PlayStation Wins E3 2021 Three Months After the Show Ends

PlayStation's recent September showcase wasn't technically part of E3 2021, but it was clearly the best video game presentation of the year.

God of War Ragnarok
Photo: PlayStation Studios

While the PlayStation team never really referred to their recent September showcase as their E3 2021 presentation, the buzz surrounding the event suggested that it was going to essentially be the show that Sony would have put on if they didn’t choose to stop hosting traditional E3 conferences and if the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t likely help wreck whatever presentation plans they may have had for June.

In any case, PlayStation finally got to have their big 2021 presentation, and it wasn’t just an incredible show in its own right; it was arguably the show that “won” E3 2021 nearly three months after that show ended.

Mind you, the recent PlayStation show wasn’t perfect by any means. It relied heavily on trailers without actual gameplay footage, there were a few big names missing from the show, and, worst of all, we still don’t have an exact release date for many of the big games that were featured. This was not a perfect presentation, and it will likely not be remembered as one of the great all-time video game showcases in the history of E3 or any other video game event.

So why would we say it somehow spiritually “won” E3 months after the show officially ended? Well, it ultimately comes down to the kind of pure, unfiltered excitement and anticipation that the best E3 shows are meant to inspire.

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Xbox had an incredible E3 2021 presentation that was highlighted by what Bethesda brought to the table as well as a strong selection of games coming to Game Pass, but their show was a reminder that Microsoft is still very much playing catch-up when it comes to major Triple-A exclusives. While it’s true that Microsoft’s recent strategy is designed to slowly reduce their dependence on such titles and pivot towards Game Pass and platform accessibility, it’s sometimes harder to turn those concepts into something flashy.

Nintendo fared a bit better in that department at their own E3-adjacent showcase. Breath of the Wild 2 and Metroid Dread were certified show stealers, but the relative weakness of their exclusives lineup beyond those titles (and the implication that Breath of the Wild 2 could still easily be pushed to 2023) ultimately made it hard for them to hide the fact that their production schedule has clearly taken a big hit over the last year or so. Nintendo fans are used to taking the future on faith, but a lot of questions remain regarding what the next two years of Switch titles are going to look like.

As for everyone else…well, this year’s E3 was ultimately a reminder that the industry is still playing catch-up.

Honestly, that’s a big part of the reason why PlayStation’s showcase was so special. It may have lacked release dates and significant gameplay footage, but it ultimately felt the closest to the kind of traditional E3 presentation we would have gotten before most of the world’s comforts and distractions were derailed by a global pandemic.

PlayStation’s September showcase was filled with big game updates, a few genuine surprises (the KOTOR Remake and Insomniac’s Wolverine, most notably), and even a few original games that will admirably fill in the gaps between major franchise releases (Project Eve, Forspoken, and Ghostwire: Tokyo). It was also a shockingly well-produced digital showcase that suggested Sony is starting to figure out how to best utilize that format.

Most importantly, PlayStation’s recent show felt big. It felt like it was worthy of the grand stage that it wasn’t technically a part of. Despite the lack of exact releases dates for many of PlayStation’s upcoming games, it even gave us a pretty good idea of the major titles you can expect over the next couple of years that will almost certainly help the PlayStation 5 retain its incredible sales momentum (despite ongoing shortages).

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PlayStation’s September showcase was quite simply the company at its very best. As recent gaming generations have proven, it’s hard to beat that team when they’re operating on that level.