Like millions of others we tuned in to Sony’s PlayStation 5 launch livestream last night, but as an events company active in this industry we were interested in not just what was unveiled, but also how.

Anyone who has attended a big hardware or software reveal event in the flesh knows just what a crackling atmosphere they generate, driven by the collective anticipation of the gathered industry, media and fans.

It’s a real ‘experience’, especially at E3 – starting over coffee and excited chit chat in the parking lot of a downtown Los Angeles TV studio, before you’re taken on a journey, first to a darkened auditorium and then through the visions and dreams of your host.

After an hour of sensory overload and lots of whooping you finally emerge blinking into the sunlight trying to work out what it all meant.

Technology also means that over the years more and more people have the opportunity to experience these amazing events firsthand – if you can’t be there, join the live stream!

Except this year, there was only the stream, and it wasn’t even live. Coronavirus has put paid to E3, albeit a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of the pandemic, forcing Sony and its peers to seek alternate means of engagement.

In his intro, Sony CEO Jim Ryan talked about ‘bridging our past and our future’ – he was referencing Grand Theft Auto’s ever presence on PlayStation machine, but he may as well have been talking about the current situation in The World right now.

After that, Sony let the content do all of the talking, with the occasional studio exec popping up to lend some context to what we were seeing. And it was eye-popping stuff – Spider-Man: Miles Morales got us right in the feels, while Oddworld: Soulstorm had us drinking from the well of nostalgia.

But the fact this was all streamed also highlighted one of the drawbacks of the ‘event’ not being a physical experience – at 1080p the stream resolution was way less than the PS5 is capable of. It was a shame as this next generation of console is going to be all about the visual detail.

Overall though, the stream very much achieved what it set out to do – showcase amazing content and technical capabilities that will go toe to toe with Microsoft’s Xbox Series X later this year.

As we move through the coming months, hopefully out of lockdown, we’ll see even more innovation and firms finding new ways to connect with fans while remaining socially distanced.

After all, there’s only so much social media chatter can make up for the frenzied atmosphere of a live showcase. In fact, it can actually count against the experience in some ways – from an industry point of view, wouldn’t it be great if there had been a ‘quiet’ online area of the PS5 reveal where developer and publisher execs could discuss what was being unveiled and what the impact will be?

For that and other practical reasons, we think hybrid events are certainly something we’ll see more of, maybe spread over multiple locations – what would have been large gatherings broken down into smaller virtual and physical groups, with technology connecting everyone together.

In fact, physical influencer events are already a great way to maintain social distancing and still reach millions of people – Bossa Studios’ Sky High Gaming activation for its Worlds Adrift launch is a great pre-lockdown example of this.

Meanwhile, it was a surprise that VR was absent from the PS5 reveal – as an experiential events company, not only do we see it as an exciting tech for consumers, it’s also something that could help us let people say ‘I was there’ when it comes to attending physical events in the new normal.

Ultimately, there’s no replacement for live events and experiential to generate buzz, FOMO, create brand advocates and to spread word-of-mouth, but the games industry has so far done brilliantly in transitioning, temporarily, to a virtual approach.

We can’t wait to start bringing people together again in the real world.

Miss the event?

Here’s all the titles from last night’s launch. Click here to view the trailers.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Gran Turismo 7

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart 
Project Athia
Destruction AllStars
Kena: Bridge of Spirit
Goodbye Volcano High
Oddworld: Soulstorm

Ghostwire: Tokyo
Jemi: The Far Shore

Solar Ash
Hitman III
Astro Bot
Little Devil Inside

NBA 2K21
Demon’s Souls

Resident Evil 8: Village
Horizon: Forbidden West