Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) surprised everyone this month by announcing that PlayStation wouldn’t be attending the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next year, marking the first time the PlayStation brand won’t be gracing the hallowed halls of the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Whilst this will impact PlayStation 4 fans eager for the latest news and hands-on gameplay – there’s no press conference either – the impact on virtual reality (VR) could be even greater.
Having attended E3 2018 and seen the stand I know the absence of PlayStation cannot be taken lightly. Two booths dominated the West Hall, PlayStation, and Nintendo, side by side vying for attendees attention. In fact, PlayStation had three booths in total, with the smaller two splitting North American and European press.
What they all had on display was a decent roster of PlayStation VR’s, showcasing titles such as Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Firewall Zero Hour, Tetris Effect, and many more. There were so many that I actually spent a great deal of time purely on the PlayStation stand. Once I managed to tear myself away and investigate the rest of the show one thing was instantly apparent, there were no other big VR stands.
Sure, VR was sporadically dotted around the halls in the smaller stands, but there was no real support from any of the other big players. Without PlayStation VR my job covering the event would have been over much quicker.
So what’s going to happen? Will Oculus or HTC Vive use this opportunity to make a big impact at the event. It’s hard to say at the moment. Both tend to use the Game Developers Conference (GDC) as their main event of choice, with Oculus hosting a fairly large stand while HTC Vive is usually found under the Steam banner.
Oculus hasn’t attended E3 officially since 2016, and HTC Vive never has, with the headsets only being found on indie developer stands. It would be a great chance for them to make a serious impact during the most well-known videogame show in the world. But Facebook is slowly but surely absorbing Oculus under its own banner, and may not consider a big traditional expensive stand to be worthwhile.
And then there’s Microsoft. It didn’t have a dedicated stand during E3 2018, but was part of the event, holding its press conference at the Microsoft Theatre. Will the company use this unusual turn of events to announce VR for Xbox One? Probably not in all honesty. Ever since its Xbox One X announcement during E3 2016 which did mention VR support, Microsoft went virtually silent, and there’s been no further mention of compatibility. It would be a boon for the industry if the company did make a surprise reveal during the show – especially for Windows Mixed Reality headsets – however, my feelings are they would have done this by now.
Being honest I’m somewhat apprehensive about E3 2019 when it comes to VR. It will be there, I’ve no doubt in that, just in what quantity. Booths like IndieCade will be there alongside smaller developer stands. To have a proper presence at an event like E3 you need to be a global company with cash to burn, and a good portion of the industry isn’t. They’re small studios and startups looking to help push the industry forward whilst working out ways of making a profit. What I’d love to see is a big dedicated VR area with a giant neon VR sign hovering above. Think that would work?