and it expands on what you’re already doing on the PlayStation Blog.
A lot of companies, even smaller ones, are already putting themselves out there on Twitch and YouTube to do this. It’s a great trend, and it focuses on the company’s personality as much as the personalities on the video. It’s interesting that Japanese game companies such as NIS America, Spike Chunsoft, and Aksys Games are regularly promoting games in this way. It’s promotion, but it’s information for the players too. It’s a way of genuinely connecting with the people without it feeling like an extension of your investor meeting.
Just tell me about your game and show me how passionate you are. That’ll sell me a copy more than a multi camera setup and a large production on some stage in some theater I’ll never visit.
Until then, give me my boring State of Play announcements, even if I don’t care about some of the games you show. At least I’ll get the information I want quickly and efficiently. It will lack some luster, sure, but I won’t have to regret and dread the time I’ll waste while you have your three-ring circus of cringe and yadda yadda yadda that doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t need to watch that. I can spend that time playing games instead.
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Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.