Xbox head, Phil Spencer, expressed in a candid moment that E3 is “not as good” with Sony absent from the event. The sentiment is a rather wholesome one towards their main competitor in the sale for consoles and their games.
During an interview in the closing of E3 with Giant Bomb, Spencer stated, "I wish Sony was here. E3 is not as good when they're not here." The statement is rather accurate, as E3 was certainly more toned down without Sony. One may think the statement to be odd since no Sony presence means more attention towards Microsoft and its projects, but not when we consider that Spencer is a member of the Entertainment Software Association board. This is the organization who prepares E3, so, of course, they want it to be as big and successful as possible.
Sony’s absence also meant that we noticed more when there were certain misfires, such as Bethesda presenting three mobile games, two of which were not new, and a representative speaking about Anthem for two minutes, far less than fans would have liked. Having Sony knock their presentations out of the park would thus be the memorable talking points, rather than the blandness of some presentations.
We already know that next year should be a return to form of older E3 events, with both Sony and Microsoft likely ramping up the hype for each of their respective next-generation consoles. It would be a strange thing to see Sony absent for a second year in a row, unless the management there no longer considers E3 to be relevant.
With that in mind, perhaps the issue is not that Sony decided not to come to E3 this year, but that maybe now is the time to reconsider E3 as a yearly event. The reason Sony likely did not come was simply that it did not have sufficient material to show in an impactful way. Rather than present bland material or overhype something that does not need it, they made a strategic choice to stay home and keep working.
Having E3 every year will be problematic going forward if we expect the big three of Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony to always be there, because there are always going to be lulls between title releases. Maybe E3 would be better as a biennial event hosted every other year. This would not go over well with some, of that there is no doubt, but if the alternative is years where one or more big players decide not to attend, well, the event overall suffers as a result.
E3 2020 is already underway in terms of organization and will be taking place from June 9-11.