I find the PlayStation Showcase was a disappointing event, not very incisive and the result of a confused communication management, which has been going on for too many years now. It is easy to say that “we were fooled by expectations”, when in truth the expectations were all in all moderate. And this despite Sony doing everything to shoot them through the roof: a post on the PS Blog that started with a very explicit apology (“you were horribly patient”), an extremely gorgeous logo, and even a name that strayed away from the State of Play. to pick up on the grand events of E3, they were pretty concrete clues about the will to aim high.
Not only: also the opening with a new commercial of the Play Has No Limits series, which winked so closely at the indelible promotional footage that helped cement PlayStation in the minds of players, seemed to portend a lavish show. Yet basically the public remained very concrete, down to earth, and to be satisfied they would only need two things: God of War and Gran Turismo 7.
“There were”, you say. And I say they weren’t there at all.
This is how I want to begin this article with what might seem like a provocation. Yet I am really convinced of what I write. Neither the trailer of the new GT nor that of Ragnarok have given credit to the products that will arrive on PS4 and PS5 in the course of 2022.
Mind you, these are not technical issues: we have known that the two titles were cross-gen for a while, and although it is true that the technical profile of Horizon Forbidden West was more impressive, even though he too is between the two. generations, the graphic impact is the least of the problems of those films. Of Gran Turismo 7 we have seen very few moments of gameplay, and let’s leave it out the almost amateurish mistake not to communicate the precise date at the end of the video.
In the case of Ragnarok, a syncopated and not very courageous montage in showing concrete gameplay news, it left part of the community a little worried. The announcement of the change of director, which arrived shortly thereafter, did the rest. Extremise: to foment Ragnarok’s wait, the character renders published on social platforms were needed more than the trailer shown at the end of the conference (it was an image that revealed the true aspect of Thor). Just look at the announcement and presentation videos of the first God of War to realize that these are extremely emotional trailers, with an impact, capable of telling the heat of the battle but also the emotional depth of the product.
I really want to focus on this last aspect, on emotional depth. I have wondered and asked myself, in these hours, what was the main problem of a conference that pushed a lot in terms of pace, and in any case ended with a quartet of indisputably very strong products. The answer I gave myself is that there was a lack of emotions.
Perhaps my reading of the event is also linked to the memory of the mythological showcases of Los Angeles and Cologne, to the memories of the few (but unforgettable) PlayStation Experiences. In that golden moment of PlayStation communication, Sony knew how to convey a unique fascination, a strong and distinctive character, an idea of the future. This time, however, she limited herself to leafing through the catalog. One after the other, here are the products that will arrive on PlayStation (and in many cases also elsewhere), presented with a slightly “shouted” tone, a syncopated gait, and on.
Maybe I will be too fond of the communication strategies of a few years ago, but in a Showcase I want to see some gameplay (possibly in full and extended version), and I want to see some news with a modicum of concreteness. The first half hour of the event, however, amassed a series of games already known and very often seen and reviewed. “New and exciting games“, Jim Ryan promised us, but the truth is that many of the products featured in the Showcase were neither.
Ghostwire Tokyo, Forspoken and Wonderlands were the only exceptions (although they too had been announced for a while), while everything else was far too weak. The count of what I consider strong communication errors is impressive, for a company that for twenty years has written important pages of videogame marketing.
The absurdly extended playing time of Project EVE (unlikely long if compared to the certainly not brilliant character of the production), the trailers of products practically already on the market (Deathloop) or not really “first-hair” (GTA V), the space granted to a single indie (Tunche), literally dominated by very different productions in the aspirations, in the themes, in the productive caliber. All together, without a precise scan, without a “guiding voice” to contextualize the various segments, and above all without really concrete news. The biggest problem of the first half hour was his general inconsistency: After attending that section, our knowledge of the market hasn’t changed one iota. The gameplay of Project EVE was known, that of Forspoken and Ghostwire Tokyo has not yet been understood, that of Wonderlands has proved to conform to expectations (perhaps even too similar to the setting of Borderlands to fully justify the name change).
You will forgive if I repeat myself, but if anything, a good conference must give me new reasons to wait for the products he focuses on, don’t just remind me they exist. In any case, it is good to get to the end of the show, returning to that parenthesis dedicated to PlayStation Studios with which I started this piece. Because in that parenthesis the announcement of Spider-Man 2 and the unexpected Wolverine also arrived.
Perhaps the first time, in my memory, that an internal team (Insomniac) has demanded the attention of the public in such a decisive way, presenting itself on stage with two outstanding products. The problem with this double announcement, in my view, it is not so much its being “anomalous” as the fact that Sony has almost “given the stage” to another company, which for years has been colonizing the spaces of the digital entertainment. I’m obviously talking about Marvel, whose logo now stands out on an ever-increasing number of productions.
Without detracting from the quality of Insomniac products, and indeed considering the enormous step forward that Miles Morales represents for superhero open worlds, we regret that so much productive energy is invested in licensed titles, and that these are entrusted with the success of a Showcase. The Sony we want – indeed: the industry we want – it is the one that never stops inventing, spreading and exporting new contexts and worlds: which are properly videogames, which arise from our sector and which contribute to characterize it.
The hope is that this Sony – the same one that until a few years ago focused on many new IPs, on the originality of Japanese productions, on a good balance between Triple A and more measured titles – is still alive: perhaps still, hidden, in expect happier times in terms of hardware deployment and installed base. In short, that it is ready to (re) leave, even making use of the new acquisitions, when the next-gen really meshes.