November 16, 2018 Update: The latest PlayStation 5 reports and rumors hint at a 2019 reveal and 2020 release date. Details here.
In an alarming bit of news, Sony just confirmed that it will be skipping E3 2019, becoming another in a long line of major publishers and company exiting the once annual tradeshow and largest gaming event of the year. This is the first time in E3's 24-year history, Sony PlayStation won't be participating.
For a few years now, major publishers have been pulling out of E3. Blizzard and Rockstar Games don't even attend anyway, but Nintendo stopped hosting press conferences, Activision dropped its booth, opting to show up at Sony's. Electronic Arts pulled out to create their own show at the same time and virtually the same place, called EA Play - something Microsoft also did last year with Xbox where they moved across the street. Toss in other game companies disappearing or leaving like the now-defunct Disney Interactive and Wargaming.net, and E3 is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a traditional tradeshow.
Even the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which runs E3 every year, seems aware of this and for the last two years have made E3 open to the public even though the conferences and booths still don't seem designed to support this. They're trying to evolve and find a new identity. Now the spiral continues and an increasing amount of publishers and developers cater directly to their own community.
Here's Sony's official statement which is full of PR speech and no details yet on what they're doing in 2019 instead:
“As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community. PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019. We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can’t wait to share our plans with you.”
Without info on how they plan to substitute their lack of presence in 2019, the news isn't good, especially after also skipping hosting PlayStation Experience (PSX) this year, which they've hosted at the end of each year for the last three years. The reasoning given for the absence of the event, is that they don't have games to announce and don't want to let fans down. Given what we know of upcoming exclusives for the PlayStation 4, it seems we're still just waiting for Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima, and The Last of Us 2, which we've seen on numerous occasions. Is there anything new, on that level, beyond that though?
Now that Spider-Man and God of War are out, there doesn't seem to be anything else major on the first party front coming this generation - a front where Sony has been absolutely dominating with hit after hit. It's totally possible that's why they're holding back until they're ready to start discussing the next generation. The inevitable PlayStation 5 seems more likely than ever to be coming in 2020, and all of Sony's devs and partners could be working towards that. Similarly, Xbox has been doing nothing but building towards the next generation since they got slammed on by PlayStation this time around. Funnily enough, Xbox just made a comment confirming that they will be at E3 2019:
Even on stage during their keybote at E3 2018, Microsoft was open about discussing development of their next-gen console.
Xbox's pro-consumer moves of supporting cross-play, Play Anywhere (buy on Xbox, get it on PC free too, and vice versa), backward compatibility, accessibility support, keyboard and mouse support on the Xbox One, etc. sets them up nicely for what fans demand from these systems going forward. And throw in a series of acquisitions of noteworthy developers at E3 2018 and this week at XO18, and Microsoft isn't holding back. The next-gen consoles will be here sooner than you think. Your move, Sony.
Sources: Microsoft, Sony