While 2020 has been a year struck by major disruptive events like wildfires (Australian, Californian, and many more I'm sure I don't know of), pandemics, and social justice movements, that has also provided companies like Sony additional time to work on their marketing as they delayed events that previously would have been held in the first half of the year.
One would assume then, that when they finally step up to pull the curtain off their shiny new PlayStation 5 in full, that everything would be perfectly organized. And if you turned off your internet the moment the event was over, it might have seemed that way.
The reality was however, this was an event full of bumbles, missteps, and problems.
A PlayStation 5 Release Date Issue
The first, and perhaps foremost issue is just in the order things were presented. By holding the PlayStation 5 release date and price for the end, Sony decided that for earlier games shown, they would either show no release date (like Demon's Souls) or show a generic Holiday release date (like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales). This decision meant we had no idea what was coming on launch, until afterwards on the PlayStation blog they revealed both of those games, along with several other first party titles, that were going to be PlayStation 5 launch titles.
Putting the release date at the front, or having those games say 'releases with PlayStation 5' or even a slick trailer after the release date showing what games will be released that day would have meant people weren't left wondering when Demon's Souls would release or when Miles Morales would release post-launch.
Failure to Show PlayStation 5 Launch Titles
Since we're speaking of launch titles, there are five Sony first party launch titles:.Astro's Playroom, Demon's Souls, Destruction All Stars, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure. You wouldn't know that though if you watched it yesterday, because given a chance to show what is coming to their console at launch and the few months after, Sony opted to leave three of the launch titles completely out of the event.
That's just first-party though. Third-party launch titles weren't really mentioned either, even ones previously pushed by Sony like Godfall, which took to Twitter to announce that it was a PlayStation 5 launch title. This is a title that you've paid to get as a partial exclusive, and you have pushed it as a next-gen title... yet for your big hurrah to tell people to buy this, you didn't bother with a trailer for it?
Trailers and Retcons
On the other hand, perhaps it's best they didn't. For the first time I can think of, a first party has had two presentation segments get significant retcons after initial showing, and basically scrubbed the Demon's Souls trailer off the internet. The reason for this is that the Demon's Souls and Final Fantasy XVI trailer both alluded to arriving on PC, with timed exclusivity on PlayStation. We've seen Microsoft work with studios and them be adamantly silent on whether it's coming elsewhere as a timed exclusive (see: Rise of the Tomb Raider), but generally Microsoft doesn't first show a trailer that out right says coming to other platforms after a limited time.
You can't put that genie back in the bottle. Everyone has or will see that these two were announced as timed exclusives, yet for whatever reason Sony is trying to desperately pop that cork back in. The reveal of them as timed exclusives, followed by Sony's actions, has prompted people to look at the announced games, with some wondering if the Xbox Series X has more exclusives announced then the PlayStation 5. This is an area that is Sony's strength, their exclusives, yet due to a number of people dropping the ball on checking the trailer before it went up you raised doubts on the value of that. How many PlayStation exclusives will there be is what this raised to many potential purchasers.
We've already alluded to Sony making announcements through their blog for the release date already, but that was far from the only announcement made there. Things like peripherals, several other games, and that the price for full triple A games rising to $70 from Sony were all relegated to the PlayStation blog. Instead of showing us the peripherals, you're telling us they exist. Instead of discussing, and explaining, the price change, you just include it at the end of a blog post with nary a mention or explanation.
Another aspect was another change in strategy with little explanation. After months of going on about how they believe in generational leaps, and how PlayStation 5 would be the only place for new PlayStation games, Sony suddenly turned-about face and announced Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon: Forbidden West, and Sackboy A Big Adventure will also be releasing on PlayStation 4.
This is actually a fairly reasonable decision, especially with the pandemic potentially hampering people's spending money and the large 110-million customer base that the PlayStation 4 has. Attempting to tread a middle ground while the generations move over makes a lot of sense, and that seems to be what this new plan is. What doesn't make sense, though, is how this wasn't discussed anywhere until it randomly dropped in the middle of a blog post two months before release. It's not in the presentation, it's not in any of the approach you've taken or anything else. The whole approach to communication is flawed here.
The whole pre-order situation is a disaster for PlayStation 5. After promising "plenty of advance notice" and initiating a "direct pre-order" system, no one heard more about pre-orders for hours, with only a select handful getting emails well after other companies had begun offering pre-orders. These emails from Sony offered a chance to put in a pre-order on Friday, but there was no mention of them during the event. Nor even on their blog.
Instead, the first quasi-announcement of pre-orders was made on Geoff Keighley's Twitter, followed a bit later by the PlayStation Twitter saying that Thursday would be when preorders open (note: Twitter is not a good platform for big announcements; it's a place to share you've made a big announcement, Sony).
Then all hell broke loose. I don't know what happened, or who was the first to do it, but someone decided to start accepting pre-orders, and there was no stopping it. Everyone started to make it available, Walmart, Best Buy, and GameStop sent out press releases as sites scrambled to turn it online. Complete and utter chaos.
If Sony meant that the pre-order situation wouldn't be the same as last time, they told the truth.
It was worse.
Sony's event is an interesting case of something that looked fine on the surface but was a mess underneath. The logistics were all out of sorts, the announcements had holes and were disorganized, and it feels like there was almost meant to be two shows here that got randomly shoved together while no one spent the time to sort it out.
Sony had all the time to get ready, all the time to prepare, and all they showed was next-generation levels of unreadiness.