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Sony’s Decision to Skip Gamescom 2016 Benefits All Involved

July 20, 2016 Written by Michael Briers

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For the second year on the trot, Sony is reportedly poised to forgo a keynote presentation at gamescom 2016, opting instead to populate the show floor in Cologne, Germany with an assembly of PlayStation demos.

It’ll follow in the footsteps of both Electronic Arts and Microsoft, too, with publisher and platform-holder alike choosing to hold fire on a new gaming showcase until later in the year — or 2017. 

When it comes to Sony, all eyes will now inevitably turn to Paris Games Week (PGW) and though the company is yet to formally nail down plans, toss in those unrelenting hardware rumors and it appears a safe bet that the French capital will host a PlayStation-centric conference come October.

Second Year on the Bounce

Whatever the case, the company’s decision to forgo a gamescom presser for the second consecutive year, in an industry that typically affords at least three-to-four relatively major conferences per annum, is beneficial for everyone involved — from the tip-top of Sony’s hierarchy to the average consumer clutching on to that DualShock 4.

That’s something we seen take into effect last year, when Sony shuffled the proverbial deck to ensure its presence was felt at PGW 2015, Tokyo Game Show and of course, the sophomore run of PlayStation Experience in December. Coming off the back of a rip-roaring E3 showcase — not dissimilar to 2016, mind you — Sony chose the sidelines over the main stage at gamescom 2015 because it felt “both PlayStation and the wider industry would benefit from a major news milestone later in the year, during the most important period for gaming.”

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Still reeling from the one-two-three punch of The Last Guardian re-reveal, Shenmue 3 and the fabled Final Fantasy VII Remake, the PlayStation faithful were offered an extended respite after E3 2015, and Sony’s decision was clearly as much about courting expectations as it was about managing its own portfolio.

This, coupled with the fact that gamescom 2015 took place much earlier than its forebear — beginning August 5, in comparison to August 13 the year before — effectively sealed the deal for Sony. However that may be, 2016 is a different kettle of fish. For in 2016, gamescom is penciled in to take place from August 17, and yet Sony is sticking to its guns, quietly direction attention toward TGS and PGW.

C’est Magnifique?

It’s something I’ve touched base on before in a previous feature — specifically, when Horizon Zero Dawn slipped into 2017 — about how AAA tentpoles in the vein of Guerrilla’s post-post-apocalyptic new IP are prone to overexposure precisely because of the crowded slate of conferences each year. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of witnessing a live demonstration of Sony’s upcoming software catalog, and the fist-pumping barrage of trailers at E3 2016 is proof of that.

But in the aftermath of Sony’s barnstorming showcase last month, the likes of Detroit: Become Human, Horizon Zero Dawn and Sony Santa Monica’s God of War would all benefit from a media blackout, lest they run the risk of showcasing too much, too soon. Hell, Kojima Productions’ Death Stranding would benefit from disappearing altogether for two years, at least.

Overexposure and artificial expectations are two sides of the same coin, and one need only look at No Man’s Sky prolonged stint in development for evidence of a game that broke onto the scene with real flair, only to set in motion a ‘hype train’ the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.

All press is good press, as the old saying goes, but with each conference appearance that went by, expectations ballooned, and it’s little wonder why Hello Games opted out of E3 2016. No Man’s Sky has enjoyed its time in the sun; now, it’s (almost) time for the studio to deliver the end product.

Sony and Hello Games have something special with No Man’s Sky, and regardless of how the title fares with critics and players, there’s no question that the new IP is damn impressive.

Managing the Portfolio, and Expectations

Even still, Sony ought to take heed of that by-now infamous ‘hype train’ for No Man’s Sky. It’s impossible to exercise full control over expectations, of course, but by scoring gamescom off the slate, the platform-holder is taking a step in the right direction.

Because, let’s face it, whereas the Electronic Entertainment Expo is, fundamentally, a trade show, gamescom is oriented more toward the players. That means it’s generally a bigger event than E3 by numbers, raking in an eye-watering 345,000 visitors last year — breaking past both 2014’s haul of 335,000 attendees, and the 340,000 cume that descended on Cologne in 2013 — along with 806 exhibitors ensured that the 2015 open-to-the-public gaming event went down in the history books as the largest yet.

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Make no mistake, the PlayStation giant will still have a presence on the show floor in Cologne next month, but when you factor in the overarching proposition of PS4 Neo — the confirmed hardware refresh that’s set to shake up Sony’s development, publishing and above all, marketing, in fairly major ways — ducking out of gamescom 2016 is a no-brainer. 

Should those early reports hold true, Sony’s revised PS4 Neo system will be unveiled alongside a slimmer PlayStation 4 before the year’s end, with sources claiming that, “famous analyst expects to Sony launch PS4 Neo and PS4 Slim by Tokyo Game Show in September.” Unsurprisingly, Sony declined to comment at the time, but given the sheer number of reports swirling around the Neo, we expect at least one of those upgraded PS4s to arrive in tandem with PlayStation VR in October.

Advent of a New Gaming Platform 

Whatever the outcome, toss in the advent of the company’s long-awaited VR headset and the remainder of 2016 is poised to be huge for Sony. Marquee titles in the vein of Gran Turismo Sport and, in particular, The Last Guardian have already enjoyed their time in the spotlight ahead of their respective fall releases, effectively negating the need for another stage showcase. 

With or without press conferences, gamescom continues to be a monumental event on the industry’s calendar, and last year the fan-oriented event blew past records left, right and center. But given E3 2016 proved to be one for the ages, Sony’s decision to ultimately forgo a keynote address is, in my opinion, a welcome one. 

Sony will be joined by the industry’s heavyweights when gamescom 2016 descends on Cologne, Germany on August 17. It’ll run through the weekend until August 21, and you can readily expect PlayStation LifeStyle to keep you right up-to-date with all the goings-on. 

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