Sony's lack of first-party focus left PlayStation Showcase feeling like a letdown
Three years in, PS5 has an unclear roadmap of all-important exclusives.
We're still a month away from the period formerly known as E3, but last night's PlayStation Showcase was designed to kick off the summer announcement season in style. More importantly for PlayStation 5 owners, it felt like the moment for Sony to detail its next wave of big PS5 exclusives - the ones PlayStation boss Jim Ryan seemed to tease early on in the proceedings, when discussing how developers were only just scratching the surface of what PS5 could produce.
What might Sony have in store? Expectations were sky high following a string of blockbusters over the past few years, all of which were largely detailed before the console's launch. What was next? Sony told us a few game names, showed a few CGI trailers, but ultimately these were just glimpses. CGI showreels provided a look at the multiplatform Marathon reboot from Bungie and the colourful if slightly Saints Row-feeling Fairgame$ from Haven. A 50-second title reveal of Firewalk Studios' Concord showed us even less.
These were the faintest of outlines for Sony's 2024 schedule, with Insomniac's Spider-Man 2 still positioned as this year's remaining big launch (although that, too, struck something of an odd chord, with still no release date locked in).
Sony's thin spread of first-party peeks were interspersed among a far more impressive third-party line-up, spearheaded by the show's most popular moment here at Eurogamer: the announcement of Konami's long-rumoured Metal Gear Solid 3 remake, now with fancier visuals and a Greek letter in its title.
The difficulty here, of course, is that the vast majority of these projects are also set to appear elsewhere - with Square Enix's offerings a notable exception. This was a fact Microsoft swiftly leapt upon publicly for a quick social media zing. Privately, back in Redmond, I can imagine last night went down as an absolute win. Sony's strength is its first-party, and PlayStation's Showcase didn't live up to its name. It was a showcase, sure, but one which did far better at kicking off the summer's announcement season than PlayStation's own exclusives plan.
No wonder Microsoft took the oppurtunity for a chuckle. After a bruising first half of 2023 - with Redfall and Minecraft Legends failing to make an impact, and the company's $68.7bn Activision Blizzard acquisition floundering after being blocked by the UK - tonight should have been Sony's knock-out blow. Instead, it was the opposite - it highlighted a bunch of reasons you could own an Xbox instead.
PlayStation's huge brand power drew most of the industry's biggest names to the Showcase's door. Take Ubisoft, for example, which has its own digital event next month. Could it have announced Assassin's Creed Mirage's release date there? Absolutely. But dropping that detail tonight gave it a guest starring role on PlayStation's bockbuster stage - and two bites at the marketing apple.
But this wasn't what fans wanted from a PlayStation show, and by the time Sony's spotlight on Marvel's Spider-Man 2 rolled around - at this point, a relatively known quantity - the grumbles in the audience were audible.
E3 was also typically a time for new hardware - something which brings us to Sony's other big announcement: the faintly mad-sounding Project Q. A handheld streaming device with an eight-inch screen, it's designed to work with your PS5's Remote Play feature - something which immediately prompted confusion, and some rather unkind comparisons to Wii U. For me, I agree with the Eurogamer commenter who said this: "When everyone has a multi-purpose six-inch screen you can stream to in their pocket already, how many single-use eight-inch screens can you realistically sell?" After PS5's price hike and in the current climate, I expect many to pause before splashing out on another likely pricey PS5 accessory.
Despite Sony's admirable focus on fresh ideas in Project Q and fresh IP in Fairgame$ and Concord, whatever they actually look like, there were inevitable calls to have seen more from its biggest franchises. On this, I can perhaps understand the hesitation not to immediately go back to the same well for more from Horizon and The Last of Us - even if fans were expecting at least one of the multiplayer projects Sony is currently incubating for each franchise to make an appearance. Fans had wondered whether we might see some kind of update or expansion for God of War Ragnarok. And there was nothing from some of Sony's other notable studios, such as Sucker Punch and Media Molecule.
Those big names, big developers and big exclusives are what fans expect this time of year, whether on an air-conditioned stage in LA or in front of a virtual audience on YouTube. Three years in to a console's life, those are the big reveals and releases you want to make sure you're continuing to lay out, or lay down in a roadmap for fans to look forward to, alongside the key drumbeat that these are things you won't get to play elsewhere. Perhaps Sony isn't yet ready to do so in detail, despite the promise of so much more from PS5 to come. Or perhaps, regardless of what fans might expect, as it is miles ahead of Microsoft once again, Sony simply doesn't see any need.