Sony E3 Press Conference
After a fairly successful reveal event in February, Sony has stayed relatively quiet about its new console, the PS4, leading up to E3. Letting Microsoft largely dominant the news cycle (much to their detriment due to muddled messaging), Sony only releasing very specific messages targeted to please their core demographic, hardcore gamers. There were many still unanswered questions about the PS4, among them the hardware form factor, the specifics on their used game policy, the price, exclusive games, and more.
Sony’s E3 presentation, which answered these questions, was certainly an interesting affair. On the whole, it didn’t come off as well-polished and rehearsed as their primary competitor Microsoft’s did. While this helped create a tone that was warmer and more humorous than Microsofts, it also resulted in the conference not quite giving the impression that Sony was launching a next-gen system this year. Regardless, like Rocky versus Apollo Creed, Sony came back hard in the final round to take home the fight.
After a bit of a late start, Sony’s conference got off to a bit of a slow start. Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, kicked off the show by extolling the virtues of the PS Vita, Sony’s handheld device launched last year. In light of a somewhat disappointing first year, Tretton rattled off some impressive statistics for the Vita, including an average attach rate of 10 games per U.S. owner and upcoming titles including Killzone: Mercenary, Destiny of Spirits, Dokki-Dokki Universe, among others. More exciting was the announcement that Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead would be coming to Vita, along with the bonus episode, 400 days, to be released this summer.
Following the Vita talk, Tretton dished out the PS3 line-up for the rest of the year, reaffirming Sony’s commitment to supporting the platform, something that worked wonders for them with the PS2. A trailer for the upcoming game, The Last of Us, reminded us of the strength of Sony’s first-party studios. Trailers for other PS3 exclusives such as Puppeteer, Rain, Gran Turismo 6, and Beyond: Two Souls were shown, although the action-heavy tone of Beyond: Two Souls was surprising and a bit confusing considering the marketing around the game up until this point.
Andrew House, President and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, then took stage to reveal what everyone had been waiting for, and showed off the PS4 form factor. Decidedly black, boxy, and geometrically…curious, the PS4 was nothing revolutionary. Then again, neither was the Xbox One. Clearly both Sony and Microsoft have taken a function over form approach in their console design.
After a quick interlude during which Sony vaguely discussed other entertainment features such as Redbox Instant availability on the console and original film and television programming being produced by Sony Pictures, Shuhei Yoshida, took stage to discuss Sony’s plans for the PS4’s games lineup. After announcing that there are currently over 30 PS4 titles in development, with around 20 to be launched in the first year, we got a look at what to expect.
First off to bat was a CGI trailer announcing the PS4 exclusive new IP being developed by SCE Santa Monica Studios and Ready at Dawn, The Order 1886, was revealed as a steampunk game taking place in London (presumably during the year 1886 in an alternate timeline). Two British agents of the titular Order were shown fighting a group of werewolves in the city, and the trailer as a whole gave off a very Van Helsing vibe.
We were then treated to some trailers of Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club, Infamous: Second Son, and Knack. While all of these games were previously announced during the initial PS4 reveal in February, the trailers particularly for Killzone and Infamous gave us a fuller look at what we can expect from these titles. Knack continues to look delightful, and one could speculate that it’s eponymous main character will be the mascot of the PS4 going forward.
Adam Boyes, VP, Publisher & Developer Relations at Sony Computer Entertainment America, then took stage to give a strong showing of Sony’s commitment to indie games. While there was a disappointing lack of original titles, Sony showed off numerous indie games that would be console exclusives or exclusive debuts on the PS4. Transistor (a CultureMass favorite), Don’t Starve, Octodad: Deadliest Catch, Secret Ponchos, Outlast, were a few of the many indie games were shown off in an impressive show of support for smaller-scale games by Sony. While these games will be launching on PC as well, Sony has clearly corned the indie game space in the console market leading into next gen. The diversity to the software library provided to the PS4 by these games should prove a strong boon to its success among the hardcore gaming crowd.
JRPG’s were on display next, with trailers for Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 wowing the audience. FFXV’s trailer was decidedly confusing and moody, which is precisely what I would expect from a Final Fantasy teaser trailer. The game was announced for both PS3 and PS4, but more interestingly enough it was announced that the long, long in development Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which was first announced in 2006, had been wrapped up into FFXV. Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer on the other hand, was less confusing, but also less informative. There’s not much to say on the title at this point other than fans of the series who have been waiting for this third entry are surely extremely excited by its announcement.
After wrapping up talk of exclusive titles, we were treated to some gameplay demos of games coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360, including Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, as well as some teasers from NBA2k13 and Mad Max. The demos were lengthy, and frankly after the protracted marketing campaigns these games have had, definitely dragged the conference down a bit. Also disappointing was the noticeable absence of the long-awaited title, The Last Guardian. Regardless, I’m sure Sony wasn’t worried, as they still have a couple of aces of their sleeve.
Just as the show seemed to be winding down, Jack Tretton took back to stage and revealed some massive bombs that brought down the house. First, Tretton detailed Sony’s used-game policy with the PS4, namely that the status quo will be maintained. Used games will operate on the PS4 just as they do currently on the PS3, you will be able to re-sell your old discs and share with friends. Nor will the PS4 require any kind of mandatory online connection. This is largely diametrically opposed with Microsoft’s plans, which are currently perceived as largely draconian and anti-consumer. The crowd cheered louder at this announcement than almost any other I have seen at an E3 press conference, clearly winning over the crowd. Tretton couldn’t help but beam and grin, although there was probably a tad too much smugness in his demeanor.
In the second hit of Sony’s 1-2 punch aimed squarely at Microsoft, Tretton announced the retail price of the PS4 to be $399, undercutting the Xbox One by $100. This, for many, was the final nail in the coffin for the Xbox One. Many left the conference declaring that Sony had already won E3, and who could blame them? It seems that in spite of a strong showing of games at Microsoft’s conference, their business approach to next-gen is holding them back in the eyes of the consumer, and Sony did exactly what it needed to secure a successful launch: win the hearts and minds of gamers.
Be sure to follow all of our coverage of E3 as is marches on this week.