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Sony Pulls Out of E3 2019. That Could Offer Insight on the PlayStation 5

Word that Sony would skip E3, the video game industry’s biggest trade show, in 2019 caught gamers and insiders off guard Thursday afternoon. But by sitting out the show, Sony might also have dropped a few hints about the roadmap for the PlayStation 5.

To understand exactly how impactful Sony’s decision is, it helps to understand E3. This is the show around which publishers generally make all of their major announcements for the coming year (and sometimes more). In recent years, companies might have held private events to unveil new console systems or announced big games in the weeks leading up to E3, but the show was the real coming out party for those. It’s a place media, YouTube, and Twitch influencers and the general public can get a taste of the future.

So, if nothing else, anyone hoping that Sony would launch its next generation system, presumably called the PlayStation 5, in 2019 can pretty much abandon those dreams. At this point, 2020 seems the more likely candidate. (That would be seven years after the PS4 hit shelves—and Sony historically has released new consoles every six or seven years.)

Skipping E3, though, could also signal that Sony’s planning to rely more on its third-party publishing partners as the PS4 enters its twilight years. The publisher has a handful of AAA studio-developed titles in the works, but only one, Days Gone, has a firm release date (April 26, 2019). The Last of Us 2, meanwhile, was featured prominently at E3 in June, hinting it could be a 2019 release and might be the last big hurrah for the PS4 in terms of first-party titles.

Earlier this year, Sony also announced Ghost of Tsushima, an action/adventure samurai game from developer Sucker Punch. Both developers and their PR handlers got noticeably evasive when asked to confirm this was a PS4 title, raising speculation it could have been a sneak peak at the PS5. Sony is also publishing Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding. And Kojima, a particularly detail-oriented game creator who is known for taking his time, has refused to offer a hint as to when that game will come out.

Big titles from other developers and publishers, including Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil 2 and CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 (both shown this year) also had a next generation feel to them.

Sony, of course, isn’t saying much about the decision to bypass E3 and isn’t saying a word about the PlayStation 5. It could offer some clarity at CES in January, but don’t hold your breath.

E3, meanwhile, will continue, but will certainly see some of the wind taken out of its sails. Sony’s booth and press conference were often seen as the biggest events of the show. The company’s decision comes two years after Electronic Arts, Disney, and Wargaming all decided to withdraw from having a presence on the show floor.