Playstation held its first State of Play for 2019 this week, its new way of communicating announcements through the year. We knew Sony was going to do something different with its messaging after both dropping out of E3 and not holding the United States based PlayStation Experience in 2018. Shawn Layden, in a statement last year concerning the cancellation of PSX said ”We don’t want to set expectations really high and then not deliver on it.” due to the lack of games and announcements to bring people together for.
The State of Play has not been met with the response Sony would have wanted, however. The negative response across social media including more downvotes than positive on YouTube show that people were disappointed. Many comments include the lack of a big game announcement, lack of release dates and the focus on VR. What did we expect though, why is there such a negative response? If I could put my finger on one word it would be expectation.
This is partly Sony’s fault. Until the announcement of the State of Play stream, we didn’t know what was coming. PlayStation has been quiet on their plans. We’ve had a few statements last year that things would be different; just not how different. This should have set the expectation to a certain extent but it was too ambiguous. No news isn’t good news in this case. Mostly though it’s down to us, the consumer. Information on game announcements is always met with speculation, fervour and excitement. We hype things up so much that anything short of the second coming is a disappointment. The idea that we were getting a release date for The Last of Us 2 or information on a PS5 was absurd. Yes, a State of Play may give us these in the future but we should expect some tease from developers and Sony themselves beforehand. Something like the PS5 announcement commands its own event as with the PS4. We should expect smaller first party game dates and footage, third-party partnership information like Call of Duty exclusive stuff or as with this State of Play PSVR games and updates.
I like to think I temper my expectations often when it comes to games, especially announcements. I was therefore not expecting much from this first State of Play. It wasn’t groundbreaking, taking on a form like Nintendo’s Directs rather than a presented stream like their Pre E3 show from last year (2018). This was, as Nintendo have coined, direct. No chatter around the games, just a consistent run of trailers with a short voiced introduction. It’s almost like a mini E3 conference without the stage presence. I’m happy with this format. Short 10 to 20 minute presentations every few months would suit me fine. Bite-sized info to digest and discuss.
So, to the announcements themselves. Whilst the presentation didn’t lead off with it Days Gone got a new trailer. Touching on its narrative, rather than the previous world building trailers, it showed a little more of the direction we’ll have in the game. I like it the more I see of it. That slow build its had in information has done it well. Its appearing more akin to Horizon Zero Dawn as a narrative open world game rather than other open world zombie shooters like State of Decay. That’s great for me, I’m a huge fan of both open world explorers and narrative-driven story games. A mash-up of these with robot dinosaurs worked for me. Sub in zombies and I’m there.
Another of PlayStation’s first party games shown was Concrete Genie which received a release window. Sony has learned from previous games and hasn’t committed on an actual date, which makes sense. Concrete Genie is looking like Epic Mickey meets inFamous Second Son, gritty with a hint of joy over adversity. I need to see more of the controls around the painting aspect for me to be sold but the tone looks great.
Along with No Man’s Sky Beyond getting a VR announcement Sony went big on PSVR titles. With a montage of titles and a reveal of Five Nights at Freddy’s VR (fuck that, no thank you) I think they were right to dedicate a big chunk of the presentation to VR. The attach rate for the PSVR is a small proportion of PS4 owners, although it is the market leader, they need to sell it. Showing the mix of games coming, including An Iron Man game and the cool looking Blood and Truth getting a release date, is a great way to do this rather than a tweet or blog post. I don’t expect VR to feature as heavily every State of Play as it did this time but knowing the number of games in development releasing this year it will have a continued presence.
Backing up all the first party and PSVR games shown was a strong third-party offering. The two standouts for me were Observation getting a May release date (it’s too late, I want it now please No Code) and a really well composed and produced trailer for Mortal Kombat 11. I wasn’t really expecting much from MK11 but this trailer has me interested. The music, reveal of the story and character inclusion was presented really well. Observation is looking grim, and that’s exactly what I want from a game building off of the foundation of Stories Untold. Rounding out with Crash Team Racing exclusive skins and the announcement of ReadySet Heroes I imagine we’ll be getting some big announcements in the future from their third-party partnerships. A Control release date would be good thanks.
Overall I think the first State of Play worked well and had some interesting offerings. It didn’t have that big announcement to get people really excited and make it a super success. Yet, there’s time for PlayStation to change that. They have big games still to come, supposedly this year, and some other third-party partnerships to lean on as they would have done at E3. It will be interesting to see what’s on offer next time.