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E3 has lost its impact in a changing industry, says Sony's Shawn Layden

E3 has lost its impact in a changing industry, says Sony's Shawn Layden

February 11, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

“The world has changed, but E3 hasn't necessarily changed with it.”

- SIE Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden reflects on E3's place in a changing industry.

2019 marks the first year Sony has opted to skip E3, a move that, when announced late last year, prompted questions about the long-running trade show’s role in an industry that has changed quite a bit in the event’s 23-year run.

Shawn Layden, SIE Worldwide Studios chairman and former SIE president and CEO, touched on Sony’s decision to skip the show in a recent interview with CNET, essentially boiling the decision down to shifts in the game industry and world that haven’t necessarily been reflected in E3’s structure just quite yet. 

“When we decided to take video games out of CES, back in 1995 during the PlayStation 1 era, E3 served two constituencies: retailers and journalists. Retailers would come in -- you'd see a guy come in, and he'd say, 'I'm from Sears, and I handle Hot Wheels, Barbie, VHS, and video games. So what are you about?' There was a huge educational component,” says Layden. However, with how things are now, Layden says that most retailers want to have their holiday plans nailed down by February, making the June conference way too late in the year to even chat with retailers about those crucial plans. 

Sony’s own shift in focus has also made the usual decision to make big announcements at a press conference ahead of the show impractical since the company has made the “decision to do fewer games -- bigger games -- over longer periods of time,” something Layden says doesn’t jive well with this year's conference. 

For its own part, Sony is hosting a Destination PlayStation event in February that will house its conversations with retailers and third-party partners about the company's plan for the coming year.  

“Then you had journalists who had magazines and lead time and jockeying for position on the cover. And there was no internet to speak of. So a trade show at that time of year for this nascent industry was exactly what we needed to do,” Layden tells CNET. “…And journalists now, with the internet and the fact that 24/7 there is game news, it's lost its impact around that.”

While E3 doesn’t serve those original purposes for Sony, Layden he is curious about ways to make the show relevant again as a “fan festival of gaming” or a way to bring game developers and their players closer together. That nudge toward a more consumer-focused event is already something E3’s organizers has seemingly been considering themselves since the event has started offering a limited number of badges to those outside of the game industry in the last couple years.

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