PlayStation State of Play broadcasts seemed to fill a hole when they were first introduced. Copying the Nintendo Direct format (almost to a fault), it became Sony’s method of holding a brief digital press conference, announcing new games, new updates, and deep dives into specific titles. But it feels lie Sony is a little at a loss for how to use the State of Play banner, changing its format over time and just generally kind of abandoning the hype that was once layered into getting a new State of Play.
The State of PlayStation State of Play
Since their introduction in early 2019, there have only been nine total State of Play broadcasts. That’s nine over the course of nearly two years. The first four featured about 20 minutes each of game announcements, peppering in a little something for everyone. After the fourth one in December 2019, it was more than five months before we got the next one, but the format had changed dramatically. Instead of showcasing a bunch of titles and announcements, this State of Play was a deep dive into Ghost of Tsushima’s gameplay.
That deep dive format—and letting fans know what to expect from it—must have worked, because it became the most watched State of Play broadcast at that point, surpassing all four of 2019’s videos. Sony then opted to use the format and follow it up with another PlayStation exclusive deep dive less than two weeks later, this time into The Last of Us Part II.
August returned to the old 2019 format of announcing a bevy of games, but was relatively disappointing given its proximity to the PS5 launch and a split focus on non-PS5 games at a time when players were champing at the bit for more PS5 info. Curiously, the June event that revealed a whole bunch of PS5 games wasn’t categorized under the State of Play banner. Similarly the video reveal of what the PS5 actually looked like and the one announcing release date and pricing weren’t State of Play videos. However, October featured a State of Play video diving into the PS5 User Experience. Finally, and most recently, there was a State of Play video going into next week’s release of Destruction AllStars.
Sony has a page dedicated to State of Play on the PlayStation site, which doesn’t even feature the latest Destruction AllStars video. The last one it headlines at the top of the page is the PS5 User Experience State of Play from October 2020. The release of the Destruction AllStars deep dive went so under-presented and under-hyped that the State of Play name almost feels tacked on. There’s no more excitement or anticipation for the next State of Play. In many ways, people have just kind of resigned themselves to the fact that Sony isn’t doing much with them. In fact, we’re becoming accustomed to an alarming silence from Sony when it comes to communicating in an open, clear, and relatable way with players.
The Future of State of Play?
First and foremost, Sony needs to decide what State of Play is. The inconsistent hype and release schedule, and erratic application of the banner to various videos and not others, seems to betray the fact that Sony doesn’t know exactly what to do with it. As we talked about in another Daily Reaction article, Sony has lost a lot of that relatable voice, not allowing actual people and figureheads within the company to be mouthpieces. We’re left with the occasional brash quote from Jim Ryan and cold press release-style information drops. Long gone are the days of Adam Boyes, Shuhei Yoshida, Gio Corsi, Shawn Layden, and others like them taking the stage on various platforms to be the faces of PlayStation; by the players for the players. Right now, PlayStation feels like a cold corporate wall more than it has in recent memory.
State of Play perhaps could have been the compromise, but Sony doesn’t seem to know quite how to apply that moniker to its announcements in a way that can get people excited about it. Is it a bunch of game announcements? Is it a deep dive? Why not apply it to some of the PS5 reveal information drops, when it applies for others? It’s confusing to say the least, and despite starting off as a near clone of Nintendo Directs, it’s failed to generate near the amount of hype that its inspiration does for Nintendo. Even Sony is seemingly finished hyping them up, burying the latest State of Play under the PS Plus announcement. No attention. No warning. No fanfare.
As I was mulling on the idea for this Daily Reaction yesterday, IGN’s Jonathon Dornbush tweeted a thread that pretty well matched my feelings of confusion surrounding State of Play and just what it’s supposed to be.
One weird thing about the PS Plus announcements today is…I’m confused more than ever about what purpose the State of Play name serves.
Today, there was also a SoP for Destruction AllStars. It’s a really good breakdown of the game! But it feels buried?https://t.co/5uGdLAwIjv
— Jonathon Dornbush (@jmdornbush) January 27, 2021
However, more than just the issues with confusing usage of the State of Play banner, I think it speaks to broader issues Sony has had connecting with its players in recent years.
The very phrase itself, “State of Play,” should be a check in of sorts with PlayStation players. It’s obviously a play on “State of the Union” and similar addresses, so treat it like it’s namesake. Here’s the state of things. Here’s how it’s going. Here’s what we’re working on, partners we’re working with, and what’s coming up. Here’s the state of play(station). In fact, as we approach three months since the release of the PS5, it seems like a perfect opportunity for Sony to retake the State of Play banner and redefine what it can be.
As I’d envision it, Sony would host a live stream (okay, sure, it could be prerecorded) that first talks about where they are with the PS5. Talk about the launch. Talk about restocks. Talk about issues you are aware that people are having and a planned timeline of features, including, but not limited to when the hell we’re getting SSD expansion capabilities. Be real, and direct, and up front with your players.
Address features that are still being worked on and what’s coming. Talk about 3D audio and how development on that feature is going. Talk about how developers are utilizing the exciting PS5-unique features like Activity Cards. And then maybe announce some games. Announce some delays. Go deep into a specific subject. Tell us what’s going on. Let State of Play be an open and periodic check-in with players, a one-stop shop every few months to connect with PlayStation fans and lay things out on the table. Get proven personalities within the company to present. Good news. Bad news. Everything in between. Lay it out there in a relatable and presentable manner. Give us a face to go with it. Truly give us the “State of Play.”
Or, if it’s going to go unused, kill off State of Play entirely instead of trying to tack it onto a deep dive video just to keep it relevant. Sony going hard on an idea and quickly tapering of support is nothing new (I still have a Wonderbook, in case your curious), but State of Play is currently on life support without actually using it in a way that means anything. I genuinely had forgotten that the PS5 UI reveal was a State of Play until I was researching for this piece. Ask most people when the last State of Play was, they’ll likely say it was The Last of Us Part II deep dive or the disappointing August 2020 games showcase that followed it. The banner hasn’t really meant much since then.
Hopefully I’m wrong and Sony is planning to resuscitate State of Play in a big way here soon. Now that the PS5 is out, we’re due for… something. I’d love to hear from Sony in a more official and relatable capacity about where PlayStation is and what’s coming. State of Play is the perfect platform to do that in a world when everything has become all-digital thanks to the pandemic. Now is the time to double down on it and use State of Play to connect with PlayStation players around the world, rather than putting up a corporate wall that makes the PlayStation brand feel disconnected from the players.
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