State of Play was Mediocre and that’s OK
Contributed by DJMMT
Last week, PlayStation released their latest State of Play presentation. Honestly, it was mediocre. I saw many complaints online about how disappointing it was. One of my favorite tweets about it was that it could have been an email. That’s a fair assessment. I won’t go into detail about the specific announcements, but I do want to give a general rundown of what was actually shown.
The State of Play was just over 22 minutes long. In that time, they showed eight games. Of those eight games, five were new announcements. Or at the very least new to the mainstream gaming community and media. Of the remaining three, one was an announcement of a major content update, one was an announcement of a port, and the last was an update about a game that had been previously announced and then not talked about for quite some time. Also, one of the new announcements was for a major AAA franchise. If we ignore the specific games being shown and our personal subjective opinions about them and instead look at the numbers, this was actually a pretty solid presentation. Remember that it came out of nowhere, had almost no build-up beforehand by Sony, and still delivered information that you actually didn’t know already going in. From a comparative content measurement perspective, that’s really admirable.
I may personally have only cared about the Little Devil Inside update, with only mild interest in a few of the other announcements shown, but the quality of these announcements was rather good. They announced a new title that will be free on PS+ this month. They announced a new AAA RPG sequel to a long running franchise. They announced a port for a highly acclaimed indie title. These are the types of announcements that should be celebrated at a basic quality level. I would much rather see presentations about games I didn’t know about but ultimately won’t buy than games I already have decided I’m going to buy because so much information about them has already been released. But that takes us to the important question: What is the actual point of these presentations?
Whether it’s Nintendo Direct, PlayStation State of Play, XBOX Showcase, or any other game announcements show, for me the entire point of watching these game presentations is to learn new information about games in order to make an informed purchasing decision. And as with game reviews, I believe that the decision not to purchase a game due to being informed by released information is just as successful as a decision to purchase. Because in either case the information shared did its job. The intention is not to convince you to buy. It’s to inform you so that you can determine whether or not buying is the right decision for you. Whenever I see people online complain about the fact that we haven’t gotten an update for a popular AAA that people already know they’re going to buy, I think it’s rather foolish. I don’t need them to tell me a single thing about God of War: Ragnarök that hasn’t already been shared except for an official set-in-stone release date. That’s all the information concerning that game that I don’t already have that will have any effect on my purchasing decision. They have already convinced me to buy the game and did more than a year ago. In fact, they managed to sell me the game when the credits rolled on the last God of War game.
Let’s be honest and say that at this point, pretty much anyone who ends up buying God of War: Ragnarök during the launch release window has already decided that they’re going to buy it at that time. Meaning the value of marketing the game is currently at $0. Possibly even negative dollars if additional marketing could possibly negatively affect people’s opinions of the game and turn them off buying it. That’s not the purpose of these presentations. Or at least it shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be to tell you about things you already know that won’t in any way affect your buying decision. Nor should they be about telling you things that you don’t know that ultimately won’t affect your buying decision. If the content won’t affect the viewer’s decision to buy a game, then it honestly shouldn’t be included in these presentations. Horizon Forbidden West is another example. There’s no need to market that game. People have already seen enough to know if they’re going to buy the game or not by this point, assuming they played the first game already. If anything, it would be more effective to make the first game free on PS+ than it would be to say more about Forbidden West in an attempt to sell more copies of the next Horizon game.
Really the bigger point is that these presentations, regardless of what brand they’re from, should do exactly what was done with this State of Play. Namely, tell viewers new information about games they weren’t already sold/decided on that are coming out in the near future. Yes, the games shown were mostly mediocre titles that most people don’t really care about, but that’s fine if that’s what’s soon to be releasing. State of Play doesn’t need to be exciting. It needs to be relevant and time sensitive. The only problem with a presentation like this is that it doesn’t happen often enough. Imagine if there was a State of Play every month and all the content was relevant to the next 3 months of PlayStation gaming. If that was the case, most people wouldn’t have complained about the caliber of the games shown in this presentation at all. Because you’d know that this was the currently relevant PlayStation gaming news. And you’d be satisfied knowing that you’ll get another presentation next month with the next set of relevant news. Not every month would be exciting, but every presentation would be current and informative.
This is what I want for not just State of Play but for all gaming presentations. Higher frequency and only topical news. I don’t need every piece of news to blow my mind. But I also don’t want news for things that aren’t going to be relevant to me for several months or even years. That’s why I was so happy to see an update for Little Devil Inside. Because they announced it more than a year ago in the PS5 Reveal. I was really excited after seeing the initial announcement during the PS5 Reveal presentation. But it has now been over a year since we heard anything. I would rather they had never announced it than make me wait a year just to hear anything else about it. But that happened and continues to happen because of this antiquated idea that there needs to be one big presentation a year rather than several smaller ones. I wish we would shift to a monthly news cycle and shift away from an annual one.
At the end of the day, this State of Play was in fact mediocre by any objective standard of past presentations. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that we’ve been trained to expect every presentation to be super meaningful rather than super informative to the current moment. Mediocrity shouldn’t be discouraged, as long as its relevant to the time of the presentation. Irrelevant news should be the discouraged form of content in these presentations. If it’s not something I can play soon, they don’t need to talk about it. This is one of things I love about Nintendo Directs in recent years. The presentations have become more and more topical as time goes on. They’re literally releasing games and demos for soon to release games during Nintendo Directs now. That’s how all the presentations from every brand should be. Only information that affects my gaming the day I watch the presentation. And if some months are slow news months, that shouldn’t be considered a problem. Because that’s how the gaming industry has always been. We don’t get blockbuster releases every month on every platform. That shouldn’t suddenly be a problem just because there’s a monthly gaming news update confirming that fact.